Thursday, April 21, 2011

Some thoughts on the Kindle DX and content on demand

I like reading books, at least when I can find some uninterrupted moments to lose myself in a pocket dimension where the rest of the world ceases to exist for some moments. I have a somewhat big collections of books at home, but since my apartment is not exactly of the grandest size, most of those books are crammed away into some boxes that are hidden in attics around. Basically I only have 5-10 books at home at any given time. Then I bought the Kindle DX from Amazon, and suddenly I've got tons of books again in my apartment, all without taking up space.
Now, I'll say right away that the biggest problem with the Kindle is the DRM. I somewhat understand why it's there, but that's a whole other discussion. The main issue I have with it is that Amazon tries to lock me into buying the books they offer in their own store. Sure, you have the "option" to read PDF files, but that is as smooth as reading from a newspaper your neighbor is currently occupied with across the street. It can be done, but you need some powerful binoculars and you'll strain your eyes before getting to the second paragraph.

Here in Norway they have recently launched a cloud based book storage for your ebooks, but they also make the same mistake as every other provider out there: they lock their books to their own solution. Buying Norwegian ebooks through Amazon is not exactly recommended, considering they only have about 8-9 of them there anyway, none of which interest me much.

The short term solution is painfully obvious to everyone who's got the slightest bit of pattern recognizing: piracy. It really boils down to availability. Take the games scene for instance, I love games, especially for the PC (which I consider being the only REAL gaming platform, but that's another story). A few years ago Valve launched Steam, and I instantly began buying close to all the games there. Today I own more than 150 games there, and I love how they are instantly available on any PC I have.

Then, consider music. To make a short story shorter, I'll just mention Spotify. I really like them, and have been giving them money for ages now, but they are (as my previous post show) going downhill fast. Still, they do have a huge library of music and I still use them daily.

Next: movies. Now, this is probably where the evolution has been standing still for the longest. Yes, we can see movies in 3D and in high resolution, but the availability is another issue. I have long ago stopped using DVD-players or Blu-Ray. Optical media is dead as far as I consider, and I want my movies available on demand. To solve this I've installed a huuuge NAS at home with plenty of space. I went through my entire DVD library of more than a thousand movies and copied them to the storage server, and I use the Boxee Box and another EEE Box Ion to see movies.

Now, when I want a new movie, I have four options:
  1. Buy the DVD or Blu-ray disc and copy it when I get home. This is stupid, since it just involves more steps than I consider necessary, and the movies I usually want are never available in local stores anyway, at least not until half a year after I've lost interest in the movie.
  2. Order the DVD or Blu-ray from an online store. This is stupid for another reason. The stores I like to buy from are all in England or Canada, and Norway has some incredibly nasty import restrictions on these making it almost impossible to get hold of them without paying double.
  3. Buy the movie in an online version and download it. This would be the best option, except there is not a single site online that offers this, at least not to Norwegian customers.
  4. Find the movie at Piratebay or similar places. This of course has the added benefit that the quality has been rated by others, and you know if you should get it or not.
Now, I don't really condone piracy. I have plenty of capital to spend on movies, but the industry stubbornly refuses to let me give them money in a way that makes us both happy. So, movie industry, I have a request to you: please open up a web site where I can donate money directly to a specific movie. That way I can at least feel a bit less guilty if I should happen to use option 4. Seriously, I have a lot of cash you can have if you at least try to make an effort.

Anyway, to steer this rant back to the Kindle, I must say I am impressed by Amazon. There's much to dislike about it, but they also do so many things right so it's impossible to not like them for it. For instance, with the DX you have free 3G internet access, although with a rather rusty browser, but what the hey, it works.

Also, I'm plowing through a lot of books, and the prize is quite nice, compared to local prices in the stores around here. I guess at the end of the day what I'm trying to do is to squeeze out a recommendation. It's not exactly cheap, but the screen is perfect, the interface is OK, the choice of books online is very good (allthough I wish they would add Jurassic Park soon), and it's nice to hold. The battery lasts for a good three-four days if you use it a lot.

So there it is, if you can decode my ramblings.