SmartMoney editor Tom Weber has written one of the smartest pieces about the Amazon Kindle that I’ve seen in a long time. His thesis is that the Kindle makes it difficult to wander off in the middle of a book or article, and that’s why we’re willing actually to pay for content such as newspapers and magazines that we otherwise expect to be free on the web. He compares the phenomenon to the Starbucks strategy of creating comfy environments for drinking coffee, part of the reason we were willing (in the old days, more so) to pay ridiculous amounts of money for a cup of java. Here is an excerpt from Weber’s article, which appears in PaidContent, with emphasis added:
Over a few weeks, I rediscovered my ability to simply read the book or article I had punched up in the first place. (Just like—gasp!—old-fashioned printed matter.) It’s particularly enjoyable when reading a newspaper or magazine—enough so that I’ve been routinely purchasing some of these publications when I could have grabbed my laptop and read them for free on the web. In effect, I’m paying for the lack of distraction.
Exactly! In my own experience with the Kindle, which dates back to the early days of the orginal Kindle in late 2007, this same pleasure in what Weber calls “unitasking” explains why I prefer reading on the Kindle to reading on paper. Oddly, the new technology of the Kindle offers fewer distractions for my mind than a traditional book, in which I’m always able to see a page other than the one I’m reading, and it’s easy to flip ahead, to see how far I am from the end of a chapter. Some new Kindle readers report feeling hemmed in by this limited view of the text, but once they submit to it, I would argue, the limited view is exactly what gives us the sense that reading, which we’ve always loved, has become even more of a delight.
I am grateful to Jeff Bezos and company for resisting the temptation to add distractions to this Zen-like attention which the Kindle encourages. As the e Ink technology advances, there will be temptations for video and who knows what else. But each advance will have to be tested against Weber’s insight into the genius of the Kindle.
I want to thank Alex Ferreyra, editorial producer of ContentNext Media, for emailing Weber’s article to me. In the near future, I hope to arrange a telephone interview with the author for an upcoming episode of my weekly Kindle Chronicles podcast.