The vanishing tangible

November 29th, 2011  |  Tags: , ,  |  Leave a comment

[D]elivery devices are more tangible “things” than the books they hold. No wonder we obsess about them, since the things we used to call things are suddenly files, endlessly electronically vanishing.

I enjoyed this thoughtful piece by pianist Jeremy Denk on how attachment to “content delivery devices” is replacing attachment to “content,” and I wonder: is this phenomenon also related to the reality that we simply have fewer “things” to hold dear if all of our records, books, photographs, and letters are streams of bits? Does the ever-increasing probability that some future device won’t be able to read our movies or digital negatives, or that we could lose an entire library if Amazon goes out of business, encourage us to embrace the impermanence of all things?

The rumored Apple tablet and Amazon

July 27th, 2009  |  Tags: , , ,  |  3 Comments

According to the Financial Times, Apple will release a tablet computer this Fall and has been in talks with book publishers to provide content for the device. Jason Kottke glosses this report, speculating about the implications for Amazon:

[I]f it runs apps from the App Store (“yes” seems to be the general consensus), you’ll be able to read books in the Apple tablet format *and* in Amazon’s Kindle format (with the Kindle app), which can’t be happy news for Amazon, hardware-wise.

Kottke’s take assumes that Amazon is more interested in selling Kindles than they are in selling content for Kindles. I don’t believe that could possibly be the case.

Consider that Amazon makes far more money on Kindle content than it ever could on Kindle hardware. (Recall that “Kindle content” means “sets of DRM-enfeebled bits that are free to manufacture, cannot be resold, and list for roughly 80% of the purchase price of physical books that contain the same information.”) Nothing prevents Amazon from releasing a Kindle app optimized for any hypothetical future Apple device. If the Apple book-purchasing workflow is smooth enough to threaten Amazon’s dominance in the retail chain (and it may well be), Amazon need merely add a “search for and purchase books” option to their Kindle app.