Steve's Take on the Kindle

The Times has a short piece up on the new Apple announcements with a fun quote from Jobs on the Amazon Kindle:

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

I wanted to fact check this, so off to teh google I wents.

Turns out this little factoid is from an NEA report on reading called “Reading at Risk” and you can get the PDF right there on the site and check it out yourself, you know, if you’re one of the 56.6% of us who actually still reads anything.

The actual question asked was:

“With the exception of books required for work or school, did you read any books during the last 12 months?”

Only 56.6% answered in the affirmative, and according to Dan Poynter you have to be skeptical of this number because people often lie about how much they read in order to appear smart.

Now, one has to take teh Steve with a rather large grain of salt. This is coming from someone content to command 6% of the personal computer market as his core business strategy.

The population of the united states (as of July 2007) is 300 million. Let’s say just one quarter of Americans read more than one book a year. That’s 75 million readers as a possible market for a reader device. Considering that as of April 9th of 07 Apple had sold 100 million ipods since the products inception, this is clearly a market where there is money to be made, and these are hardly numbers that are beneath Apple’s contempt.

Heck, in 2003, only 61.8 percent of US households had a computer. He wasn’t proposing getting out of the computer business then because people don’t use computers anymore. Not a perfect analogy I grant you, but you get the point.

The Kindle absolutely has a market, but that market is probably pretty savvy about DRM, lock-in and all the other crap that the publishers are requiring for this sort of thing, and it’s just not worth it. It’s just crazy to think that I’d pay to have less rights as a consumer than I currently do buying a regular paper book. Give me unprotected PDFs that are cheaper than paper books by a good margin on an open platform that will read any text file or PDF and you’ll have a customer.

I’m willing to give up the ability to sell or trade my paper books if you’re willing to cut the price. I’m also willing to buy from you electronically instead of buying used if the price is good. I’ll buy from you instead of pirating it because I want to support authors, and publishing houses that support their authors. Hell, I’d even replace most of my paper books with e-versions just to get them out of my house.

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