Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Five Things Jeff Bezos Doesn't Want You to Know About the Kindle

1) You read slower on a Kindle. A recent study by digital design guru Jakob Nielsen showed that people reading a short story read more than 10% slower on the Kindle, compared to reading on paper. And that was just for a short story. How much slower might it be reading a whole book? See http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jul/08/print-ipad-kindle-books

2) You almost certainly read stupider on a Kindle. There is a large body of peer-reviewed research which shows that people reading from screens don’t understand as much and don’t remember as much, compared to reading from paper. The differences have been significant. The Kindle’s display is somewhat different from the screens these studies tested, but it is still a screen…(Amazingly, no one has yet to submit the Kindle to these kind of tests. Maybe we should ask Jeff Bezos to fund the research?!). See http://www.ebookskeptic.net

3) The Kindle flunked out of Princeton. Last year, Princeton gave free Kindles to students in three undergraduate courses, pre-loaded with the required reading. The response of the students was pretty much universally negative. “Many students and faculty in the three courses said they found the Kindles disappointing and difficult to use,” reported the Daily Princetonian. At the end of the semester 2/3 of the students said that if their Kindles broke they wouldn’t replace them. Slower and stupider doesn’t make the grade at Princeton. See http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2009/09/28/23918/ and http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2010/02/22/25262/

4) Amazon can play Big Brother with your books. You may think you own the books you buy for your Kindle, but Jeff Bezos has shown that he can-and will-do anything he wants with the text that you’ve loaded on your device. Amazon has already remotely deleted digital editions of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 from the Kindles of readers who had bought them. George Orwell would not be amused—and he would not be a fan of this technology.

5) Governments can play Big Brother with your books. If you’re doing your reading on a Kindle, you’re making it really easy for governments to play Big Brother as well. You can tell a whole lot about a person from what they read. Read on a Kindle, and everything you’ve read is listed in one place on one computer system. As Orwell would tell us, authoritarian governments everywhere are going to love this technology. (Of course government snooping like this would never happen here…)