Kindle Accessories I’d Like To See

So, you get yourself a Kindle and the first thing to do is usually grab a case for it.  That’s just a matter of preserving your investment.  You spent this much money and might as well drop a few more dollars to make sure it stays durable.  It’s obvious.  But beyond that, there are other considerations.  Do you get the case with the light in it, or a separate book light?  The one in the official Kindle case draws on the battery of the eReader, which can be either good or bad, of course, but it means no extra weight…

Eventually, once the obvious stuff is worked out, you have a Kindle configured and housed as you’d like it and are pretty much likely to leave it at that indefinitely.  Myself, I like to tweak things.  There are a few uses that the Kindle would be fairly great for, if only we had the ability to make them more accessible.  For example:

I’m sitting here writing a blog on an overpowered PC with at least one completely superfluous monitor, if we’re talking about nothing but the demands of the task.  I find it convenient at the moment, but what about on vacation or even on a plane?  The Kindle would be perfect for that sort of thing in that it’s compact, holds an amazing charge, and can handle the basic demands of the task, but the keyboard is hardly convenient for any form of extensive typing, be it blogging or email or whatever else might seem important at the time.  Why not a case with a built-in folding keyboard?

Also, going back to lights for a minute, wouldn’t it be nice to have a LightWedge style book light built into a case for the Kindle 3?  I have seen them for the Sony Reader, and I even saw a pre-release announcement of something similar for the Kindle 2, but I haven’t been able to find anything but clip-on lights for the newest Kindle.  While I know that reading through a piece of acrylic isn’t exactly an enhancement of the reading experience, I find these lights a bit easier on the eyes than many clips and would like to have the option.  So far, I have yet to find anything of the sort besides homemade case modifications.

This is all just a bit random, I’m aware, but I can’t help but feel that at present the potential for the Kindle isn’t being realized as well as it might be.  There are a lot of convenient uses that it could handle.  While admittedly some of them might be better suited for software updates, apps, or, barring those, user developed hacks, it seems like there should be a wider range of options on the hardware side of things.  The sort of things that might expand the niche of the product.  Maybe I’m just a bit of a gadget lover, but end-user device customization has always been one of my favorite parts of owning things like the Kindle and so far I haven’t managed much besides the cosmetic.  You guys have any thoughts on accessories that have yet to be realized?

Kindle Piracy Thoughts

The Kindle platform, along with several other similar pushes into the emerging eBook industry, has improved availability of books significantly.  If nothing else, there’s no longer even the possibility of a book going “out of print” and being unavailable to an interested reader.  Even when publishers attempt to create an artificial scarcity, it’s just not going to happen in the face of a truly interested audience.  Of course, not every effect of going digital will be so positive.

The situation I referenced there is an extreme case where most people would find little fault finding your book through alternate channels.  After all, the publisher has chosen to deny you the opportunity to hand over money for the product.  For the most part, when piracy comes up, this isn’t the case at all.  There are two major camps in the dispute, from what I have experienced.  On the side of the piracy objectors, there tends to be an equating of illegal downloads with lost sales.  On the piracy supporting side, people often speak encouragingly about the free press and word of mouth that open distribution can bring.  Both arguments have merit, as far as they go.

Research into music piracy has often tended to consider each download a lost sale.  I’ve heard of similar arguments in eBooks.  I hope we can all see the flaw in this.  While there will be lost sales, the numbers aren’t precisely directly correlated to the number of illegal downloads.  For many people, the entire motivation for piracy seems to be a limited budget that would have prevented the sale anyway, or a limited amount of initial interest in the title that would have made expenditure less than appealing.

That said, excusing piracy based on “I wasn’t going to buy it anyway, so I’m entitled to it for free” is just ridiculous.  I would like to be generous and say that most people who do grab books without paying for them are probably aware of this. While I don’t, however, believe that the college student who downloaded the equivalent of a small lending library to his Kindle would have paid face value for each of the books he read, no matter how interesting or appreciated they were, it’s fairly safe to say that the two or three top picks of the year at least would have been sales under other circumstances.

The main complication in dealing with this situation involves striking the proper balance.  No matter how much effort you put into protecting the items you sell, the internet is a big place full of very crafty people, many of whom will go out of their way to break protection on things even when they have no need of what is being protected, just on principal. There’s always the Baen solution, which involves releasing all sorts of eBooks for free from time to time for the Kindle and any other device you might have handy and hoping that the sample encourages purchases.  Most publishers might find that a little too much of a gamble though.

As much as I’d like to come down squarely on one side of this debate, I can’t.  Piracy is a problem if it gets too big, there’s no denying that.  It can sharply reduce the incentive to produce quality work.  But at what point do the measures taken to protect something make it more of a pain for the legitimate buyer than the illegal downloader?  Already we have some pretty ridiculously restricted platforms to deal with, especially when you don’t want to be locked to one seller.  All I can really hope for is that this doesn’t end up escalating and causing the sort of drama the music industry has had over MP3s.