SH Sean Harding/blog
Kindle thoughts
Monday, November 19th, 2007

John Gruber thinks Kindle will flop. His main points revolve around DRM and closed formats — common hotbutton issues with tech bloggers. I don’t often disagree with Gruber, but in this case I think he’s missed the mark. Or, at the very least, I think he arrived at the conclusion via incorrect assumptions.

Gruber makes analogies to music and video formats, but he doesn’t account for an important difference between the way many people use books and the way people use music and video. When I buy music, whether it be on CD, iTunes, MP3 or anywhere else, I want to be able to listen to it over and over and over for a long time. When I buy a book, I tend to read it once, maybe refer to it a few times over the next few weeks or so, and then let it sit and take up space on my shelf for the rest of my life.

It certainly could be argued that this isn’t the most logical thing to do. If I want to read a book only once, borrowing from the public library seems like a great choice. However, the selection isn’t as good as Amazon’s, and it’s far less convenient. I should sell or give away books when I’m done with them, but again it comes down to the convenience factor — finding someone who wants to take a bunch of random books can be harder than you’d think. And of course I could throw them out, but that just seems wrong. So I’m stuck with boxes and stacks of books I’ve already read, and I know I’m not the only person in this situation.

From that perspective, Kindle is very attractive because the books take up no space and require no effort to get rid of when I’m done with them. Further, given the way I use books, I don’t give a damn if I can’t read them three years later. I wouldn’t even be terribly annoyed if I couldn’t read a book a month after I’d finished it. That’s a total non-issue to me. I’m not building a library (well, I am, but not intentionally). I’m reading books once and storing them because I’m too lazy to figure out what else to do with them.

All that said, I’m not planning to buy a Kindle at this point. The convenience is tempting, but I don’t think it’s worth $400 to me. I’m also not totally sold on the idea that an electronic device could replace the experience of reading a paper book. I think those are the things that will have a big impact on Kindle’s fate. DRM will certainly be a factor for some people, but on the list of things that determine Kindle’s success, it’s nowhere near the top.

Disclaimer: Though I’m a former employee, I never worked on anything even remotely related to Kindle, and I don’t have any insider information about it. If you’re looking for inside scoop, you’ve come to the wrong guy!

Raccoon hate
Sunday, November 11th, 2007

I think I qualify as an animal lover. I like cats, dogs, even lots of rodents. But raccoons? Raccoons are my enemy. They may look cute, but they are pure evil.

My first encounter with our neighborhood raccoons happened a couple of years ago. When we bought this house, the back yard was landscaped pretty intricately, including lots of small trees, bushes and flowers. It looked nice, but it was a pain to maintain, and we wanted a small patch of lawn. So we dug up about half of the landscaped area, removed the plants and laid sod. It was a humble plot of grass, but it was ours and we were proud of it.

A couple of nights later, we were in bed and we heard a strange sound in the back yard. We turned on the lights, looked out back, and saw a family of raccoons destroying our sod. They ripped it all off the ground, tore the pieces apart and left us with a muddy mess. Apparently they like to look under sod for grubs to eat. We pieced it back together as well as we could, but it didn’t look the same. They came back again, we tried various things to stop them, but in the end, they won. The lawn was destroyed and instead of a nice landscaped area, we had a patch of mud.

Fast forward to last week. We were sitting in the living room watching TV, and we heard a loud noise in the back. We looked outside, and saw a fat raccoon in the planter on top of the fence around our deck. We had a solar-powered lantern hanging from a hook in one of the corners of the deck, and most of it was gone. Our best guess was that the raccoon had tried to steal it or use it to climb down, the shade fell off, and he bolted. It’s not completely destroyed, but the raccoon left his mark.

Unfortunately, it turns out the lantern wasn’t the only thing he broke. In retrospect, that’s probably not even what we heard crashing to the ground. Yesterday, I was looking out back again and I noticed that our nice terra cotta thermometer was on the deck, broken into dozens of pieces. There’s no amount of glue, hot or otherwise, that can make it the same. So into the garbage it went. I hope the raccoons are satisfied.

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