The Kindle2 is not revolutionary for the reasons you think. It’s sleek, stylish and has more features than you can shake a stick at. It allows for fast book downloads so you can start reading it before you’ve had your margarita refilled with your toes in the warm sand. The library of books has grown, and due to the exponential sales of e-Books, more are added every second. But those aren’t the reasons either.
The reason, I’ll tell you, is a dirty little secret the publishing industry wouldn’t want you to know about in this age of environmentalism. I’m sure most of you have realized the benefits buying an e-Book has for the environment. No paper or ink chemicals are wasted to make your book that would probably hit the garage sale in a couple of years anyway.
The depth of the problem goes much deeper. When you visit a bookstore, and skim through the books, you aren’t looking at the bookstore’s inventory. Every one of those books is essentially owned by the publisher. If they don’t sell, and most books do not, they are sent back to the publisher to eventually be destroyed. Typically, books are printed in the thousands, but most books only sell a few hundred. Only 2% of the books on the bookshelves sell more than five thousand.
This leads to two problems. The first is the massive waste in the system for thousands of miles of shipping, piles of paper, buckets of ink, the energy to produce the books and to ship them around the country, and all the peripheral expenditures to maintain the system.
The second problem is this makes publishers risk averse. I’d like to say this system is the publishers fault, but it’s not, it’s a relic of the early twentieth century. They’re stuck with as much as we are, and if they’re smart, they’ll embrace the digital revolution with earnest. The impact of their risk adverse nature is the publishers don’t want to take chances on new books, and tend to fall into me-too habits. For example, right now, every publisher has a teen-vampire-love story, ala Twilight, in the works. The problem is by the time they all come out, the teenage girl audience will have moved on, and the landfills will grow a little taller.
So when you move to the Kindle2 (or any other digital reader), you’re not only making an investment in a neat reading device, you’re helping dismantle the old system full of waste. Conservation through digitization.
Viva La Revolution!