Is A Slavish Devotion to Simplicity and Easy Everything a Good Thing?

There are two things that have been circling around in my head the last few months -

1) This Quote from Graham Greene (or was it Orson Welles?) -

In Italy, for thirty years, under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder  and bloodshed. But they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the  Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, and they had five hundred  years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.


2) A Video of a Cat playing with an iPhone and the user absolutely impressed that the iPhone is so easy to use a cat can use it.

Here’s my question – If everything in life is super simple, when do we get to develop our cognitive abilities? What do we do when persistence and perseverance and patience are needed to accomplish something?

The Rising Cult of Simplicity and Political Correctness

There are two trends that are getting stronger and stronger -

  1. The first is a Slavish Devotion to the notion that EVERYTHING in life should be simple and easy.
  2. The second is the concept of Political Correctness in everything – no one should ever feel bad if they suck at something. We should just applaud them for sucking – at least they tried.

The combination results in a world where we’re painting a beautiful and intricate illusion -

  1. Everything in life is simple. If something is hard then it’s wrong and unfair – it should be made easy.
  2. You are entitled to whatever you want without effort on your part.
  3. Losing is OK. If you lose, then instead of focusing on how to win you should take refuge in the political correctness of ‘trying’ and ‘participating’.
  4. The difference between winning and losing isn’t huge. Everything in life shows us it’s huge – Just compare the profits of Apple and HTC or the profits of Google and Yahoo. Yet, we keep pretending that there’s little to no difference.
  5. It’s OK to be mediocre. This is the strangest thing – suddenly, you’re supposed to be happy if you’re mediocre in what you do.
  6. It’s OK to be unskilled and unaware of how things really work.
  7. If someone is bad at something you should still encourage them. That them just doing something badly is them winning.

Of course, it’s the extreme that is the problem. We aren’t saying – Things shouldn’t be easy. Just that there shouldn’t be an expectation built up that everything in life is easy and simple.

Simplicity where it is needed Versus Simplicity Everywhere

We aren’t saying – Simplicity is Bad OR Everything should be complex.

Quite the opposite – That things should be simple. However, we shouldn’t pretend that complex things are simple. We also shouldn’t pretend that everything can and should be made simple.

For example, take the concept of becoming good at something – It’s never simple.

If you want to create something beautiful, or you want to become very skilled at some skill, it takes an inordinate amount of time and effort.

If we create an intricate illusion that everything in life is simple, and if we let everyone exist in that fantasy world, we are going to have some very interesting results -

  1. People will be used to a lot of things being very simple.
  2. People will believe that everything should be simple.
  3. People won’t have enough experiences of overcoming adversity.
  4. People will get used to ‘easy everything’.
  5. People will run into an area they really love and start on learning real skills and creating valuable things. They will then hit an incredibly painful wall of ‘REAL LIFE’. That things are not simple. That sometimes you have to give everything and work really, really hard.

Here’s an article that talks about this exact thing – How Karate Kid ruined the world for everyone.

We are taking the concept of ‘things should be made simple when possible’ and trying to extend it to everything. That leaves us in a very confusing situation -

  1. We’d like to believe that there’s an Easy Button for everything.
  2. Everything and Everyone around us is busy convincing us that there really is an Easy Button for everything.
  3. Reality is shaking its head and hitting us with painful lessons that not everything is simple.

Is Life always simple? Is everything in Life easy?

Perhaps. Perhaps everything is simple and we just haven’t realized it yet. Perhaps we are the Kings & Queens of Wishful Thinking.

Are we now undergoing De-Evolution?

Perhaps this is how the Dinosaurs went extinct. They found their equivalent of the Easy Button. Grew too lazy and relaxed and used to endless plains filled with endless food. And then the ice ages or a meteor or some other ‘Real Life Event’ hit their intricate illusion of perfection and they just weren’t adaptable enough.

What if things get hard?

You have one kid who grew up fixing his own bike and working hard on a paper route. You have another kid who complains because the game on his iPod doesn’t have buttons in the right places.

Who’s better suited to survive?

If an iPhone or an iPad is so simple that a cat can use it, then is that the best use of our human brains? Is it good for us or is it the equivalent of exchanging vegetables for Diet Coke?

It’s not just Apple. Every technology company is focused on dumbing down things and making things simple. Microsoft, Google, Amazon – they are all playing the same game.

We’re experiencing a lot of very interesting things right now -

  1. More and more of a detachment from reality.
  2. More and more of a focus on instant and easy gratification.
  3. More and more of a shift towards ‘how we wish the world were’ instead of ‘how it really is’.
  4. More and more of a focus on – It should be super easy. You shouldn’t really have to work hard.
  5. More and more of an acceptance of giving up. Now it’s becoming OK to be to be mediocre, to try half-heartedly, to not give your best.

What else is this, if not a sort of De-Evolution?

Or is it what Evolution should be.

Basically, it’s very simple. There are two possibilities.

Possibility 1: This is EXACTLY how things should be. We are transitioning to a world where humans have just completely taken over the planet and need to do nothing except relax and throw virtual birds at virtual pigs. This is our state of permanent perfection.

Possibility 2: This is EXACTLY how we wish things were and it’s COMPLETELY UNREAL. That it’s a function of too much feeding of ‘fantasy’ and ‘how we wish things were’ and illusions and dreams.

Who wants to live in a world where things are hard? Where the winner gets the prize and the loser gets nothing? Where you have to practice for 10 years to learn to play the Guitar? Where it takes 12 years of 5 hrs a day practice to make it to a sports team? Where you have to go and fight real wars and risk your life for family and country?

So, when someone suggests a different world, it seems so compelling.

A world where you don’t really have to work hard in school to do well. No one is ever given bad grades. A world where there’s no homework. It puts kids with disinterested parents at a disadvantage. A world where college is a 4 year vacation your parents pay for. A world where your employer understands that you need a few years to get out of the college mindset. A world where working 25 to 30 hours a week seems the right thing. A world where you can’t call a spade a spade because at some deep level the spade wants to be a flying broom.

A world where everything is easy. A world where losers get better prizes than the winners. A world where being mediocre is prized above being excellent. A world where everything is like Guitar Hero and Call of Duty. A world where the only wars fought are in video games.

The latter (The Easy Button World) is infinitely more appealing than the former. It’s so appealing that our brains have a natural incentive to imagine it as our reality – regardless of what Reality is actually telling us.

Here’s the thing though -

What if after living for years and years in this beautiful world full of Easy Buttons and Everything Easy we were to discover a completely different world where things were hard? What would we do then?

Fantasy Vs Fantasy AKA Why YA novels are a disease

Just to Clarify: This post is not saying the following:

Ban books. Women should not read. Girls are Stupid. Steal Honey from Bears.

YA is crap. Twilight is terrible. There should be no Young Adult Books. Kids like Skittles too much.

Eat More Chicken. Eat Less Chicken. Save the Earth from the Ice Age. Save the Earth from Global Warming.

It is not trying to steal your rights to read books, or to read good books or to read terrible books.

It was written about Young Adult Books. It wasn’t meant specifically for girls or boys. The example quoted is girls but that’s just coincidental. You could take something like video games and find the same triggers being used to affect boys. PLEASE don’t turn this into something about women’s rights to read books. Or for that matter, about the right to read books.

What is this post saying, if it isn’t saying any of the above things?

It’s saying that a lot of the psychological triggers that are used to manipulate people are slowly entering YA fiction.

That it’s a trend which has a logical end-point – The devolution of books into something that isn’t very good, and which will end up being harmful to readers.

These psychological triggers, and the way they are used – are a bad, bad thing. Because we can’t defend against them. That’s the beauty of psychological triggers – Even knowing they exist isn’t defence against them. They are powerful because they are built over millions of years and 5 minutes of thinking they’re ineffective now won’t end their influence.

Millions and millions of years of human experience is more powerful than any argument about ‘people aren’t that stupid’. No, of course not. They’re human and they are susceptible to anything that wields influence over humans. It’s like a reaction to fire or to cold – it’s inside you and you can’t turn it off.

Also Note this key phrase from the post:

… we are moving away from the middle and going towards the far right.

The post is saying that we are headed in the wrong direction. That’s very different from saying ‘the world has ended’.

Please Also Note: This post observes the situation. It is not calling for action - and you can read it end to end to confirm this. It is pointing out things without asking to ban books or end things.

Finally, no politically correct werewolves or metrosexual vampires were hurt in the making of this post … unfortunately.


Imagine a continuum of Fantasy.

  1. On the very left is imagination exercising Fantasy. One that gives you a sense of wonder and makes you think about the things that might be possible.
  2. In the middle is escapist Fantasy. Where you turn off the real world for a bit and dream away.
  3. On the very right is Reality-Polluting and Reality-Destroying Fantasy. Where the fantasy ends up destroying your hold on reality and/or ends up making you unhappy with reality.

If you want a very rough analogy then you have -

  1. Far-Left Fantasy = Playing a sport, reading a good classic book, drawing something. It’s an exercise of a faculty.
  2. Smack-in-the-Middle Fantasy = A board game, reading an entertaining book, a good (but not necessarily artistic) movie, a concert. Perhaps not the most amazing use of time but good entertainment and definitely doesn’t hurt you.
  3. Reality-Killing Fantasy = hitting your head against the wall, living in a bubble, taking wishfulness to an extreme.

The distinction is important because with Young Adult novels like Twilight and, to an extent, The Hunger Games – we are moving away from the middle and going towards the far right. To the Reality-Killing and Reality-Polluting Fantasies.

The Distinction between Fantasy and Reality-Killing Fantasy

There’s been a morphing in Fantasy.

Consider how video games have devolved from ‘look what might be possible’ games like The Legend of Zelda to ‘push all the psychological triggers’ social game corruption like Zynga’s games.

The same thing is happening with books for young adults. Authors are, knowningly or unknowingly, pushing psychological triggers instead of actually writing good stuff.

Let’s consider what psychological triggers you could push for a young teenage girl:

  1. Love.
  2. The Rich Boy Loving You.
  3. The Exciting Dangerous Boy Loving You.
  4. Both Fighting Over You.
  5. Social Validation.
  6. Social Status.
  7. A Feeling of Fitting In.
  8. Feeling Beautiful.
  9. Feeling Accepted.
  10. Your Hero not caring whether you’re rich or poor.
  11. Your Hero not caring how popular you are.

In the past, the focus was on all mediums (movies, games, books, music) delivering a message. Even escapist fantasy had a message. The book left you with something.

Now it’s just a hole in your soul that you’re told/sold can only be filled by a werewolf and a vampire wooing you with the ardor of jackrabbits.

These days, the message is forgotten in the pursuit of psychologically addicting the reader. And every YA fantasy romance novel is doing the same thing.

It’s no longer about romance or love. It’s about pushing the right triggers. Unfortunately, pushing the right triggers too well means you start destroying reality.

Push too many psychological triggers and you start destroying Reality

If you set up a romance novel with 3 or 4 triggers i.e.

  1. The Hero is rich.
  2. The Hero is good-looking.
  3. The Hero chooses you out of several options.
  4. There’s intrigue and perhaps a dash of danger.

Then there’s a pretty good chance real life can compete. Perhaps your real-life hero only hits 2 out of 4 points. But he’s flesh and blood and there to hold you in his arms. And there are ALWAYS other women to add some competition.

Real life is as compelling – sometimes more compelling.

However, YA books these days are getting too good at pushing psychological triggers:

  1. The Hero is rich and good-looking.
  2. There’s a Rival Hero who is also very desirable.
  3. The Hero is a Vampire. The Rival Hero is a werewolf.
  4. The social pressure and loneliness is amplified and then your Hero magically makes it all go away. 
  5. The fate of the world hangs on you.
  6. You have magical psychic powers.
  7. Your family has magical powers and drama of the sort few human families ever do.
  8. The Hero and the Rival are fighting over you.
  9. There are added enemies and dangers.
  10. You are told you are special.
  11. You are told you are entitled to whatever your heart wishes – use the Hero and Rival Hero like pawns if you wish.

How can Mr. Darcy compete with that?

And Mr. Darcy isn’t even real. How can the real love of your life compete with that?

Plus there’s no message. Instead of being good or love or decency – the message is entitlement and running away from reality.

It’s one thing if Disney is trying to manufacture fantasy boy bands for teenage girls. It’s quite another if you couple the power of these girls’ overactive imaginations with a plethora of psychological triggers (that take advantage of their vulnerabilities) to create something even Disney’s Boy Bands can’t compete with. Not unless they grow some fangs and develop some superpowers.

All the Fantasy Overload is Killing Reality

If you’re a young boy you’re hit with runway models and centerfolds and porn stars.

If you’re a young girl you’re hit with reality-destroying YA romance where a merman and a centaur and an Orang-utan man will fight a cosmic war for Earth’s fate and the prize will be you.

It’s getting so ridiculous it’s hard to believe. We don’t have woolly mammoths and other prehistoric monsters to challenge us for survival so now we are creating monsters of our own.

At this rate soon no boy and girl will fall for each other because the girl isn’t what some idiot in a mansion thinks women should be and the guy has neither vampiric powers nor a werewolf to play the perfect foil.

As a race we’re beginning to feed on our young. It’s so important to create ‘consumers’ that are unhappy and need to consume to fulfill themselves that we are doing everything we can to destroy their sense of reality.

That’s the problem with all these Twilight clones. They are a de-evolution of books. We don’t have literature or even pulp fiction any more – we just have a set of psychological triggers wrapped up in novel form. They are neither horizon expanding nor pure entertainment – they are just reality-destroying, unrealistic-expectations-creating, unhappy fantasy. If people are worried about declining birth rates and failing relationships now – wait till you get the generation that have grown up with Twilight.

Our Kindle Speed Reading App and the truth about Kindle App Approval Process

This comment from Tim made me think it’d be worth sharing some information about our ‘Improve Your Reading Speed’ app and why it won’t be coming out. And might as well share information about other apps that Amazon hasn’t approved and probably never will.

Tim - 2 hours ago 

I agree with Mary – concentrate on something that Amazon or others might not do. I reckon the Kindle is a perfect format for a speed-reading app, and that a good number of its users would be very interested in that.

@Sandy Spruill – if you download Caliber and then download instal the Kindle Collections plugin from the Caliber plug-ins page, you can organise your collections.

We’ve also had users leave comments before and even email us. The infinite irony of this is that we’ve had a Reading Speed App submitted since September 2010. Over a year ago. Amazon just keeps finding reasons to not let it go out to Kindle owners.


We do have a Reading Speed App. It has the following:

  1. A 7 day course on learning how to speed read.
  2. 15 public domain books to test on and measure reading speed on.
  3. A tracker that tracks your reading speed and shows it graphically.

Here is a screenshot. You basically go into a practice book, tap ‘Start’, read a few pages, then tap ‘Stop’, and it measures your reading speed. There’s a course that explains how to improve your reading speed.

Reading Speed App

Improve Your Reading Speed

It does not have the following:

  1. Option to speed read through every Kindle book. Apps are not allowed to access books so this is not possible at the moment. Ideally we’d like to make something that lets you measure your reading speed in any book and also use auto-page turns or Random Serial Visual Presentation to speed-read any book. However, Kindle Apps are NOT ALLOWED to access books.

This ‘Improve Your Reading Speed’ app is probably never going to come out.

Amazon rationale:

  1. We have no credentials to release a reading speed app.
  2. There are legal concerns. Given that there are 50 different speed reading software available for the PC and for smartphones this seems like nonsense.
  3. Users who don’t see their reading speed improve will give it a negative review.
  4. Price is too high. I have a simple answer – Let us make it WiFi only and we’ll sell it for $1. We get charged 15 cents per MB and this app is 2.5 MB so if Amazon makes it WiFi only (and then users can use WiFi or PC to download) we’ll make it $1. The aim is to help people improve their reading speed and $1 is fine. We just can’t manage $1 if we also have to pay 40 cents for every single download of the app.

Honestly, I think Amazon is just delaying us because it is shopping the app idea around and seeing if it can get some more ‘palatable’ & ‘established’ company to do it first.

Here are the key dates:

  1. October 2010: App Submitted in working form.
  2. October and November 2010: Amazon tell us that they will have some people internally ‘who know speed reading’ look at our app and give ideas. Because ‘some random person at Amazon with a fleeting interest in speed reading’ should naturally tell the people who made the software how to design it.
  3. November, December, January 2010: Prioritization of Apps like ‘Tic Tac Toe’ and ‘Flip It’ since Amazon thought that out of the 24 Apps we submitted (Notepad, Calendar, ToDo List, Reading Speed, Weather, etc.) the ones most valuable to Kindle owners would be Tic Tac Toe and FlipIt (the only two games).
  4. This year we restarted the idea (thinking that after Notepad and Calendar we would be able to get over Amazon’s ‘credentials’ objection. Amazon wanted to ‘Approve the Idea’ and took two months to approve it. 2 months for some committee at Amazon to give their stamp of approval.
  5. Then we submitted the app (works for all eInk Kindles except Kindle Touch) and just last week Amazon says – You might as well do some other app, because this app will take 3 months to approve.

This is an app with an entire book reading component. It’s only when the entire app is done (and modified for Kindle 4 so it works without a keyboard) that Amazon suddenly decided it’s not good enough.

So an app that we really, really want to make for Kindle owners and will sell for $1 if Amazon lets us do WiFi only (so we don’t have to pay 40 cents every single time the app is downloaded) – Amazon won’t let us. It’d rather we made me-too apps like Tic Tac Toe and random games.


Even Apps that are approved are a journey through Hell. Kindle Notepad only got shipped after we threatened to leave the store.

Our Kindle Notepad update took 2.5 months to get approved. Again, after threatening to leave the store. Calendar and Kindle Notepad update shipped on the same day and only because we again threatened to leave the store.

It’s just very disheartening when the only way to get an app approved is to use threats and go through months and months of waiting.


Here are some other apps that aren’t approved:

  1. Notes with Email. This is a Notes App that lets you keep three tabs of notes and also email them out. Reason Not Approved: It uses 3G. Note: Amazon won’t add API to differentiate between WiFi and 3G. It won’t let us cover 3G costs either. 
  2. Weather. This is not approved because it would use wireless data. 
  3. Please Return Me App. This is an app you can leave running on your Kindle when you leave the house. If someone finds your Kindle, they can email you from the app itself. Reason not Approved: Use of 3G. Because we are sending email to user email account and that counts as ‘user information’ and is risky. This is despite us switching to Amazon’s Simple Email Service.
  4. Personality Test Apps. Reason not allowed: Because we don’t have the ‘credentials’.
  5. Page Number Guesser. This was a simple app that let users enter page numbers and locations for a book and then look up things. Note: This isn’t very useful because apps can’t access books themselves – so it would be a reference outside the app.
  6. Photos – A File Manager that lets you keep photos, create folders (multi-level) and put photos in them, view slideshows. Reason: Not sure.

These are just some of the apps not approved. Most of these apps fall into the categories of

  • Apps that Amazon thinks we have no business releasing. OR
  • Apps that use wireless data and Amazon can’t be bothered to release an API that differentiaties between WiFi and 3G. Note: It won’t let us release 3G apps even if we agree to pay for 3G data.

Apps that do get approved aren’t a cakewalk either. Calculator took 9 months to get approved. In the interim another company got to release their app first (they are a launch partner). Kindle Tips took nearly an entire year.

Kindle App Team keeps ‘suggesting’ we make apps free and when we don’t then that app gets ignored for months.

Our team thinks it’s Kindle owners who should decide whether an app idea is good for users or not. Not middle management at Amazon.

And that an app shouldn’t be stopped because Amazon’s Kindle App team is scared that some users might give it bad reviews. Should a Speed Reading App that will benefit tens of thousands of users be not released because a few dozen users might leave 1-star reviews?

If you find one or more of these apps appealing, please email Mike Nash, who’s the head of the Kindle App Team. Perhaps he can explain why an app on Reading Speed is not being allowed to ship because of the fear that a few people might give it a 1-star review, and why all the above apps like Weather and Personality Tests and Email Apps are not OK to release. His email is

Finally, every single Kindle App developer I’ve talked to has the same problems i.e. Kindle App Team thinks they know better than Kindle owners what apps they should get. They won’t add things like ‘sound API’ so no alarm clock apps are possible, they won’t allow a WiFi API so we can’t add apps that use wireless, and they won’t allow access to books so Collections Organizers and Page Number Apps etc. can’t be made.

Also, the Kindle Touch Development Kit was shared with only a limited group of large companies. And everyone else had to wait a month. Which guarantees that all the ‘non-privileged’ companies won’t be able to get Touch versions of their apps out for Christmas. Basically, companies like EA get exclusive access to Touch Kindle owners for Christmas and the new year.

Here are a few more developers who are experiencing the infinite joy of Amazon’s Kindle Apps Team (Bolding is mine). 


Developer #1:

Can I get a new contact at Amazon. To other developers: beware 

 was asked by a developer at Amazon to make an application offered on another mobile platform for the Kindle. I accepted, signed up, purchased a Kindle reader learned how to program on this platform. A few weeks into development, my contact at Amazon asks to see my progress, tells me things look like they’re moving in the right direction with my project. He informs me there is too much ghosting, to which I answer, that introducing more frequent flashing will take away too much from the speed of the program. I did not think the ghosting was bad at all. He informs me that it is already really fast and flashing will not make the program too slow. So, I introduce flashing with every screen repaint as he requested instead of flashing every 10 or so screens like I was doing (if I am not mistaken, a flash every 10 screens max is the recommendation in the documentation).

I finish the program, submit it. A few days later I get an email asking if he could get in touch with me about some feedback on my program. Of course, I say, any time is fine. I hear no feedback for days. I email him asking for the feedback again, and I finally get it. The feedback indicates that the team does not think the format of my program (which I have been selling for years on another platform and was asked to bring over to Kindle by someone at Amazon) is not acceptable. I am wondering why I was even asked to join this project if my application wasn’t acceptable. Also, the flashing I implemented at the request of my contact is not acceptable to the team, as they indicate my application is too slow. I’m sorry but I can’t help that flashing takes to long and my contact wants flashing with every repaint. The team, is suggesting I make other changes to my program which I disagree with. Okay fine, I can accept they want changes and I will make some of them, but some of the changes being recommended by the team are just not possible and others I need clarification on. I have emailed my contact with questions about the feedback from the team and I am totally frustrated at the lack of response and the contradictory feedback.

I’m 40,000 lines of code into my project, and these changes are requiring me to make considerable alterations. If Amazon is going to demand this much control over what they allow in the store, I need some support from them, and I am not getting it. I have had at least four important emails go unresponded. My contact is very good at making demands, but is doing very little to address my questions and other issues.

So now I have a 40,000 code line immaculate work of art, ready for deployment by  reasonable means, and I can’t get some simple answers about the feedback I am getting. It appears Amazon is throwing me under the bus. I have spent at least 240 hours on this project. I refuse to work like this.

To the other developers: What are you experiences with the review process? Be aware that this may happen to you. Be cautious of investing too much time into your projects before getting feedback. Even if you are getting regular feedback during development, it seems they have no problem reversing their stance later.

To Amazon: get me a contact that is going to actually RESPOND TO MY EMAILS AND NOT JUST MAKE DEMANDS, immediately. I don’t have endless resources to spend on this project.I am 240 hours in the hole on this project, and I have to find a way to, you know, pay for my housing and food, so some help would be great. 

email: [removed]


Developer #2:

This is not too different from my own experiences. After weeks and months of slow and often technically uninformed (the so-called engineer I was referred to for one problem in my app wasn’t even aware of a bug that has been discussed in these forums a couple of times only to suggest a workaround that – as discussed in the forums as well – is impossible with the current kdk) feedback I finally got the technical ok from the QA team only to be informed by my contact that the current design of my app was “not viable”. There were two – supposedly better – similar apps on the market and mine wouldn’t be able to compete with them. Apart from the fact that all information required to come to this conclusion must have been available to them for a long time I don’t agree (also, the financial risk is mine isn’t it?). I asked for clarification of the rather general statement and suggestions for improvement but only received vague dismissive answers. My last two emails on the matter (sent weeks ago) have remained unanswered.

I’ve been quite angry about the matter for a while but have now decided to invest my time and effort elsewhere.

I find this really baffling. Amazon is an international multi-billion company that wants to go up against the likes of Apple and Google but seems to think it can get along with a half-assed bug-ridden poorly maintained sdk and shoddy developer relations. I think this is not going to cut it..

Kindle Book Subscription Model seems inevitable

We’ve now seen two moves in quick succession by Amazon that bring us ever closer to a Kindle Book subscription model.,

  1. It added the Kindle Owners Library to the Amazon Prime Program. That’s already 25% of the work towards creating a proper Kindle Book subscription model. The $79 you pay a year for Prime gets you 1 free book loan a month.
  2. It just allowed any Author/Publisher to offer books free for up to 5 days in every 3 month period. That’s hundreds of free books a day for Kindle owners to choose from. When you consider the jump in sales rank and awareness this creates – it’s hard not to think that more and more authors will start offering free books in return for the marketing opportunity and the sales rank jumps. Of course, Amazon gets 90 day exclusives as a bonus.

It’s far closer to a subscription model than you would think at first. The first hints of ‘more books than you pay for’, ‘read as much as you like’, and ‘huge range of books’ are already there. Everyone’s on the slippery slope now. Even Amazon can’t stop what’s coming – It is, however, very well placed to take advantage of it. The things that are missing will gradually and automatically be filled in.

  1. More participation from the Big 6 Publishers. This will increase as Amazon gets more and more of a stranglehold over ebooks. Right now Publishers probably are thanking the Heavens that B&N invested in Nook and Nook Tablet. However, sooner or later, they will have to make a tough decision and either forsake Amazon completely or embrace its view of ebooks as Gold Stars that lure customers into’s virtual aisles.
  2. Anytime loans instead of the limit of 1 book a month. This shouldn’t be too difficult – as Amazon gets more power, and as authors become more desperate, we’ll see a lot more of this. We’re talking about authors who are already fighting to get people to pay them nothing for their books. Amazon is just supplying the little psychological magic (the $500K that gets split amongst a mere 5 million indie authors). Authors feel it’s less hopeless than it really is.
  3. Enough money (or a large enough lottery prize) for authors so that they are OK with offering their books for free. As soon as Amazon can figure out just how much money free book offers generate, in terms of other products bought at Amazon, it’ll start increasing the $500K a month bounty. It’ll still work out to nothing for 99% of authors. However, the lottery mentality means that every author secretly hopes she can get 10% of that monthly bounty (plus sales from the periods when her books aren’t free). More and more authors will jump in – as the prize gets bigger and bigger, authors will find it easier and easier to ignore the millions of other indie authors jumping in.
  4. In the UK there have been a flurry of complaints over the last few years about how supermarkets and retail store chains use book bestsellers as loss leaders. Selling them for 4 pounds and 5 pounds and driving bookstores to their death. Grocery Stores in the US have been using bestsellers as loss leaders too. Amazon is doing exactly the same - except it’s replacing $4 with $1 and $0. It’s ebooks so Amazon can give them away – it just has to offer enough of a carrot to authors or create a good enough lottery. A Kindle Book subscription model would be the ultimate lure to draw readers into - especially if Amazon can make it a Kindle exclusive. Amazon will 100% push for lifetime exclusives – it’s already tried with Amanda Hocking and probably with other authors. The End Goal is obvious - Kindle books as the irresistible loss leaders that pull people in to
  5. Enough books published by Amazon imprints to provide a significant part of the subscription value (even if it’s 10% of the books people hear about, it’s still significant).
  6. Enough distillation of indie authors and smaller publishers to make the subscription model more compelling. Do note that the quality does exist – as soon as the curation problem is solved (if it is, and it probably will be), Amazon gets all the good indie authors who are, strangely enough, willing to offer up their books for nothing. All for the promise of recognition and other things that fill hearts and not stomachs.

Amazon thinks it’s game over. Don’t know if it is but Amazon is certainly behaving as if it’s game over – there’s no other reason to show its hand so early. Everything leads to a Kindle Book Subscription Model that is not only very compelling for the amount of reading it offers readers, it’s also exclusive to Amazon.

This is the inflection point. The fact that Amazon has set up and kicked off a model where not only are authors falling over each other to offer their books free to Kindle owners, they are also giving Amazon 90 day exclusives. The fact that it’s already started a Subscription Model and turned it into a selling point for Kindle Fire and Amazon Prime. Don’t see any way the Big 6 can get out of this alive. B&N is in deep trouble too – It’s restricted by its need to make money selling books. This is the inflection point of inflection points. It will, in retrospect, make the other inflection points in eReaders and eBooks seem trivial. The Tragedy of the Commons = The Best Lossleaders Ever.

For Reading: Kindle > Kindle Fire > iPad

Just finished reading The Hunger Games on Kindle Fire.

Based on the limited experience of reading that one book on Kindle Fire, a few books on iPad, and lots of books on Kindles, here are my thoughts.

Note: I have read quite a few books on Nook Color (another 7″ reading tablet, which happens to be very similar to Kindle Fire).

Kindle is by far the best device for reading books

Why is Kindle better than Kindle Fire?

Kindle’s eInk screen is optimized for reading. The eInk really is better than LCDs. It does not tire your eyes (which Kindle Fire does, to a noticeable amount). It does not tire your hands (which Kindle Fire does, a bit).

If a person had both, and didn’t have to read in the dark, the person would almost always pick the Kindle for reading.

Things like size and weight are not things you should gloss over. If you like to read without resting the book on something, then Kindle is the best option because it is very compact and light. Kindle Fire is manageable but iPad isn’t. With iPad, you absolutely must rest it on something because it’s just too heavy for one-handed reading and it turns into a work-out if you do two-handed reading.

Kindle Fire provides a good reading experience, but nothing like the Kindle

If we strip away all our strong feelings of love and belonging, and look at just the quality of reading experience, then a few things stand out -

  1. Kindle Fire is good for reading.
  2. The LCD screen isn’t as good as eInk. It does tire the eyes.
  3. The IPS LCD screen isn’t very readable in sunlight. By ‘isn’t very’ we mean ‘basically isn’t’.
  4. The weight is a bit much – you’ll have to switch hands after half an hour or so. Or you’ll have to get something to rest it against.
  5. The size is very good. Not as great as Kindle but still good. This is a BIG advantage of 7″ Tablets over 10″ and even 8.9″ Tablets. 7″ is very close to a paperback and manageable.
  6. Kindle Fire is very good for night reading – after you dial down the brightness.
  7. Kindle Fire’s size and weight and wieldiness (ability to handle it easily) make it considerably better than iPad for reading. The mainstream press can throw all the ‘animated page turn’ nonsense it wants and claim iPad is better for reading than Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet – However, the size and weight of the 7″ Tablets are far more suited to reading.

My theory of there being LCD compatible people and LCD incompatible people seems weaker and weaker. I think it has more to do with people being in love with their device and not being willing to admit that eInk really is better for reading. OR there are just people who use a different definition of reading (one book a year) to claim LCD devices are as good for reading.

After now owning an iPhone, a Nook Color, and an iPad for over a year each, and reading quite a few books on each, it just seems to me that the feeling of ‘Tablets and Smartphones are so pretty and lovable’ is really the root cause of all the ‘LCD is as good as eInk’ claims.

You can see it in extreme effect in people who claim – LCD is fine for reading in sunlight. Just find the shade. Just dial down the brightness.

LCD compatible people = People who love their devices so much they morph LCD compatibility into themselves. A sort of placebo effect.

For anyone who claims that LCDs are just as readable as eInk:

Q1: Do you love your LCD device? Are you very fond of it?

Q2: What about the Kindle you played with for 5 minutes before dismissing it? Does it hold any more meaning for you than a hole in the wall?

That right there is why LCD seems as good to you as eInk. Everyone who owns and uses BOTH a Kindle and a Tablet (Kindle Fire, Nook Color, iPad) for a reasonable period of time (6 months) can attest to the fact that eInk really is better for reading.

Your eyes and your hands can attest to it too – ask them right after you’ve read a book on a LCD tablet. Ironically, the situation in which an LCD outshines a Kindle (reading at night) is the situation that most hurts your eyes and body (due to your sleep patterns being affected and due to the huge contrast between the LCD screen and the dark environment).

iPad isn’t really suited for reading

Three reasons:

  1. LCD isn’t as good as eInk. It’s not even close. This includes things like tiring the eyes and not being readable in sunlight.
  2. The size isn’t very convenient. A 10″ Tablet is quite a bit larger than a paperback. That makes it unwieldy and a horror if you’re reading a book (as opposed to 10 minute snippets of reading between other things).
  3. The weight is a real pain. You can always rest it against something and claim the weight isn’t an issue. But that introduces newer problems (reading in something other than your favorite reading positions, what it does to your neck, the reading distance becoming unoptimal). Bottom line: If you can’t hold your eBook Reader in your hands while reading, that’s a good hint it isn’t really an eBook Reader.

There are lots of redeeming qualities for the iPad. The first few are things related to reading:

  1. It can be read on at night. Note: So can the 7″ Tablets and they eliminate the weight and unwieldiness problems.
  2. It has Color. This is admittedly important for some categories of books.
  3. You can get books from any store. Note: Kindle Fire allows this by letting you sideload apps from other sources. Not as convenient, but doable.

There are also things unrelated to reading: It’s great for movies, it has a bigger screen, it has a touch screen, and so forth.

Qualities unrelated to reading are NOT a killer reason to buy an iPad for reading. This is something that people who don’t read much don’t seem to get. You aren’t going to buy an umbrella if you’re looking for a pair of pants just because an umbrella is rain-proof.

If you’re looking for a device for reading – There’s no competition. Kindle is far better than iPad, and it is clearly better than Kindle Fire.

Note: Kindle and Nook are pretty close. Nook Touch (with eInk) is going to be available on sale for $79 on Black Friday. You might want to take a look.

If you own an iPad, don’t despair – You can get a Kindle for $79, or you can think yourself into being LCD compatible. Do keep in mind that the cost on your eyes and neck and wrists might not be something you’ll be able to wish away. The cost on eyes part also holds for Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet.

If you’re choosing between Kindle and Kindle Fire, it becomes really interesting. The weight and unwieldiness problems are gone with 7″ Tablets like Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet. So it comes down to how much you value reading. If your main reason for buying a Kindle Fire is reading, then my very strong recommendation would be to buy a Kindle 3 instead (the one with the keyboard). If your main use of the device will be for reading, then it makes sense to get the device that is the very best for reading.

For Reading: Kindle >> Kindle Fire >> iPad. For Reading: eInk >>>> LCD.


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