Don’t know what to think – Foxconn’s ‘I won’t kill myself’ agreement for employees

Sometimes there are things that my brain fails to understand.

Foxconn is the company that puts together lots of electronic devices – Playstations, Xboxes, iPhones, iPads, the Kindle, Sony Reader.

There have been reports of an unusually high number of suicides at Foxconn’s factories this year. It’s getting some press coverage – However, it’s a human tendency to dismiss it as just a Press creation. After all, who wants to admit that people who put together our iPhones and Kindles have such terrible work conditions that they want to jump off buildings.

This article in the Sydney Morning Herald – Well, I really don’t know how to process it. However, it’s forced me to write about it – a weak excuse but better than nothing.

Let’s start with a detour.

Henry Ford and Welfare Capitalism

Courtesy Wikipedia -

 Ford announced his $5-per-day program on January 5, 1914. The revolutionary program called for a raise in minimum daily pay from $2.34 to $5 for qualifying workers. It also set a new, reduced workweek, although the details vary in different accounts. Ford and Crowther in 1922 described it as six 8-hour days, giving a 48-hour week, while in 1926 they described it as five 8-hour days, giving a 40-hour week.

(Apparently the program started with Saturdays as workdays and sometime later made them days off.)

Ford says that with this voluntary change, labor turnover in his plants went from huge to so small that he stopped bothering to measure it.

Here we have an example of an industrialist who made things better for his workers and for himself. Now, let’s take a look at Foxconn.

Foxconn is making its workers promise not to kill themselves

Terry Gou, the chairman of Foxconn’s parent company (and Foxconn’s founder), flew in on his private jet to showcase a Foxconn factory and the measures they had taken to reduce worker suicides -

  1. Workers have been told to sign letters promising not to kill themselves. 
  2. Workers have agreed to be institutionalized if they show strange mental and physical behavior. 
  3. Nets are being hung around buildings to deter workers. 
  4. Roof patrols are being arranged.  
  5. There are tension release rooms where you can beat up dummies to release your stress and frustration.

Here’s a quote that, well, is hard to comprehend -

[Regarding safety nets being installed around buildings]

“If they jump, they’ll fall into the safety nets, so their lives will be saved,” a contractor told the channel.

Your workers are jumping off their work buildings and you’re installing safety nets. What sort of nonsense is this.

Why are Foxconn focusing on the symptoms rather than the core problem?

What person in their right mind thinks it’s a good idea to get workers to sign a letter promising not to kill themselves? The solution isn’t to put up safety nets or start roof patrols – just avoid making your workers so miserable that they want to kill themselves.

Here is the real problem -

  1. 12 hours workdays, 6 days a week. 
  2. Workers not allowed to talk to each other during the 12 hours.  
  3. Having to live in the factory itself. 
  4. A monthly salary of $300.
  5. Working on products that they can never afford. Imagine if you worked at Ford but could never afford a Ford car.
  6. No path to a better life – No American dream. No European social safety net.
  7. Working for a company that has the gall to treat you like a slave – Can you ever imagine a company in US or Europe or Canada getting an employee to sign a letter giving the company the right to put the employee in a mental asylum?

This is wrong on so many levels.

Years of Abuse can’t be hidden any more

From Wikipedia it seems that Foxconn have been doing this since 2006 -

In June 2006, allegations of Foxconn operating abusive employment practices came to light as reported by Mail that were later denied by Foxconn. Apple launched an investigation into these claims.

The result was that the claims of mistreatment of employees were judged by the Apple inspection team to be largely unfounded, but the inspection team also discovered that at peak production times some of the employees were working more hours than Apple’s acceptable “Code of Conduct” limit of 60 hours and 25% of the time workers did not get at least one day off each week.

It’s awfully easy to find claims of mistreatment to be unfounded when you have billions of dollars of profit on the line. However, when people are jumping from buildings you can no longer pretend. 

Don’t know what to write because haven’t done anything myself - it’s not as if suggesting something would be appropriate.

Kindle is going to die – for no logical reason

Every day there’s a journalist somewhere who wakes up and decides the Kindle is going to die. The only thing left is to come up with a good, logical explanation of how and why this is going to happen.

Therein lies a problem.

Good and logical explanations are difficult.

To write an actual good article about the death of the Kindle involves procuring the Kindle, reading books on the Kindle, reading books on the device that is going to kill the Kindle, and then writing down coherently why reading on said device is better than reading on the Kindle.

Given that we don’t yet have a device that is better for reading than the Kindle (with all due respect to the wireless-less Sony Touch and the Nook) that’s a massive problem. 

Therefore we get a ton of illogical arguments for why the Kindle is going to die.

Kindle is going to die – the truly absurd reasons

  1. The younger generations don’t read any more. It just seems that way – smart parents are making sure their kids read and lots of kids are very interested in reading.
  2. It’s terrible for playing games. It is a dedicated reading device.
  3. No one reads anymore. Apart from the people who spend $23.8 billion a year on books in America.
  4. No one buys single purpose devices any more. Yes, except for Flip camcorders, TVs, cameras, video game consoles, non-smart phones, and 5,000 other devices.
  5. Books are boring. As are your powers of imagination.
  6. If it doesn’t Amazon will take over Publishing. What does that have to do with anything?
  7. We need to save books. Dedicated reading devices are doing exactly that.

These are often amusing and sometimes just leave you wondering what people were thinking.

My favorite is the ‘younger generations don’t read’ argument. That’s complete and utter nonsense – Harry Potter, Twilight, Percy Jackson, and so many other books have done really, really well. Unless you expect us to believe that people in their 30s and 40s were reading these how do you explain the sales?  

Kindle is going to die for a made-up or trivial reason

These are really good as they are totally made-up or some small flaw is magnified -

  1. It’s too expensive. Different people have different levels of interest in reading and they’re willing to pay different amounts.  
  2. eInk causes eyestrain and is terrible compared to print on paper. Have you even seen an eInk screen?
  3. LCD is just as good for reading as eInk. Except for the 70% of the population that is not LCD-compatible.  
  4. All my reading is done in 10 to 20 minute gaps – LCD is just fine. Perhaps it’s not meant for you.
  5. eInk doesn’t have a backlight. Paper books managed to do OK.
  6. It isn’t pretty. Some of us don’t need a pretty device to look good. Besides shouldn’t our primary concern be how good it is for reading books, as opposed to looking good?
  7. eBooks are too expensive. How much cheaper than $9.99 would you like to go - $2 Indie titles? Free Public Domain Books?
  8. No one cares about battery life. To be more precise - absolutely no one cares about recharging batteries.
  9. The battery life isn’t enough. How much longer than 2 weeks would you like?

Hand in hand with magnifying the importance of trivial kindle flaws is the practice of playing down big advantages. Consider how the iPad’s backlight is drummed up while its lack of readability in sunlight is never brought up -

  1. Could you read the Kindle in the dark? Yes, with a $5 to $20 reading light.  
  2. Could you make the iPad’s screen readable in sunlight? Not really. Unless you go inside which sort of defeats the whole purpose.

Yet the former is the end of the road for the Kindle and the latter is not even mentioned.

Kindle is going to die because reading isn’t that important

Every reason (even the ones above) boil down to Kindle-haters being reading-haters. However, it’s rare to find people who actually come out and admit their inherent bias against reading.

  1. I wouldn’t pay even $50 for a Kindle. Then why do you care enough to write about it? 
  2. No one reads books any more. That obviously didn’t stop you from trying to pretend your iEverything is an eReader.
  3. Books are going to evolve into movies and games and apps. You’re absolutely correct – Now don’t write anything until that happens. 
  4. The device doesn’t do anything other than reading. Reading is the whole point.
  5. There are a lot of things more exciting than reading. Then please get back to your virtual farm lest your virtual crops wither and your virtual life is ruined.  
  6. Companies don’t want us thinking for ourselves. Good point – Listen to Big Brother and get back to mindless games and TV.
  7. Reading brings up painful memories from school.  No answer for that.

It’s an attack on reading. It’s just people thinking reading isn’t worth their time so it couldn’t be worth anyone else’s time. Sometimes it’s people who are uncomfortable with the thought that other people are reading and enjoying themselves while they themselves could never enjoy it.

It’s a very kindergarden level attitude of wanting to spoil someone else’s fun because they might be having more fun. Crabs in a basket.

What about Kindle’s rivals - Actual dedicated reading devices?

Any company that makes a device dedicated to reading deserves credit. It’s the honorable way to attack the Kindle – bring out a better device and beat the Kindle fair and square.

If Nook or Sony or Bridgestone or Qualcomm actually create a better dedicated reader – then it’s good for them and it’s good for readers and it forces Amazon to evolve the Kindle.

It’s good for books. And that’s what it’s all about.

The anti-reading people are the real problem

The annoying little people are the ones who hate books and reading and don’t have the courage to fight a fair fight. If they really think they can do a better job then why don’t they release a dedicated reader – They won’t because they don’t feel reading is worth anything or at least not worth enough to make the effort.

They want the best of both worlds – to create a device that isn’t optimized for reading and also be able to beat dedicated eReaders.

The Press due to their own vested interests and their hatred of dedicated reading devices are happy to pretend that the latest tablet or phone beats all dedicated reading devices. 

  • They are so biased that every single device that ever comes out gets labeled an eReader Killer or a Kindle Killer.
  • It’s pretty amazing that there’s not been a single device since the Kindle became a hit that wasn’t a Kindle Killer.

We must live in the golden age of devices if every single one released is better than a device that created a brand new market and sold 3 million plus units last year.

Dear Press, where is your best? Is this all you’re capable of?

It’s just pitiful - If you are going to attack dedicated readers and the Kindle at least write a coherent argument. Perhaps if you read more books you’d be able to piece together a better crafted argument than ‘I don’t think a dedicated eReader should be more than $100′.

The iPad is a beautiful device – if the Press thought straight for a bit they could make a credible argument for choosing a multi-purpose device over an eReader. However, their ineptness/hubris is such that they want to paint it as an eReader and run it into the concrete wall of it not being a very good eReader.

It’s the ultimate irony that the Press pretend that a dedicated eReader has no future and yet they are claiming the iPad is a very good eReader. Shouldn’t they be saying that it’s a terrible eReader because reading is a waste of time. Wasn’t ‘there’s no future for reading’ the argument against the Kindle in the first place?

Contrasting two reviews discussing rumored death of the Kindle

For your viewing pleasure we have two reviews this morning. If you’re bored to death of the JesusTablet feel free to skip this post.

BusinessWeek crucifies the Kindle

BusinessWeek just woke up to the fact that they’re Press and thus obligated to predict the death of the Kindle.

First they have analyst Charlie Wolf offer his opinion -

“It’s not a compelling product,” he says of the Kindle, because Apple’s iPad offers more features, such as the ability to play video, plus a more compelling design.

Notice how his reasons have nothing to do with actually reading ebooks. He’s still predicting 2.5 million to 3 million Kindles sold in 2010.

Next we have noted expert analyst Gene Munster (with his patented technology of using the length of lines outside stores to predict sales) offer up his views -

 “No one in their right mind is going to buy a Kindle DX,” says Munster.

Then we have Business Week use this snippet -

Ten percent of prospective buyers said they had considered a Kindle but decided instead to buy an iPad. And 58% of the respondents who already owned Kindles said they planned to stop using them in light of their iPad purchase.

Notice how they forget to mention that the number of respondents who owned Kindles in their survey was just 58. Predictions based on views of 58 owners (given that there are millions of Kindle owners) are not dependable - Just the number of articles pretending that this survey is hugely significant is more than 58.

BW are so impressed by the survey that they actually have a heading for it – Consumers dumping Kindles for iPads.

Mike Shatzkin’s iPad review from a book reader’s perspective

Mike Shatzkin looks at the iPad from the perspective of an ebook reader and he has this to say -

Here’s a quick review of the iPad. I’ve had it for a few days now and, based on what I know so far, it isn’t going to be a very important part of my life.

Thank goodness there’s at least one person who hasn’t had their life completely transformed by the JesusTablet. Well, two.

Further Heresy

 Mike Shatzkin points out that the on-screen keyboard doesn’t cut it -

The keyboard is miles better than one on a phone, but nowhere near as good as one on a laptop or netbook. So it isn’t a substitute for carrying a full-function computer on a trip …

And then the kiss of death -

But as a straight ereading device, it just doesn’t cut it for me.

The extra weight (over a Kindle or an iPhone) just isn’t sufficient compensation for the extra screen capability.

It isn’t as good as the iPhone for reading in bed in the dark because the much more light it throws off makes it harder to avoid annoying your significant other.

For the past two nights have been reading and surfing on the iPad in bed and the weight really is an issue – the iPhone is actually more convenient.

Pointing out some obvious differences between the two Reviews

Perhaps the biggest difference is -

  1. Mike Shatzkin was looking for a device to read ebooks on. 
  2. BusinessWeek were looking for a catchy story to print.

From the Business Week article it’s apparent that the writer hasn’t had the time to actually read a book on each device and compare - She was busy calling up 4 different analysts (they don’t seem to have read books on the Kindle either) and analyze the survey. Notice how all her information is second-hand information – She never actually writes anything about her personal experience.

It’s a colossal joke – A writer who hasn’t actually tried out the devices is asking analysts who haven’t tried out the devices either and they’re shoring it up by assuming a sample of 58 people buying iPads represent all Kindle owners.

You can take any ‘iPad will kill the Kindle’ review/article and you’ll find the exact same things -

  1. They are almost always written by people who haven’t actually read a book on the Kindle.
  2. Even more amusing is that these people usually haven’t even read a book on the iPad. Walt Mossberg is the sole exception.
  3. The focus is always on things other than reading. The logical flow is: Kindle is an eReader -> iPad is really good for watching movies. You can also read books on it. -> Hence the Kindle is dead.
  4. There’s always a survey or an analyst to lend credibility.
  5. There’s lots of mention of reading in the dark and of color.
  6. There’s never any mention of the things that make iPad non-optimal for reading i.e. lack of portability, heavy weight, unreadable in sunlight, and so forth.  

What if the iPad doesn’t kill the Kindle?

The iPad hasn’t sold tens of millions of units (450K to be precise) and there aren’t dozens of amazing killer apps (perhaps not any) making it absolutely essential. Even Macworld writers are ditching the iPad. So it might not be the second coming of a JesusDevice.

There are just 30,000 non-public domain books in the iBooks store. It’s pretty heavy and it’s not readable in sunlight. So the iPad isn’t a better eReader - Is it really going to kill the Kindle because it’s better for watching movies?

On top of that People aren’t buying very many books from the iBooks store. Nothing like Kindle Store on Christmas.

At this point the whole iPad will kill the Kindle hypothesis is based on factors other than reading. You have to admit that makes it rather undependable.

That would mean it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the iPad fails to destroy Kindle and dedicated eReaders. What happens then?

Consumer Creating Companies vs Intelligence Creating Libraries

My views on Libraries have changed drastically in the last few days. Mostly after I started thinking of companies and corporations and things as consumer creating versus intelligence creating.

Consumer Creating vs Intelligence Creating

First, a quick explanation -

  1. A consumer creating thing is anything that makes people stupid, exploits their psychological weaknesses, limits their choices, focuses on their weaknesses, and so forth. Note that this is not about good or evil or right or wrong or other intangibles - A consumer creating device/object/system literally reduces a user’s choice and freedom and even adversely affects their intelligence.
  2. We have a middle-ground. A win-win set of scenarios and arrangements where you give something in return for something else. This encompasses everything that is neutral or close to neutral.
  3. An intelligence creating thing is something that increases the amount of choice people have, makes them better informed and more intelligent, and in general gives them a better shot at whatever they want to do.

A perfect illustration of something that is intelligence creating is what Andrew Carnegie did with his libraries -

Carnegie’s personal experience as an immigrant, who with help from others worked his way into a position of wealth, reinforced his belief in a society based on merit, where anyone who worked hard could become successful. This conviction was a major element of his philosophy of giving in general, and of his libraries as its best known expression. 

Perhaps what Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are doing for AIDS research etc. with the Gates Foundation would also fall into this category.

Craigslist and Wikipedia would too – regardless of what you think of the aesthetic appeal of the former and the accuracy of the latter. The former makes classifieds free and the latter makes encyclopaedias available to anyone with an Internet connection.

Libraries are Amazingly Good Intelligence Creating systems and they are in Danger

It’s amazing to think that in 1919, when the last Carnegie library was built, nearly half of the Libraries in the US were Carnegie Libraries. It’s worth pointing out that -

  1. These were grants and the Libraries did not belong to Carnegie or any corporation.
  2. They were built on Carnegie’s concept of letting anyone who wanted to work hard and succeed have a fair shot at it.
  3. The libraries had to provide free service to all – That was part of the agreement to get the grant.
  4. The city/town had to provide 10% of the library construction cost annually to support the Library.

It was a beautiful system. Free of insidious influences.

Anyone could check out a book for free.

There was no company trying to make money off of the people by advertising to them or charging them a fee.

It was books – people thought for themselves and became smarter.

With eBooks and eReaders we see various corporations jumping in – they see a chance to carve out their pound of flesh and it threatens Libraries.

Various Problems eBooks create for the Library Concept

Here are just a few of the problems -

  1. Companies are trying to take over the role of libraries – A terrible idea because a company is always focused on profit and only interested in their own good. 
  2. With eBooks the financial barrier of owning an eReader comes into play.  
  3. The concept that advertising supported book/information systems are the same as libraries is being propagated which couldn’t be further from the truth.
  4. Funding for Libraries is being cut under the illusion that the Internet or a company can replace libraries.
  5. You are putting a great equalizer into the hands of the rich. What do you think they are going to do with it?

There is the illusion that companies think about or care about the mission of libraries. They aren’t capable of it - they are profit oriented entities and if anything they have the opposite motivation of libraries i.e. they’d rather see people be ignorant as it makes for better consumers.

Why Companies and the Internet cannot replace Libraries

Please feel free to debate each of these points -

  1. A company cannot ever place creating intelligent customers over profit. At best it can be win-win. A library literally has creating intelligent customers as its reason for existence.
  2. There are lots of companies that are very interested in turning people into stupid consumers that keep consuming their products.
  3. The Internet does not filter out bad or manipulative companies and websites. A library does – at least to the extent that people have to seek out books that would manipulate them and not be bombarded with them non-stop.
  4. Advertising is propping up most Internet Companies and it is the most powerful consumer-creating force we have.

There is no such thing as a company that doesn’t care about profit or that cares more about customers than profit. If a company tries to pretend it does - it just means they’re in it for the long haul and value you more as a long-term customer.

The other possibility is that they want to get your goodwill and the advantage that gives them.

The more you think of it the more you realize that we have two powerful consumer-creating forces at work.

Advertising and Schools are Consumer Creating Machines

We’ll start with schools since that’s easier to tackle -

  1. Let’s say that 20% of students are categorized as A grade. How does the school system have the right to say the other 80% are not A grade? 
  2. Think about what a typical school is better suited for – Sending kids into a world where anything is possible or a medieval world with a feudal system where they should step out knowing that they aren’t good enough.

Perhaps what the school system is best suited for is a world where 80% of kids are ready to work hard at making other people rich and happy. We’re literally training 80% of kids to be OK with accepting terrible jobs and getting less out of life – all because they couldn’t get a math problem right.

The amazing thing is that even kids who are good in one area (sports) are made to feel terrible because of inadequacies in another area (perhaps grades).

Advertising is as bad as Schools

Advertising is also corrupt.

  1. Why would an advertiser offer to pay $10,000 to run an ad in a magazine? Obviously, because he feels that it’s worth more than improving the product. Or that the awareness it creates is worth that much.
  2. However, Advertising doesn’t create awareness – it creates an artificial need. Or it reminds magazine readers of something they want or need or desire.
  3. After that want has been stoked advertisers link its fulfillment with their product.

The argument would be that there’s nothing wrong in advertising a product that customers would possibly want. However, that’s not what’s happening -

  1. The first step down the slippery slope is to start convincing people they have more needs than they have. It increases profits to sell your product even to people who don’t really need it.
  2. The second step is to pretend that your product fulfills those artificial needs. Often the companies start believing this themselves.
  3. After that it’s a non-stop process of training users to buy things to fulfill needs that can’t be fulfilled.

Advertising is the equivalent of a Doctor that keeps thinking up imaginary illnesses and treating patients. They never feel ‘better’ because they didn’t have anything wrong with them in the first place. 

Look at the various older forms of entertainment i.e. books, movies, music and compare it to the new forms of entertainment that advertising and new innovations in exploiting human psychology have enabled i.e. TV, virtual games, and video games. Things are getting worse and worse.

Companies are offering things for free and supporting it with advertising and tricks like virtual gifts because they feel they can get more out of you – It’s not because they love you. The real world is being replaced entirely by a virtual world and it’s all in the guise of entertainment.

Libraries can’t depend on Companies

A company is optimized for profit.

The stock price, the CEO’s bonus, the employee’s salaries and bonuses, the perks people get, how good the buildings are, how satisfied people feel in their jobs.

They are all linked to profit.

Whether or not the people in a company admit it their brains are constantly figuring out how to optimize profit and how to delude themselves into giving it meaning.

If you put the library system into the hands of a company it might think it can keep the library system as an intelligence creating machine. However, what will really happen is one of two things -

  1. A win-win situation. This is non-optimal because the company will only help people who are in a position to help it back. There is no longer any incentive to help the poor and the people who most need libraries.
  2. A consumer creating situation. Why not tilt just a little bit in the company’s favor and start pretending that customers owe the company running libraries and should do things in return. Let’s start making it easier for people to read books that we want them to read and believe things that we want them to believe.

If the company let’s go of its own profit based DNA and runs the Library as an intelligence creating machine there are a lot of problems -

  1. Users are costing resources without giving anything back.
  2. Rivals are using resources while not sharing their own. 
  3. The company’s focus is removed from profit-making. The opportunity cost of running a non-profit business would be enormous. 

At that point it’s no longer a company – It’s a trust or charity or non-profit.

We need another Andrew Carnegie

That’s what it comes down to. The Internet Archive is great and it doesn’t have the money to compete with the Giants. We need Warren Buffett or Bill Gates to fund an intelligence creating non-profit that focuses on creating a self-sustaining Library System.

The transition to ebooks and ereaders provides a great opportunity – both to create a more efficient and powerful library system and for the consumer creating machines to take over the library system.

Libraries and Books are similar and intertwined – they are unpolluted by profit and advertising and manipulation. It’s an author going for something more precious than profit – immortality. The biggest battles for the Future of Books are going to be fought behind the scenes and perhaps no one cares.

It’s all quite amusing at some level - for something as transitory as profit companies are trying to kill all of books and now even libraries.

iPad – More Reading Killer than Kindle Killer?

Paul Carr has written a beautiful post that captures exactly what Publishers and ‘iPad is a better eReader than Kindle’ ideologists are refusing to see.

Paul Carr points out that the iPad is a Reading Killer

Here is the logical progression of the article -

  1. iPad is a Kindle Killer – in the title. 

    I Admit It, The iPad Is A Kindle Killer. I Just Wish It Weren’t Going To Kill Reading Too

  2. iPad is not a good way to read books. At this point we probably lose some of the fanatical iPad supporters. This Paul Carr paragraph is very politically incorrect and also a perfect description of non-readers under the delusion that they are the target market for eReaders -

    The iPad is emphatically not a serious readers’ device: the only people who would genuinely consider it a Kindle killer are those for whom the idea of reading for pleasure died years ago; if it was ever alive.

    The people who will spout bullshit like “I read on screen all day” when what they really mean is “I read the first three paragraphs of the New York Times article I saw linked on Twitter before retweeting it; and then I repeat that process for the next eight hours while pretending to work.”

    That’s reading in the way that rubbing against women on the subway is sex

  3. iPad is a beautiful device for almost everything else. It’s perfect for newspapers and email and browsing and movies and games.
  4. iPad will become the one device people carry with them. Casual readers will be buying iPads and Tablets instead of Kindles and eReaders -

    Sales of ebooks soared as first early adopters, then everyone else, left their paper books at home and started carrying around something smaller and lighter that still gave them access to their reading material.

    Those same people are now the ones who will buy iPads, or presumably any one of the myriad alternatives that will soon be flooding the market

  5. On the iPad books compete with all other forms of entertainment. On the iPad there are constant distractions. 

    Even for those who love books enough to persevere with reading without e-ink will soon face another problem with the awesomeness of the iPad. The device does so many different things so well that there’s a constant urge when you’re using one to do something else.

  6. iPad will end up killing the concept of reading for pleasure for a lot of casual readers.

It really is an excellent article and the comments illustrate both pro-Kindle and anti-Kindle beliefs beautifully. Here’s my favorite -

Maybe we will evolve to read well under iPad conditions?

iPad is a Reading Killer and not a Kindle Killer

First, iPad is not going to kill the Kindle because if you love to read you’re going to prefer the Kindle. Even if you choose to go for reading on the iPhone or on the iPad it won’t take long before you realize that it’s not that easy to focus on reading - Then you come back to the Kindle or Nook or Sony Reader.

For me, despite preferring reading over wasting time, it’s been 150+ hours of games on the iPhone in 6 months versus 25 hours of reading on the iPhone. In my first week with the iPad am only 80% through one book (with the Nook it was 2 books in the first week).

There will obviously be a lot of casual readers who are lost forever – However, they are the 80% that only account for 20% of sales. Our concern should be much more about the 20% of dedicated readers that are getting abused by the Agency Model and other artificial restrictions.

Second, iPad is going to kill the concept of reading for pleasure for a lot of casual readers. Here’s why -

  1. By promoting the iPad and pushing wrong notions (that the iPad is an eReader, that LCD is as good as eInk) the Press are taking even people who wanted to buy an eReader and feeding them a device that is better suited for every other form of entertainment.
  2. Everyone is confusing ‘you can read on this device’ with ‘you will actually read on this device’.
  3. With its rich color screen, 9.7″ screen, and good video support the iPad is much better suited to TV and Movies and YouTube than books.
  4. It’s amazingly well suited to casual games and casual game makers are amazingly adept at tapping human psychology and relentlessly improving value for money. Publishers are very good at messing up exactly those two things. 
  5. It’s just not the sort of device suited for 3 to 4 hours of reading at a stretch and for shorter time periods you have very competitive offerings – casual games, serious games, apps of all sorts, movies, surfing, and more.

Note that we’re saying ‘a lot’ and not all. There will be people who will read ‘more’ on their iPad then they did before – Our argument is that for most readers owning an eReader leads to much more reading than owning an iPhone or an iPad.

If the ‘iPad is a better eReader than Kindle’ ideologists think about it even they will admit that no matter how much better they think the iPad is for reading they read less than someone who owns a Kindle – they read less because they are busy doing magical things like watching movies and playing games on their iPad while we Kindle owners are doing our non-magical reading.

Why Non-Readers and the Press are pushing iPad as an eReader

We’re taking a lot of different people with a lot of different motivations and assuming they are all ‘people who actually read books’. Let’s consider 5 categories of people -

  1. People who love to read and read a lot.
  2. People who have reading as a top 3 interest and read often enough to want a device they can read very well on.
  3. People who read once in a while and want a device they can read on in addition to doing things that they do more often. 
  4. People who like to think they read and want to have a device they can read their Flavor of the Year book on every year.
  5. People who don’t really read and want people who read to stop reading – because they don’t understand why anyone would read.

The last 3 categories of people are not readers. For them an iPad really is the perfect reading device because its unsuitability for reading and lack of focus on reading matches the low importance reading has in their lives. Yet we are assuming that their advice applies to actual readers.

There’s also a strange discrimination – For some unfathomable reason the 5th category of people aren’t just satisfied to get a device that suits their needs. For them, it’s imperative that they be able to claim some sort of superiority – that they possess a device that validates their existence while all readers have is a device to read books on.

Non-readers are pushing iPad as an eReader so much because it matches their cognitive model of reading as something that’s done once every 3 months (or perhaps for 5 minutes a day in between checking other stuff).

Why the Press are embracing the concept of iPad as eReaders

There have been three distinct waves of iPad reviews -

  1. Wave 1 were the privileged few who praised it to the skies – not mentioning portability, range of books (no one mentioned that only 30,000 non-public domain books were available), and lack of readability in sunlight. 
  2. Wave 2 were the main-stream press that fell all over themselves talking about the revolution and the magic. 
  3. Wave 3 are a mixed group – We’re finally getting negative reviews and reports of people returning their iPads and Paul Carr pointing out that it’s pretty much an anti-eReader. 

It’s only in the third wave that we’re getting some semblance of honesty. For people in the first 2 waves their jobs, their world-view, and their careers depend on the iPad saving newspapers.

That’s why Andy Ihnatko managed to see his iPad screen perfectly in sunlight and why most of the people in the first two waves proclaimed the iPad as better for reading than the Kindle without ever having read a book on the Kindle.

The Reality Distortion Field can’t last forever – Reality Always Wins

The funny thing about reality is that no matter how much you try to distort it it doesn’t change -

  1. There can be 100 people commenting about how reading on LCDs causes no eye-strain. If you’re not a LCD-resistant human then your eyes still hurt. 
  2. A thousand people who don’t read can shout and scream that eReaders aren’t worth more than $50. For people who read they’re still priceless.
  3. Every biased reviewer can claim that the iPad is readable in sunlight and the weight doesn’t make a difference. The screen is still unreadable in sunlight and your hands still hurt.
  4. You can pretend there are no distractions on the iPad. The new, hot game and email and that new release on NetFlix are still going to be calling your name. 
  5. Steve Jobs can talk about 600,000 book downloads on the first day – That doesn’t change that not much reading is going to be done on the iPad.
  6. Publishers can hate Amazon as much as they want. Kindle for iPad is still going to sell more ebooks than any other app.

And, of course, if you don’t read a lot and aren’t looking for a device that is specialized for reading then the last thing you should do is listen to, or care for the opinion of, a blog focused on dedicated eReaders and dedicated readers.


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