Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Kindle-icious

As promised a few pics of the new Kindle.

A few items for reference

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Next to the now gargantuan-seeming 10” MSI netbook.

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Close-up showing cover detail.

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And even closer showing text from a free Gutenberg text.

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Monday, September 06, 2010

I’ve been Kindle-ated

My Kindle arrived this weekend!

When Amazon released their 3rd generation Kindle e-book reader and significantly reduced the price point (the Wi-fi only version is $139, 3G wireless is $189) I took the plunge.

Those of you who’ve been following my more recent posts on the e-book developments (click here and here) know that I’m starting to favor Amazon’s Kindle model over Apple’s iPad model for ebooks. Here are the 3 basic reasons:

1. Amazon is platform agnostic. Yes, I can get a Kindle, but I can also use my PC, my netbook, my Blackberry, or even my iPod and iPad to read Amazon Kindle books. Amazon wants the ebook channel; the money is in the consumables (as it is with iTunes). Not every Kindle book has to be read on a Kindle device ahd Amazon recognizes this.

2. Amazon has the channel already. Selling books over the internet for years they have been dealing with book publishers for that long, and they have pull with publishers due to the volume of books they sell online.

3. They get the pricing, both with device and the content. This is especially true with the latest generation Kindle readers. They are not trying to compete with the iPad; instead they are trying to offer a slimmed down device, but a highly improved reading experience. And the book prices. Kindle editions are all normally 30%-50% off of the regular Amazon list price. If I save roughly 5$ on every book purchase I will have paid for the device after only 30 purchases.

So here are the things I like about the new Kindle.

  • e-paper. Any LCD screen has always been a readability compromise for me. I can only read on my netbook for an hour or two before feeling it. The Kindle display is amazing. I read today for almost 8 hours without any sort of fatigue. The newer display boast a higher contrast ratio, and resolution than previous models and the white is a bright white that is visible even in dimly lit situations (although you can’t read in the dark with it.) In fact, the Kindle arrived with the screen on! The screen boasted a high res image of a famous author and it took me a few seconds to realize that it wasn’t a vinyl decal I had to peel off, but rather it was the actual display.
  • Size and weight. The 3rd generation Kindle has decreased both size and weight by about 20% in each dimension, without reducing the screen area. At only 8 ounces and not much larger than a trade paperback, the unit is amazingly comfortable. It reads with the comfort of a think paperback, and I can hold it easily with two fingers. My netbook weights 2.2 lbs and the iPad weights 1.6 lbs. No comparison on the reading experience. The Kindle is the only one that’s comfortable to hold for extended periods. It’s hard to get a sense of actually how comfortable the Kindle is until you’ve compared it.
  • Multi-platform sync. If I bookmark or write a note in the Kindle “margin,” it syncs with all my other versions of the Kindle software. Boot up my laptop and open up the same book and all my notes and my previous location have been updated. I can even see notes that others have made in the same book.
  • Annotation. While the Kindle keyboard and note functionality isn’t great for extended annotation, it is great for “marginalia.” In fact, if I’m actually going to “study” a book, I prefer this as it lets me “mark and go,” and then later sync to a platform that is much better for note taking or broad synthesis of multiple notes across multiple chapters.This is the way I study paper books. I make prolific marginalia as I’m reading, but focus on the flow; only later sit down with a pad of paper to synthesize major points and broad themes by reviewing my margin notes. I even get all my marginalia in a separate note file with references, which I can then export and edit on my laptop.
  • Battery life. A huge Kindle plus. Because the e-ink display uses batter power primarily only when it’s changing pages, the battery life is up to a month (with wireless turned off). This makes it truly more like a book than a computing device. My netbook will give me 4 max with the screen contrast turned down. The iPad claims more like 10 or 12 hours. With both you have to worry about charging regularly. With the Kindle I can take it on vacation and not worry if I forget my charger.
  • Amazon conversion of personal documents. I can email personal word, text, html and pdf documents to an email address set up for my Kindle and Amazon will convert them automatically to the proper format and put them into my download queue. If you’re wi-fi, then download is free (wireless download incurs a charge).
  • Social networking. I can quote a passage, along with my marginalia comments to Facebook and/or Twitter. Great when you find a juicy quote you know others will appreciate.
  • Onboard dictionary.  Let’s face it. I don’t stop to find out what a new word means. It’s rare that I absolutely need it. With the Kindle just move the cursor to the word and it’s definition pops up. I now know what a “daube” is.

Downsides. There are a few, although rather than restating how the Kindle is not an iPad, I’m going to focus things that could be improved qua the e-book reader that it is.

  • Keyboard. The keyboard is a small QWERTY keyboard at the very bottom of the unit. I type on it more like my Blackberry (unit held with two hands, using thumbs to type). This works ok, but I find that the keyboard is a little two low on the unit and as a result is a little top-heavy as I’m trying to type. Also, to reduce keys they have added a “symbol” menu but typing symbols requires you to move the cursor amongst 4 rows and 10 or so columns of optional symbols to select each one individually. Not so bad if they were less frequently used, but even basic punctuation can only be accessed via this clunky menu. Numbers can be reached by key combinations on the keyboard (although they aren’t marked). It would help is at least a question mark, exclamation point, and comma were also accessible in this manner. I also find myself expecting cell phone-like text shortcuts and am remiss when my “u r” doesn’t change into a “you are” automatically like it does on my Blackberry.
  • Interface. It’s basic. You can put your books into file folders or “collections,” go shopping at the Kindle store, search relatively easily but that’s about all.
  • Extras. The extras are curiosities at best. There is a web browser. You can listen to music via mp3’s you load on the unit, and text to speech is neat. However, none of them are particularly highly functional. Text to speech is a drone monotone that misses most unpunctuated turn of phrase. Buy an audio book instead.

The take-away for me is this. In the spirit of “sticking to it’s knitting” the Kindle lets you do one thing and one thing superbly well: read books. It does so at an unbeatable price point, and gives you access to the best-priced selection of ebooks on the market. I’m sold.

I do plan on posting pics shortly.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Objectivist Round-up #162

Welcome to the August 19, 2010 edition of objectivist round up.

Welcome to this 162nd edition of the Objectivist Round Up, a blog carnival of posts written by individuals who are advocates of Objectivism: the philosophy developed and defined by Ayn Rand.

If you are new to Ayn Rand and would like to discover more about her "philosophy for living on earth", I recommend you read her two great novels, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. If you enjoy her novels, I recommend her essays Man’s Rights, and The Nature of Government. The Ayn Rand Institute and the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights provide relevant information and commentary.

Following, in an order of my choosing, are the posts for this Objectivist Round Up.

Kelly Elmore presents Tennyson's "Ulysses" posted at Reepicheep's Coracle, saying, "Objectivists all seem to really love this poem. It has been read in OCON courses by Lisa Van Damme and Leonard Peikoff. I used it in my class at Mini-Con. It is even tattooed onto one Objectivist I know. In this post, I read the poem and give some background to help you better understand it."

[Editors note: hat tip to anyone who gets Tennyson tattooed on his body! Must be one cool dude.]

Paul Hsieh presents Hsieh AT OpEd: The Real Problem Is Not The Mosque But The Nukes posted at NoodleFood, saying, "I had two OpEds published this week! This one was on the NYC Mosque, at American Thinker."

Paul Hsieh presents Hsieh PJM OpEd: "Transparency For Me, But Not For Thee" posted at NoodleFood, saying, "This OpEd was on the relationship between "transparency" and limited government, at PajamasMedia. (It also got Instapundited!)"

Doug Reich presents "The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves" posted at The Rational Capitalist, saying, "Some commentary on recent Fed actions and its attempt to cure the devastation caused by easy money with...easy money."

Doug Reich presents Jefferson, Voltaire, and Turgot posted at The Rational Artist, saying, "Solving the mystery of a Houdon sculpture at Jefferson's Monticello"

Stephen Bourque presents Regulation Begets More Regulation posted at One Reality, saying, "What does the government do when it causes a crisis? It adds more government."

Rachel Miner presents Anxiety, Angst, that Internal Ahhhh Response posted at The Playful Spirit, saying, "I've been contemplating childhood anxiety after comments made by son's counselor. I love her approach to helping him work out feelings around social issues and that she's a safe haven without being in an authority position (if he's grappling with something where a mentor that has both experience raising a kid on the spectrum and helping kids process smoothly is desired). Growing up involves learning new skills and is going to provoke anxiety as there is so much that is unknown. I wonder how much anxiety is normal and what methods others have tired to help their children."

David C Lewis, RFA presents Life Settlements: How Government Made Investing In The Death Of Other People A Profitable Business posted at A Revolution In Financial Planning, saying, "Today, the life settlement business is booming. Investors are able to profit off of other people's deaths. And, this investment opportunity was created, in large part, because some politicians in Washington D.C. thought that using life insurance as an investment was wrong. How ironic."

Round-up Intermission.

I’m listening to this song as I put together the Round up and I can’t get it out of my head. So I’m sharing it with you.

And now back to our Objectivisty goodness:

Rory presents In which Rory takes a moral perspective on the practical posted at Mind To Matter, saying, "My protracted study of Aristotle's ethics, for the sake of a 4000 word essay due in two months on the nature of virtue, has led to some very interesting thoughts. Here is one of them."

Diana Hsieh presents Rationally Selfish Q&A #003 posted at NoodleFood, saying, "I answer the question, 'When the mind insists on wandering, what are some good ways to help it settle down and focus?'"

Ari Armstrong presents Why Sam Alexander is Wrong on 'Personhood' posted at Free Colorado, saying, "The "continuum" argument fails to establish a zygote is a person."

Beth Haynes presents Social Justice and Medical Ethics posted at Black Ribbon Project, saying, "The AMA is actively working in conjunction with Association of American Medical Colleges to inculcate young physicians with the ethics of "social justice." "Social justice" is a euphemism for economic egalitarianism--and since people do not naturally come by equal wealth, "social justice" requires taking from some to give to others. This means the basic tenet of Marxist socialism is being pushed as the new medical code of ethics."

David C Lewis, RFA presents Dear Dave: I Hate Life Insurance: Life insurance | Precious Metals | Retirement Plans | Financial Planning | Investing | Saving Money posted at A Revolution In Financial Planning, saying, "Today's hate mail comes from a blog commenter who writes in: "Dear Dave, I hate cash value life insurance". I respond to the idea that life insurance companies are "evil & deceptive" in their policy designs--*sigh*, here we go again..."

Kelly Elmore presents Child Friendly without being Child Centered posted at Reepicheep's Coracle, saying, "This post contains my observations about a singing group's great attitude about kids, making them a part of the activity without making them the center of the activity. Beware, child-haters and parents who don't make their kids behave in public!"

Edward Cline presents Towering Babble Over Cordoba House posted at The Rule of Reason, saying, "I do not think Charles Krauthammer saw it coming, but in a rare alignment of political planets, he agreed with President Barack Obama by opposing the planned site of the Ground Zero mosque in lower Manhattan for the same reason that Obama endorsed it. Krauthammer claims that Ground Zero is “sacred” and that no mosque should be built on or near it. Obama, on the other hand, claims that it is the right of Muslims to build a mosque on private property as an instance of “religious freedom,” which one guess he regards of “sacred,” as well. One shakes one’s head over Krauthammer’s confusion, and is tempted to laugh at Obama’s citation of “private property,” an institution he is devoted to abolishing."

Jeff Montgomery presents Belford/Oxford Run posted at Fun With Gravity, saying, "I finally made it to the top of Mount Oxford after three tries. With photos."

Peter Cresswell presents Off the ‘Spirit Level’ [update 4] posted at Not PC, saying, "The authors of British book 'The Spirit Level' have a political agenda of radical egalitarianism that's got the world's politicians talking. This is a short post pointing to intellectual ammunition to shoot it down."

Rational Jenn presents Recycling posted at Rational Jenn, saying, "How much do I love the Amelia Peabody books? Lots and lots and lots. And I think you'll enjoy them, too. :)"

Gene Palmisano presents Reality Transcends Racism « The Metaphysical Lunch posted at The Metaphysical Lunch, saying, "Stop the Nonsense."

Sean Saulsbury presents Barcode Hero Checks In posted at SeanCast.com, saying, "A review of the new iPhone app, Barcode Hero."

Harsha Vardhan presents Value of Indian Rupee and the role of RBI. posted at Harsha blogs!, saying, "This post analyzes the role of RBI(similar to the Federal Reserve in the US) with respect to the value of the Indian rupee and how it actually destroys rather than promoting the Indian rupee."

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of objectivist round up using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Upon the Retirement of Dr. Leonard Peikoff

Today at his final lecture of OCON 2010, Dr. Leonard Peikoff announced his formal retirement from philosophical work. There will be no more books, lectures, courses, or long treatises from him. He will continue to issue podcast episodes as he indicated that this work is a great enjoyment to him as a way to deal with the practical day to day application of philosophy to everyday problems. In essence he enjoys being the Dr. Laura of Objectivism.


He received a standing ovation that lasted several minutes upon completion of his lecture, and I suspect that many others in the room were as emotional as I was becoming. I have only seen Dr. Peikoff twice, and I have never spoken to him, but that really is unimportant to me. In the mid-90’s when I was the only Objectivist in a small town in Michigan, and when I thought we were so few that I might never meet another one, it was his voice, and the knowledge he imparted to me through his courses that kept me motivated and kept me going. The Art of Thinking, Introduction to Logic, The Principles of Grammer, Introduction to Objectivism, Understanding Objectivism, Eight Great Plays; it was his confident voice, imparting rational ideas that was in inspiration.


In my course on poetry this week with Lisa Van Damme, we studied what is already one of my favorite poems. Its theme seems appropriate to today and so I post a few excerpts from it, in honor of a man whose work, next to Rand’s, changed my life, and who helped me take an abstract philosophy out of the pages of the literature I loved and craft it into a practical method of living my own life.


Thank you, Dr. Peikoff.




from Ulyssess – Alfred Lord Tennyson




I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honoured of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy
3.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this grey spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.


Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles
4,
And see the great Achilles
5, whom we knew
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

OCON Update #2

It’s Wednesday morning and Session 2 has started at OCON. I’ve got a few minutes before the General Session starts and I thought I’d dash off an update.

Session 2 finished strong. It seems that one or two of the lectures in each class for me contain the “ah-ha” points, and the lecturers are so good at essentializing their analysis that when those moments of discovery come, they are very forceful. You’ll many times exit a class, talk amongst the participants afterward and they all agree that a particular lecture was very impactful.  The energy around those lectures is palpable.

David Lewis finished off his course on Ancient Athens in 5 B.C. by looking at the intellectual factions within Athens, and the aggressive nature of the Athenian democracy which ultimately led to its downfall. Lewis is a marvelous lecturer with his dry wit, and a real excitement and passion for the power of history to inform us.

Eric Daniels finished off his course on the Morality of Trade with another such lecture, comparing modern consequentialists theorists with Rand ethical basis, showing how a consequentialist view (trade is good because it results in the greatest good, or more efficient outcomes) necessarily leads to statism because it is unable to defend itself against any empirical argument. He then delved into Rand’s theory of trade, rooted in her objective theory of value, and ultimately man’s rational nature. Rand’s approach to a moral defense of capitalism is unique in that it focuses on the requirements of the process of trade, rather than attempting to justify trade based upon its outcomes. Yes it is true that capitalism may be the system that works the best, but that is not the fundamental basis to defend it.

Leonard Peikoff continues with his series of Lectures on his DIM Hypothesis, that the fundamental trends in Western history can be looked at and determined by the way in which each culture viewed the nature of human knowledge. After two lectures completing his survey of ancient cultures, his last lecture launched into a fascinating discussion of the factors by which cultures shift from one mode of action to another. This lecture was incredibly dense and action packed as he attempted to survey all six major historical eras and review the change both coming into and out of each one. I was typing furiously the whole time. He’ll continue in his last lectures by looking at our society today and teasing out issues and factors that one needs to consider based upon this hypothesis.

Beyond that, the conference has been full of social activities, catching up with old friends, and making new ones. I also had great conversations with Lin Zinser and Keith Lockitch. Lin helped me understand some of her plans for the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, and also differentiated ARC from ARI’s activities. Keith and I discussed our common interest in environmentalism, and in addition to helping me with some writing I’m working on, he also put me in touch with a few conference attendees who also have an interest in chemistry, the chemical industry and environmentalism. Hopefully those networks turn into a small nucleus of expertise in these areas.

After a spa day at the pool yesterday which included some decadent lounging and a massage, I am ready for Session 2!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

OCON Update

OCON is off to a roaring start this year!

I’ve got a little time before the next lecture; I’m lounging by the pool as a hot desert wind seeps across the Red Rock resort in Las Vegas. The venue this year is one of the best I’ve seen for an OCON yet.

Yesterday consisted of the opening banquet, and general catching up with old friends. Each year I come, the handshakes and hugs become more numerous, stronger, and the excitement of seeing old friends wells up greater. So many this year… OAC classmates, fellow Obloggers, and friends I’ve made over the years of interaction with Objectivists online; from California to Colorado, NYC to Michigan. OCON is as much about the social as the intellectual.

My first session coruse schedule is a little lighter than in previous years (to make room for, well, lounging at the pool…) Thought not planned, it seems that I’m opening with a focus on the classical period.

John Lewis Ancient’s course this year covers Athens in the 5th century B.C. This is the zenith of Athenian society and saw the establishment of Athenian democracy and of the advent of philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. And of course you can’t ask for a better lecturer than John Lewis, which is energy and dry wit.

The general sessions are dominated by Leonard Peikoff’s second course series on his forthcoming book on the DIM hypothesis, his hypothesis that western society can be viewed in terms of it’s approach to human knowledge, and from this one can even begin to make predictive conclusions for the progression of societies. His focus this week will be on looking at early societies from the Greeks through the Medieval period through this lens.

David Harriman gave a great general session lecture on the inductive method in scientific discovery, looking at science’s inability to characterize and articulate the essence of it’s epistomological method, and it’s suffering as a result of this inability. He then focuses on the effect of Rand’s seminal theory of concepts on the ability to accurately characterize the scientific process, and what this means for the future of scientific education. This is the focus of his recently released book, The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics, which represents collaborative work between him and philosopher Leonard Peikoff. I’m excited to read the book, and will be ordering it soon!

Finally, Eric Daniels, in his usual witty style opened up his course on the Moraltiiy of Trade, examining this fundamental aspect of capitalism, and surveying historical views of trade. Today it was the Ancient’s characterization of trade. His intent is to look at various common objections to trade itself given by both opponents and defenders of capitalism.

Tonight’s lecture is on the state of the Ayn Rand Institute, offering up an enthusiastic look at the progress the Institute has made in changing the culture over the past year. Afterward, a cocktail party with OActivists.

Couple of notes. The Twitter hashtag #OCON is hot. Numerous attendees are tweeting and you can get great updates by the minute. The netbook is working wonderfully, and I’ve almost gone entirely paperless this year.

I also wanted to give a shout out to my friends in Atlanta who have put together a budget version of OCON, called MiniCon, put on by the Atlanta Objectivist Society. As always there are so many Objectivists who I miss seeing each year. Here’s to you. Hope to see you at a future conference, and I hope that the various updates keep you tied in and make you feel like you were here, as much as we wish you actually were.

All for now; onto the next event1

Monday, June 28, 2010

Convergence vs. Format vs. Channel – Why the iPad has not yet Won my Heart

I am in the throes of a continuing dilemma: to iPad or not to iPad. The Apple legions would tell you my agonizing is futile, that Apple will dominate the “netbook/bookreader” space the way it’s dominated the “mp3/mobile phone” space. I am not yet convinced, and here’s why.

Format

There is certainly room in the market for a portable device with a larger screen format. The larger format lets you interact with richer information sources and given a robust input mechanism such as a keyboard, it let’s you richly tie your own information to the information you interact with. This is compared with the smaller handheld platform which in many ways limits the depth of information that can be dealt with. Think of blogging vs. texting; think of the difference in web surfing on a phone vs. a laptop; or reading a book on a Kindle vs. a phone. And the fact is that the converse is also true. No one is going to be holding a iPad up to their ear to take a phone call, nor sticking the iPad in their pocket to listen to tunes on the school bus.

The question for me then become what set of features will something of this format converge upon, and what sort of business model captures value from that? The iPad is not and will not simply be a larger iPod. Users who choose it will have unique requirements and the types of information one interacts with may not be open to the same business models that information sources do on the iPod. Internet, email for all practical purposes are free. Music and cellular service were not.

Media Anchors the iPod

The exception to the media richness rule for handhelds is media, music and voice. One can store and retrieve this sort of content easily from a handheld device. The interaction with this type of content then is less about codifying knowledge but by instant retrieval in a contextually relevant situation. One interacts with their world by bringing their music into it, accessing it instantaneously according to the immediate desires and needs.

Music anchors the iPod in more ways than usage patterns. Apple’s business model is based upon it. Let’s be clear about it. Apple is not just a purveyor of iPod’s. Apple is a media store. Apple has a phenomenal market cap, not because it sells iPods, but because it sells the music that you put on the iPod. Apple has become the dominant channel for media. Think of the mall CD store around only 10 years ago. They are all but extinct.

So the logical question is: what will anchor the iPad? Is there a ongoing revenue stream that Apple can take over that will be of the equivalent of music for the iPod? Apple thinks its written media. Make no mistake about it. Music is to the iPod what books, magazines, and newspapers are to the iPad. If Apple cannot dominate more complex textual media the way it dominated music its business model will be significantly diminished.

It’s unclear to me yet that the stickiness of music for the iPod will necessarily translate to the iPad and text content. There are several reasons for this.

Amazon and Google

First, much of the textual media we access is already free. Internet, blogs, etc. All one needs here is simply access to the internet. And while the iPad may be a better platform for accessing the information, much in the same way that you can contextually access music on the iPod, without a viable keyboard, you’re ability to manipulate and create your own such content limits your ability to interact with the media in the additional dimension that this expanded format would allow.

Apple claims it’s reinvented how one interacts with such basic programs as email or calendaring. This may be the case, but let’s recall that Google dominates “the cloud.” How long before Google puts similar features onto it’s already popular versions of mail, calendaring, and documents, and before netbooks with touchscreens allow Google to make use of similar looks and feels, much like it’s Android platform now snipes at the iPhone platform.

And what about books and magazines, the closest analogue to it’s iTunes store? The problem here is that electronic channels are already well established. Unlike the burgeoning electronic music industry which Apple helped create and solidify in the midst of it’s early chaotic beginnings, we’ve been buying books online since the beginning of the internet. Have they been e-books? No. but I counter that this is not what matters. Once you’re selling books electronically, it is really a small step to selling electronic books. Amazon and Barnes and Noble already are established as online sellers of books. They have power with book publishers. Apple is not the pioneer in a new channel, but rather a newcomer to already established set of channel relationships. Don’t underestimate that power. Apple’s early domination of the e-music channel allowed it to command price premiums and gave it power to compete on price at the right time. It used proprietary standards only until it’s iTunes dominance was so well established that reversing it’s position on standards actually served to buttress it’s already entrenched position. Amazon [and Barnes & Noble] commands that sort of position with book publishers now and they are well established “clicks and mortar” players.

The Convergence Conundrum

I’ve never owned an iPod, but I love the platform. I’ve decided that once my current mp3 player (an iRivier H10 I bought almost 6 years ago) dies (and contrary to jokes about all things Windows-based, it continues to be rock solid performer – much to my chagrin) that I’ll replace it with an iTouch (no iPhone; my job supplies my cell, iPhones will never be enterprise standards, and I don’t need more small gadgets.) Here’s the problem. Once I have a device that runs the Apple apps platform, why would I need two? Wouldn’t I buy the device that best meets the needs of only those incremental things that I still lack?

This is part of the issue. It’s easy to see how the integration of phone, music, and small packet internet integrate well into one package, i.e. how they converge. But once we establish the viability of a separate device, the additional advantage of convergence becomes less sure. This is what Amazon is betting on. It’s what Google is betting on.  There are 3 points of convergence that are already established and it is unclear which will actually win. Google owns the convergence of the cloud. Amazon owns the convergence around the ebook channel. Apple wants to own the convergence of the device.

My Bet

My bet here is that the channel and hence Amazon will win. Amazon wants you to buy books through their bookstore but use them on any device you want, including their popular Kindle reader, and including the iPod/iPad platform. Apple wants you to buy books and only use them on their platforms, hoping its platform is sticky enough to convert you. Amazon already does significant volume and reaps significant profits from its books sales and so has price advantage. Neither will advocate open standards until one wins out.

My bet is that the platform will not establish the same sort of stickiness that it did in the case of the iPod, because Apple is not starting from the same sort of position and in an industry with the same sort of immaturity as the e-music industry.

Here’s where the competition will come from.

Amazon will continue to sell books for the best pricing. Publishers won’t like it, but then neither did music distributors when Apple did it. Until people figure out exactly how e-books are best read (small devices, backlit LCD, or EPaper) Amazon’s platform agnostic strategy seems better to me. Amazon has just dropped it’s price on the 2nd gen Kindles to $198, and I predict that Apple will eventually be forced to remove the Kindle apps from it’s app store. Google will develop and proliferate next gen operating systems, enabling netbook manufacturers who cannot compete with Apple’s resources to establish iPad-competitive platforms on their machines (think Android). Next gen netbooks with touch screens and these updated operating systems will come out faster than expected. And at the prices that manufacturers will be willing to charge under Apple’s premium pricing, they will compete.

To be sure, Apple has it’s brand, and it’s legions of loyal (dare I say rabid) users, and they will certainly get spill-over sales from this, although for reasons I’ve mentioned, and because lots fewer people read books than listen to music, it’s difficult to say how that will play out. They key will be if Apple and it’s app developers can develop apps that make use of the iPad’s unique format for as of yet un-thought-of uses and if they can do this faster than the entrenched competitors can refine their particular points of advantage.

As for me, Amazon just released an update to its Kindle for PC software to add the features I needed that were missing (screen color changes to adapt LCD screens for more comfortable reading, annotation capability, and support for screen rotation). My netbook is now the e-book reader I need, and short of the Kindle’s e-paper, perfectly adequate, especially given it’s ~$250 price tag. Given Amazon’s still unbeatable e-book pricing, I’ll be buying books from their store, and unless Apple pulls the Kindle apps, I’ll still have the option of switching to an iPad should the platform play out differently.