iPad and Kindle live together in perfect harmony

Lightweight and more kid-resistant than the iPad

Our new Kindle 3 arrived yesterday, which raises the cost of my iPad to over $1,000, including the price of the iPad itself, the apps, the accessories and now the Kindle. That’s right, the Kindle. I’m counting it in the total cost because I had to buy the Kindle thanks to the iPad.

I’ll explain.

My daughter loves to read. I blame my wife who read to her every day from birth. “Park the crib in front of the TV,” I said. Six hours a day of soap operas and game shows won’t hurt her. Otherwise we’ll be paying for books for the rest of our lives.” My wife ignored my sage advice and now my daughter devours books whole and in bunches. She’s a reading machine and it’s all we can do to keep her stocked in appropriate reading material. (My wife saves the day by screening books. Otherwise our daughter might be reading Valley of the Dolls thanks to me. How is that book not for kids? I said. It has “dolls” in the title.)

Over the years, we’ve accumulated, and paid for, hundreds of books. We have books everywhere. On tables, stuck in the couch, on the bed, under the bed, falling out of the car when the door opens. Everywhere. But I grew tired of the clutter and bought the iPad to help reduce it, and to save money and reduce our carbon footprint.

My idea worked out great, but it led to my daughter hogging the iPad for hours at a time. Not only did I not get to use it, each evening I would open my email to discover individual Amazon receipts for the books she purchased, rubbing in the fact she was enjoying it while I stared at my 6-year-old Dell desktop. Not fun; I wasn’t happy. But a solution fell in my lap – or on my credit card.

Not appropriate for the child, but good for the adult reader

The new lower-priced Kindle 3 launched. I ordered it with the intention that my daughter would use it and my iPad would return to me like a long-lost dog finding its way home. And sometimes plans do go as planned. I am happy to report that I have been reunited with Sparky again (my dog name for my iPad) and my young bibliophile loves her new Kindle (which could be a dog’s name).

However, the only cloud in the sky of my cleverness is that I realize we’re about to witness the death of brick and mortar bookstores – just like we watched the end of Tower Records and other record stores. I have a bad case of deja vu. Why drive to a store to buy music when you can download it? Doesn’t the same apply to books? It does in my house.

Barnes & Noble and Borders stores are toast, done, finished, kaput. They’ll be closing in a few years, or less, I predict. They may still have a virtual store on the web, but the physical locations will join Tower Records in our memories.

This doesn’t mean paper books will go away. Independents may sell them, or Best Buy where CDs went to hang out waiting to die. Or we’ll just order paper books for our coffee tables from Amazon (free shipping and no tax). Or bookstores will reinvent themselves. But they can’t exist as is. Here’s why.

Last week, my daughter and I visited the children’s section at Borders, where I connected to their complimentary Wi Fi. Each time she found a book she liked, I checked for the Kindle version on Amazon. If it was available, I downloaded it on the spot. Yes, standing in Borders I shopped Amazon. That is a retailing model that cannot sustain itself. Well, not for Borders at least. Amazon on the other hand, well, their model looks golden, as does the future of e-books.

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California Dreaming

I was sitting at the dining room table yesterday morning blowing into my flutter when I heard screaming out on the street. The type where you stop what you’re doing to listen again. Is it kids? Something else? Definitely something else when I heard the second scream. I walked out the back door and looked over the fence and saw a woman who lives a few houses away, her face red, blotchy and wet from crying. Someone stole from her. Money and a computer, she claimed. She had her children taken away not long ago, too. Another neighbor was helping her. Sometimes people do scream in pain like in the movies. Yes, they do. And it wasn’t pleasant to watch. So I didn’t and went back in the house.

Life in the big city

I was pulling out of the gas station the other day when a man driving in stopped next to me so our windows were facing each other, his vehicle’s rear end sticking out in traffic, a magnet for honking horns, which irritated me. Then he asked me for two bucks for oil. Oil? Who buys oil anymore at a gas station with a market in it? Do they sell oil? Or did he mean gas? And asking me while we’re in our cars? I didn’t say anything to him. Not a word. I shook my head and drove off.

The local Barnes and Noble has become a hot spot for begging. And I usually give in. Hand the person a buck if they have a good story. Once it was a young girl who looked like she lived in Topanga Canyon. She wore feather earrings and a leather vest with fringe, like she might be a healer or hippie time traveler. She needed money to buy gas to get home. Do time machines run on fossil fuel? I didn’t ask. I gave her five bucks. She was someone’s daughter and mine was standing next to me. There have been others asking for money. More in the last year than in the prior 20 or so.

The lawns in my neighborhood look terrible. We have watering restrictions this summer. And LA DWP raised rates. But that’s not the whole story. Limited watering causes brown spots. Some lawns in my neighborhood haven’t been watered at all. Water isn’t cheap. Neither is electricity. The combo bill is a killer, as we live in a desert with most summer days over 100 degrees, though this summer has been cool. Many have chosen to save money and let their grass die. Other lawns are full of tall weeds where neighbors have decided not to water and mow. Or they’ve abandoned the house. One neighbor’s lawn is gone. It’s dirt. Just dirt. My lawn looks more green than brown and I water it on the days I’m allowed. But would I if I were unemployed or about to lose my house? I doubt I would.

Just a few years ago, large metal trash bins for remodeling littered the streets of my neighborhood. But those bins are long gone now. And what they left in their wake isn’t pretty.