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.
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.
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.