The Identity Of Kindle Users Revealed

As I tend to buy lots of books and lots of gadgets all the stories about the Kindle have naturally caught my attention. While I find the concept interesting I have not actually purchased one.

One reason is technological. When I purchase a book I will always be able to read the book assuming no physical damage. I fear moving my library to a pretty much closed device and risk being locked into continuing to own the same technology or risk losing the books I have purchased. I would be more open to the concept if all the books were in a more open format such as pdf’s and I could be certain that I will be able to read purchased books on a wide variety of devices in the future.

Another reason is that I like books in their current physical form. I like holding a book when I read it, along with being able randomly open a book to any page. I like to see the length of a book, how the chapters are set up, and physically see how much of the book I have completed. I also like having books on the walls. I currently have three rooms in my house in which at least two walls are covered with book shelves, along with four other rooms and even a portion of one upstairs hallway, where there are also book shelves (along with another room in which the shelves are used for videos).

This isn’t to say I haven’t seen some benefit to the Kindle for certain people. It sounds terrific for people who travel frequently, or spend lots of time on subways or buses. The device allows them to have multiple books present to choose from, and many might not mind if novels they read while traveling are not available should they move to a different format a few years down the road. The ability to immediately download a book also sounds both fascinating and a dangerous way to greatly increase impulse buying every time a good book is mentioned on NPR or Oprah.

I had previously thought that many of my objections to the Kindle and preference to physical books were a matter of my age. I wondered if younger people, who are already accustomed to keeping their music libraries on iPods, would see moving their book libraries to such a device as a natural progression. On the other hand, there is far more reasons to have music on an iPod than to have books on a Kindle. People only need a limited number of books with them, while they might want to listen to a large portion of their music library repeatedly. The ability to randomize songs from one’s entire music library on an iPod gives an advantage over listening to CD’s but there is no comparable advantage to randomizing chapters in books.

It turns out that at present Kindle’s aren’t primarily attracting younger readers as I suspected they might. Instead they are selling more to those who are older. Tyler Cowen presents the breakdown by age:

0 – 19: 5%
20 – 29: 10%
30 – 39: 15%
40 – 49: 19.5%
50 – 59: 23%
60 – 69: 19.5%
70 – 79: 6%
80+: 2%

Comments in the cited discussion revealed reasons for this:

So many users said they like Kindle because they suffer from some form of arthritis that multiple posters indicate that they do or do not have arthritis as a matter of course. A variety of other impairments, from weakening eyes and carpal-tunnel-like syndromes to more exotic disabilities dominate the purchase rationales of these posters.

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7 Comments

  1. 1
    Robert L. www.neolibertarian.com says:

    I was talking to a woman who does IT for a publisher the other day and her observations align pretty well with the final comment you cited.   She specifically mentioned older people and people with disabilities as where the kindle was taking off.  It’s lighter to hold than a book and takes less physical manipulation.  Also, with the kindle potentially every book is available in large print which can be a big deal as people’s eyes get old.

  2. 2
    Fritz says:

    Also, those of us in our 50s are trying to pare down our lives and the giant baggage train that follows us around.  Every room in our house has books and books and books — our upstairs hallway has paperback-filled shelving down one side.  At some point it goes from compulsive literaphilia to a bit of a burden.  If we can move at least much of our relaxing reading onto a single device, that would help reduce the amount of baggage around us.

    I haven’t decided on a Kindle vs some other reader yet.  And like you I am not keen on the “trapped into Amazon’s technology” aspect of Kindle ownership with DRM’s content.  Although at least the Kindle will read pdf’s.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    Kindles read pdf’s but I hear that they don’t do a good job of displaying complex ones.  The addition of reading pdfs to the latest version of the Kindle got me to take a look at them, but it still looks too limited.

    It certainly would be convenient to have some books in the Kindle to save room. Instead I have to compromise by keeping some down in the basement as opposed to being able to keep them all on shelves. I’m probably going to move virtually all my medical texts off shelves, freeing a wall, now that I use electronic versions rather than my older hard copies of these books.

    What we really need is something with a size and weight of the Kindle, along with the battery life of a Kindle, which can display any format which can be displayed on a pc. Right now my Palm can do a good job of displaying a number of formats, but the page is too small for prolonged reading of ebooks. My notebook  does a great job of displaying ebooks, but it is still too big for a book and the battery life is too short. I’m seriously thinking of getting a smaller netbook (with long battery life) for times when I’m primarily reading or web surfing, but I doubt that  this will be the ideal size for actual reading.

    I’m also interested to see what is done with the planned big screen version of the iPod.

  4. 4
    b-psycho says:

    Kevin Carson has something to say about Kindle also: http://c4ss.org/content/448

    Was curious your thoughts on that, if any.

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    That’s the tough question. As a consumer I do not want limitations on digital media I’ve purchased which prevent me from using it on any platform I own. I also understand that publishers want to get paid, and Amazon isn’t going to put out books for the Kindle if they are pirated to the point where they are no longer making money. That gets to the whole dilemma the music industry is in.

    I don’t know anything about the format of Kindle documents but I find it hard to believe that this won’t eventually be hacked with people putting Kindle books on line for download. Once this happens I would also expect people to post programs which allow Kindle books to be read on computers and/or to convert them to other forms.

    The comments on Amazon suspending accounts is also a concern, but has this actually been happening?

  6. 6
    b-psycho says:

    IMO, first there needs to be a compatible e-book reader that’s significantly cheaper than a Kindle before distribution can seriously be discussed.  E-books will be the way forward — when the readers stop being luxury items.

  7. 7
    Ron Chusid says:

    The cost of the Kindle is certainly a barrier limiting its use but I’d accept the price if not for its other limitations. If this really worked perfectly for reading books (including complete reading of pdf files without its current limitations, and ability to also read the books on pc’s) along with an ability to surf on line, it could be a decent deal.

    Some people are willing to pay the cost if used as a simple web browser it can use Amazon’s system without monthly charges. On the other hand I can browse the web remotely at a growing number of places by using the WiFi in my Palm without paying anything. I imagine if people frequently wanted the mobile internet access in areas where there isn’t free WiFi then this could justify the price.

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