You know David Byrne, right?
Byrne decided to plunk down the "almost $500!" for Amazon's large-format Kindle DX e-book reader to see if it was worth the money.
Despite the hefty price tag, Byrne likes the device. But he really didn't like the fact that Amazon locked his purchases down faster than Shah Rukh Khan at Newark International Airport:
Here’s where the rub is. This machine only reads Kindle files and PDFs. And nothing else out there reads Kindle files. It can read other types of files — Word DOCs, MOBI, TXT etc. — but you have to go through Amazon via email, where they’re converted for a small charge, then sent directly to your Kindle. And, you can’t share a book with your friends, even if they too have a Kindle. No doubt, as with MP3 and iTunes, book publishers would only agree to this system if people couldn’t share their purchases.
And you know what? Byrne's right. Say what you want about EPUB -- ZDNet sister site SmartPlanet makes a case for it here -- but the whole proprietary format thing goes against everything books are meant for, Byrne writes:
Will that mean I can share a book with my friend? It’s surely a way we make friends sometimes: “I just finished this GREAT book, do you want to read it? I’ll pass you my copy.” As with music, sharing things is a way of getting to know one another and a form of reciprocal debt — if I “lend” you my book, you sort of owe me… a book, or something. We’re linked now, which is how we use these things that represent our inner selves — as social connectors. Take that ability away, the ability to exchange stuff that represents us, and I’ll bet some of the “value” of these kinds of e-books goes too… the social interconnectedness value, not the dollar value.
In his lengthy review, Byrne touches on educational use (students will love it!), the rumored Apple tablet (backlit = battery drain, but color!), content publishers (will be crying!) and the issues around content management, an issue close to Byrne's heart as an artist of many persuasions.
The walls tech companies put up around content is a major problem, he writes:
Inevitably someone will hack the Kindle (or other formats) — and the books will become shareable… and copiable and infinitely reproducible, just like MP3s. People laughed at the record companies, with their reputations as money squanderers and for their waste and extravagance — but music hasn’t suffered, and writing and magazines might not either, especially if both writers and publishers can learn from the record companies and not pretend that publishing is any different.
I couldn't have put it better myself: access dictates everything.