How Kindle Lost My Business

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How Kindle Lost My Business

photo-1Oh, Jeff Bezos. There was a time when I was a true believer. I bought the first generation Kindle relatively early on—March or April of ’08, thereabouts. I was impressed (or flattered, anyway) by the letter from you that came with it, complimenting me on being a daring early adopter, one of the few, the proud—

The ripped-off.

Mind you, it did work for just over a year. Sure, the back came off all of the time, and the clumsy design meant I was always turning pages by accident (seemed like every edge of the damn thing had a page flip button). Sure, reading off of a gray screen is nowhere near as fine as reading off of a crisp page, but hey, it’s a new technology! It’s trailblazing of the sort that heralds a new era! It’s—well, how the future looked back in 1982! Sure it’s a homely little device, but who besides Steve Jobs ever said technology should be pretty and appealing?

For my four hundred bucks, I got about thirteen months of use out of it before the screen froze up. Now half of the screen is one of those cutesy sleep screens, and half of the screen is functional—there are still books and manucripts there, half-legible behind the stuck the save screen. (Happily not that phony prettified image of Emily Dickinson.*)

When it froze up, I shot Amazon an email. I was told that the warranty was only for twelve months and to call them to be walked through a hard reboot of the device. I dawdled on making the call, because I was launching a business and so on, and everything else in life fell by the wayside.

Finally I called. Rebooting? Didn’t really work. But I was informed that, despite being out of warranty, I could send in my Kindle and another hundred bucks to Amazon, and they would send me a refurbished Kindle. Which, judging from how these things work, would last about a year. Could I get a further discount on the new Kindle, which is already discounted to $260 or so? No. I could only get the old, tired, lousily designed first generation. Because that, my friends, is the reward for early adopters.

So instead, I used my Kindle to support my off-kilter kitchen table and decided to wait for the Apple iSlate. Yes, it will be a backlit screen that will tax the eyes, but a person can dim that to a point where it will be less bothersome. And page flips can be done with a dragged finger. And doubtless I’ll be able to edit on it. And I can’t help but think that there will be many, many, many options for downloading books that will allow me to avoid Amazon’s proprietary e-book system entirely. And customer service at Apple is a wonder; when my first iPhone went on the fritz, the service guy there said, “Hmm, did you drop it? It looks like there’s a dent here.” I said, “Umm …” And he said, “Let’s just say that you told me you didn’t drop it, and I’ll give you another phone.”

And just like that, they won my business for the rest of eternity.

*That digitized image of Emily Dickinson featured on the Kindle save screen? It is a bastardization of the only known photograph of ED, which is of her in a black dress with her hair pulled back. Shortly after her poems became popular after the turn of the century, she was included in an anthology, but the editor didn’t like the original image—thought it was too severe. So the image was doctored to make her look more ladylike in the eyes of the editors—she was given ridiculous bangs and a fluffy white collar and dress. When the ruse was discovered, there was an outcry and the image was removed from circulation by most self-respecting publishers. Leave it to Amazon to unearth this horror and to repeat exactly the judgmental, prudish nonsense of the snobs of a century ago. Bravo, you morons!

  1. This is crazy! I once stood behind an Amazon executive in line at a conference. He hassled the desk clerk at length over something that was entirely his own fault, and then called the obviously male clerk “ma’am.”

    Corporate culture makes itself visible in the most interesting ways. Sorry you’re out $400.

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  2. […] This post was Twitted by 2KoP […]

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  3. Haha! I never knew that about the ED pic, but your pic of the Kindle as a table support says it all. LOVE it!

    To all the book purists (like me) who think e-Readers unnecessary anyway, my recent blog posting confesses that e-Readers are the new Guttenberg:

    http://jennytonks.wordpress.com/2010/01/26/why-e-readers-are-succeeding/

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  4. Hi Michael. I hope you had a rested and productive sebatical. Your post stresses me a bit – I just got my first kindle for Christmas. It was so dang expensive (I got the bigger screen since I have to enlarge the print to read it) that we opted against the what-seemed-like-a-rip-off service plan – but now I’m wondering if I should have. Will mine also die after twelve months? I like the Kindle so far; I emjoy the ability to read any YA I want in large print now, and that I can preview a sample first before I purchase. But I have to admit, I still like the real thing – twice now I have bought the actual book after reading it (and paying for it!) on my Kindle. I suppose that’s lunacy, buying the book twice, but what can I say? I like owning the actual book!

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  5. I love this post. Holding out for iSlate or iPad or iAwesome too.

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  6. Can’t wait for the Apple Tablet!

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  7. That picture is an eye-catcher! I too am on the edge of me seat in anticipation for the iSlate. I came close to purchasing a Kindle about a year ago. I decided that I prefer to hold the real thing. Interesting tidbit about Emily Dickinson.

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  8. I’ve got a first-generation Kindle, too, and it’s been a nightmare of broken parts. I am now on my fourth (fourth!) replacement machine; at one point, they actually sent me a replacement Kindle that had to be sent immediately back and replaced.

    I’ve spent hours on the phone with customer service, and the only thing I’ve been able to get is access to a policy that states if your FIFTH replacement Kindle breaks under warranty, you can get an 80% refund.

    That’s right. They have a policy that includes a scenario for your machine being defective FIVE TIMES.

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  9. I, too, got a Kindle for Christmas. It’s been o k a y… but.. while reading a novel it kept bringing me back to page one when it wasn’t supposed to. Then it jumped me forward and I thought I was going nuts because I couldn’t remember what just happened. Yes, it took a bit to realize I hadn’t read the previous 10 pages or so.

    I’m hopelessly devoted to Apple. When their new thingy comes out I’ll buy it and use the Amazon thingy for Kindling during this frigid, 60 degree winter in the East.

    I agree with the Apple customer service being tops. I brought in my lap top and explained that the screen was all screwed up. When I turned it on, it had nothing but black lines of different sizes covering the entire thing. It looked like my poor macbook was possessed by a demon bar code. It didn’t take a genius to assume it had been dropped down the stairs or tossed out a window. Truth is, I honestly didn’t know how it happened.

    Later I grilled my kids about the mysterious injury to the macbook and one of them fessed up and explained they got pissed about something and slammed down the top out of frustration. I called Apple and explained that I knew what happened. They were so grateful for my call they fixed it all for free! Whee. Oh and also hinted that we never had this conversation.

    But what frustrates me more is why Brett Favre threw that pass?!

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  10. well, I never had the first Kindle. I got my Kindle 2 when they dropped the price to 299. And, I’ve had no trouble with it and I love it.

    But I’m not writing to gloat over my good fortune with a device you had crappy luck with. I’m writing to remind you of the power of putting customer service nightmares on you tube.

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  11. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Debbie Duncan, Debbie Duncan and Upstart Crow, Susan Bearman. Susan Bearman said: RT @UpstartCrowLit: Now on the Upstart Crow blog: How Kindle Lost My Business (http://tinyurl.com/y9647jj) […]

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  12. Take heart. The quality of most things is mediocre.

    A hard drive we purchased in September has crashed (thankfully I’ve printed out my ms drafts) and we get to ‘pay for’ the shipping back to the company (under warrantee).

    We have learned to cherish the few great ones…few and far between.

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  13. My Mac fanboy is giddy with anticipation.

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  14. I forwarded your post to my husband as a joke (he’s working on an academic book), and he is now using Freedom! Back to writing.

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  15. How Upstart Crow lost my business….
    I think that Kindle was/is a revolutionary product which changed the way people perceive reading and books as one of the ultimate intimate experiences.
    All pioneers have their successors and it’s not rare the followers overshadow the first ones. But still they were first and should be kept on the map of human history with dignity and awe.
    You don’t have a piece of cardboard to support your rickety table?
    P.S. I am watching the iPad announcement online so not that I don’t feel excited about this new product. Jitka

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  16. The iPad will probably kill the Kindle, but I don’t think it really laid a glove on Amazon. The book reader interface is a steal from some other guy and not in any way revolutionary.

    And judging by the pricing used on their mock-up Apple has fallen into a trap with the legacy publishers. Also there’s no enhancing capability. And since the iPad takes all iPhone apps it means Amazon can sell Kindle books to the iPad as of day one.

    KInd of looks like Steve Jobs punted on e-books, at least in terms of retailing and publishing.

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  17. Wasn’t it Kindle that decided they didn’t want to sell copies of ‘1984’ after all, so they just deleted them from everyone’s device and credited their account?

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  18. […] in the long ago of 2008, I bought the first Kindle to use as an aid to reading manuscripts. It was nearly four hundred dollars, which boggles the mind […]

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  19. You sound like the “snob” to me, yeah the Amazon Kindle isn’t that great a device for some people, but I bought mine used off of Ebay for $30, it’s worked for me for the past two years, the 1st gen model mind you. I’ve really never bought into something new just as soon as it releases, mainly because I don’t wish to develop this inferiority complex and feel entitled to things just because I was dumb enough to buy into something as soon as it went on sale.

    I understand the Kindle was a fad more than anything, because really, how many people read books before the Kindle? Yeah, there has always been a massive book reader audience, but how many people sat outside in public waving around a device they read books on before the Kindle? Not many people, it was a fad, and you’re an angry idiot if you disagree with me because you know it was a fad.

    If you don’t like the kindle, it’s great you voiced your opinion, but really for a serious personal tip, from now on, just buy the actual book, forget convenience, and just get the book.

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