By Arnold Kling
the $400 premium just to get the Kindle reader isn’t the last fee you’ll pay. I’m not talking about paying for eBooks from Amazon, which are priced typically at $10 or less, but for the additional fees tacked onto the data—the words—that are pushed down to the Kindle automatically. Subscribing to a blog via the Kindle service costs $2 a month. Newspapers run around $15 a month. All for information currently available for free via the web and RSS syndication, not from copyright violators, but straight from the publishers themselves. (Boing Boing is also available via Kindle’s blog service. We are also available on the web.)
The reason, I suspect, for the nickel and diming from Amazon is the always-on EVDO connection. While some of the cost that must be paid to the wireless carrier are surely cooked into the initial price of the Kindle, the costs tacked on to content subscriptions are an attempt to recoup charges Amazon will incur from Sprint over the life of an active device.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with spreading the cost of the wireless subscription over separate subscriptions. In some ways it’s similar to the “cafeteria” plans that some customers have been asking for from cable vendors for ages.
He is referring to an exciting new product from Amazon that is sort of like an iPod for books.
My take: I like the idea of giving away the connectivity and making you pay for hardware and content. With cell phones, they charge you for the connectivity and give away the phone. To me, that simply serves to maximize the amount of billing overhead relative to service provided. I hope that if nothing else Amazon starts a trend in the direction of getting rid of monthly bills from network connection services.
I prefer the “cafeteria” plans of cable to the per-download model of the iPod. I don’t want to pay for the Times or the Post. Instead, I would like to see a “news/opinion” channel that lets me get the front section and editorial section of top newspapers. I don’t need the sports sections–they can be aggregated into a sports channel. Of course, I have been arguing for this sort of re-bundling of newspapers on line for close to ten years, and it still has not happened.
I also would prefer a “cafeteria” plan for book downloads. Having to pay separately for each book creates a disparity between price and marginal cost, not to mention a lot of mental transaction costs.
A basic plan would let me download, say, 10 best-sellers a month for a fee of, say, $15 a month. I can pay more for a higher download rate. Actually, I would not even want the basic plan–I read relatively few mass-market books. Which gets to why I have not ordered a Kindle.
The show-stopper for me on the Kindle is the limited selection. None of the books that made a splash on this blog in 2007 seem to be available. No Myth of the Rational Voter, no Farewell to Alms, no The Forgotten Man, no Discover Your Inner Economist, no Radicals for Capitalism…If there were a “premium channel” for political economy that included these sorts of books, then I might be willing to pay $50 a month for a subscription. But I would actually have a hard time finding books I want to read if I were limited to the mass-market fare offered with the Kindle.