Saturday, February 13, 2010

I can't get no...satisfaction

Several months ago, I blogged about the Kindle, the digital book reader and brainchild of At the time I was melancholy that yet another electronic gadget was replacing an age-old institution, in this case “the book.”

Suddenly, however, I am feeling sorry for this device because, with the recent announcement of the Apple iPad, the Kindle is being derided by bloggers and technology experts alike because of its singular function – it only holds books.

My wife bought me a Kindle for Christmas and, I have to admit, I flip-flopped over its benefits. The idea that a book had to be recharged bothered me. Leave it to Amazon to give teenagers one more excuse for failing to complete their homework.

My book died. What was I SUPPOSED to do?

The Kindle came with a 30-day money back guarantee and, as the 29th day approached, I was still wavering. Meanwhile I had already downloaded and completed two books and four Sunday New York Times, while taking advantage of countless free sample chapters. The “sample chapter” feature is kind of cool as it eliminates the need to stand in bookstores for hours, reading portions of every title on the shelves while staff members wonder if you are ever going to actually buy something. Blockbuster needs to do the same with movies.

I decided to keep the Kindle. I’m a voracious reader by nature, preferring books over movies and music while traveling so it seemed like a viable purchase. I was satisfied with my decision for exactly 72 hours. That’s when Apple CEO Steve Jobs strode onto a San Francisco stage in his trademark black turtleneck and jeans (seriously, why do these tech billionaires feel compelled to wear a single ensemble each time they appear in public? I have yet to see Bill Gates in anything other than a blue button down shirt and navy sweater. He must own close to 1,000 of each), and unveiled the iPad. As far as I could tell, it was perfect for users who wanted either a bigger iPhone or a smaller Macbook but couldn’t decide.

The iPad, Jobs giddily explained, could read books and newspapers but could do so much more! It could play music, surf the Web, send email, schedule appointments and store contacts. The invited guests (how does one get an iPad invitation incidentally?) oohed and aahed as Jobs himself played with the device onstage while silently praying that nothing malfunctioned. (Anyone remember Gates’ Windows 98 demonstration?) Suddenly Kindle users like me were being viewed alongside the segment of our society that still adjusts television reception with rabbit ears.

The iPad’s accolades continued until the launch ended, at which time those lucky enough to get their hands on a working iPad really had a chance to digest the device’s features. Naturally, the criticisms started seconds later, most notably that the iPad did not contain a camera.


When did it become a requirement for everybody to have photographic capability at all times? Americans spend an average of nine hours a day working and seven hours a day sleeping. We’re not exactly walking photo opps.

The iPad also was unable to play Flash video. How could Apple have neglected such an obvious feature, the critics wondered? Suddenly Jobs’ innovation was headed to the scrap heap before it was even available for purchase.

I always thought it would be cool to invent something. Now, I feel all fledgling Ben Franklins who are spending countless hours in basements, labs or garages creating the next great whatever, are simply setting themselves up for criticism from our never satisfied society. If Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb today, a blogger would write, “What? No dimmer? How does TE expect to set the proper mood without this obvious feature?”

I’m going to keep my Kindle and marvel at the face that it can download War and Peace in under a minute. I’m going to read it on the plane and not bemoan the fact that it can’t take a photo of another passenger mid-flight. In short I’m going to be satisfied.

Of course, I don’t own a Toyota, which we are now finding out, was most likely manufactured without brakes. That would be something to complain about.

1 comment:

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