I recently took the bait and started the 30-day trial of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. I can sum up my initial opinion in one word: disappointed.
The specs for the service look impressive at first blush: 600,000 ebook titles available for $10 a month on any Kindle enabled device you use. The problem is that 595,000 of those titles are books most people will never read for a variety of reasons.
I grant that fact is little different from a library. Most of us pay for libraries whether or not we use them, and many of us haven’t set foot in a library in years. The difference is that Kindle Unlimited is a voluntary library filled with books I don’t want. Why would I pay for that.
My disappointment stems from the fact that I’ve looked for dozens of books I want to read, but none of them are available under Unlimited. I don’t blame the publishers or authors for that fact. They deserve to get paid for their work. Rather, I blame Amazon for rushing the service before it had enough deals to make the service more universally worth it.
Don’t get me wrong. Kindle Unlimited has promise. It could very easily develop into the very kind of “Netflix for books” Amazon has tried to sell it as. Unfortunately, right now, it’s more like a used video store filled with second-tier titles nobody wants to watch a second time. If Amazon wants to make money off this premise, it’s going to have to try a lot harder.
So, Amazon engaged in an amazing bit of free advertising Sunday night when it announced its research initiative, Prime Air, on 60 Minutes. From the moment the piece aired, sectors of the internet have been abuzz with the news.
But what has amused me the most has been the response of the technology media, led by the likes of Wired. If these writers are to be believed, if man was meant to receive packages by air, God would have given bicycle messengers wings.
Certainly, I’m being sarcastic, but I wonder if these writers really look around themselves at the age we actually live in very often . There is a very good chance you are reading this post on a device you pulled from your pocket that contains more processing power than the entire Apollo 13 mission–spacecraft and ground stations combined–that functions as a phone, network access device, and computer and was produced just 137 years after the phone was invented, 40 years after the cell phone was invented, and 21 years after the smartphone was invented.
That’s a course of development 40 times faster than it took to get from the wheel to the car.
My point here is that history is replete with examples of people, especially the so-called well informed, declaring that something is impossible because it is different or outside the mold of what we consider normal or beyond our current technological means. It’s actually quite amusing how often the march of progress has proven such Luddites wrong.
Now, I am not saying that Amazon will succeed, or that drone delivery is the thing of the future, but I am saying that the idea is now there and that someone is going to figure out how to make some version of it–maybe even a version we haven’t imagined yet–work. And when they do, we can look back at these prognostications and laugh like we do at the early 19th century writers who said people would not be able to breath if they went faster than twenty miles per hour.