Is The Kindle's Antisocial Nature Holding It Back?

from the interesting-quotes dept

We’ve discussed in the past how idea sharing and content sharing is “the new normal” for many people, thanks to the internet these days. The “old” view of things — the broadcast view — was that big professional creators of content or journalism put a stamp of approval on some content and shipped it along to a waiting audience. But, the rise of the internet has muddied this picture greatly, showing that people actually prefer to be a part of the process. They want to share content. They want to comment on it. They want to modify it. They want to link to it. They want to promote it. They want to respond to it.

Content, itself, has become part of the social process.

Now, we spend lots of time discussing how that’s mucking around with business models based on the old view, but it may be causing some troubles for technology as well. In a brief message on Twitter, Mediashift author Mark Glaser, highlighted a fantastic point by Dan Pacheco about why he preferred an iPhone to a Kindle for reading content:

Most content I share starts from the iPhone. Kindle’s antisocial nature is what bugs me most.

This point made me realize why I have so little interest in a Kindle. You can’t do much with the content on it. It’s delivered to you in that old “we’re the content creators, you’re the content recipient” method. You can annotate it for yourself, but it’s not social at all. And these days, so many of us have learned to interact with content socially. For something like eBooks to really take off, my guess is that it will take a much more social approach, where people can do more to interact over the content that they’re reading.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Is The Kindle's Antisocial Nature Holding It Back?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Dan says:

That is a very good point. I also don’t really see the Kindle or ebooks gaining widespread popularity unless there was a social element to it. Imagine if there was a StumbleUpon or Digg-like function of the Kindle? That would instantly raise it from a “neat-but-altogether-not-very-useful-reading-device” to something I’d be interested in having. And the other way around – take away all the social functions of the iPhone and I’d throw mine in the trash.

But for there to be a social element involved with ebooks, first you’d have to actually be able to share ebooks, or at least fragments or SOME kind of sharing, which would give publishers and copyright holders a massive conniption. “WHAT? You want people to be able to send whole chapters/articles/pieces of my copyright material to their friends?! But if they can read a chapter of my book on recommendation from their friend, they’ll never buy the whole thing!”

some old guy says:

web first, then portable device

do we have websites all about reading ebooks? (reading.. not finding)

no? then how the fuck are we supposed to expect taking ebooks to the next level with dedicated hardware?

The idea of a hardware book reader is completely useless. Obviously there’s not enough demand for reading ebooks.

The kindle is a solution looking for a problem.

Now shoo, ebook readers, shoo. you are not needed.

zaven (profile) says:

Re: web first, then portable device

do we have websites all about reading ebooks? (reading.. not finding)

Can’t say we do, but that sounds like a good idea. Maybe someone should create an e-book scrobbling site ala People could post what books they’ve read and are currently reading. People could find new books to read based on what others with similar tastes have read.

Anyone feels like making this site, feel free to be a “parasite” and steal my idea. Just kidding, take it and run with it.

Julie says:

Re: Re: web first, then portable device

Shared reader lists, critiques, etc? Great idea and already a number of sites out there such as, Book Lust (,, LibraryThing, etc.

My comment on the ebook, Kindle, Sony Reader, etc.:
This technology is perfect for someone with macular degeneration (or other sight problems) who needs something portable, fairly affordable, and a bit larger than large print text in books. For all the rest of us with 20/20 – okay so you can afford to diss the non-interactive technology.


PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

I looked around at e-book readers… I have a ton of PDFs I own (lots of good free stuff out there) which I would want to be able to bring along and read easily. But no ebook-reader I could find would let me just load up PDFs or just simple text files. This is very annoying. If I download a paper from the web, why can’t I put it on my kindle or whatever and bring it on the plane to read? That is just plain stupid…

Tagbert (profile) says:

Re: Re:

PrometheeFeu you are wrong.

The Kindle (and I suspect other ereaders) will let you drag text files and read them directly. For many ebooks that is sufficient. For more complex layout you can use various other file formats. Some can be directly read on a Kindle 2 (PRC, MOBI, AZW), others can be converted with little effort (HTML, DOC, RTF). The Kindle DX can direct accept PDF. The Kindle 2 can display many PDF files after a conversion to make the book layout flexible to display on a smaller screen.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

It was simple to see, too

“You can’t do much with the content on it.”

That’s because they sold their souls to the major publishing houses. More importantly, they didn’t do a very good job of HIDING that fact from us, the reading consumer.

As soon as they announced the 100% needless creation of the .azw format, it was over. They purposefully went about creating and pushing a needless eBook format for the sole purpose of maintaining or creating controls by Amazon rather than the user. Everybody knew that’s what they were doing, because they could have just as easily worked to have a feature-rich integration with the current and perfectly usable formats, like .pdf for example, but they didn’t.

It’d be like if iTunes created/pushed a new audio format on iPod/iPhone users. That would have been an equally big failure. The success of the iProducts is that it designed hardware around all the best features of FAMILIAR formats and software.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It was simple to see, too

“It’d be like if iTunes created/pushed a new audio format on iPod/iPhone users.”

They tried that, remember? Sure, you could always put regular .mp3 files on your iPod but for a while (iTunes has since changed this) everything you downloaded was an .m4p file which you couldn’t do anything with until you converted/cracked the ‘protection’.

some old guy says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It was simple to see, too

Not sure when it was… had to be at least a few years back. I’m guessing but I feel like it was around iTunes version 4 or 5 when they got rid of the protected format that you couldn’t even burn to a CD without cracking first.

It never happened.

ipod has always used mpeg 4 audio. which is a more open standard than mpeg 1 layer 3 audio.

Tagbert (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 It was simple to see, too

That is exactly what Amazon did when it created AZW. All it is a MOBI/PRC file with a custom wrapper that allows DRM.

We may or may not like the DRM, but Amazon feels that it was the only way to get publishers to sell their books as ebooks.

As the market matures, it may be possible to eliminate the DRM (unlikely) or to migrate to a more flexible version (more likely).

kickingant says:

Re: It was simple to see, too

Apple did create a new audio format for iTunes. The only substantive need for AAC was proprietary encryption. Amazon had to have .azw for the same reason. I can’t complain about being able to purchase licensed content, but the omission of .pdf makes the Kindle a paperweight for most of the content available. Even Apple wasn’t egotistical enough to ignore the libraries its users had already built.

Addicted to Reading says:

Love Ebooks

Actually, the ebookwise Ebook reader (the old RCA/Gemstar/Rocketbook) allows you to download papers, and text files. It does require a computer to manage the content but there is no hidden kill bit to delete your books. Heck I use my old Palm Pilot to read as well. Also check out, Jim Baen was a pretty forward looking guy, all of their output is unencumbered with DRM, is available in different formats. You can interact with the authors in the Baen Bar section of the web site, You can download free editions from the Baen Free Library, and buy his full month’s output for $15.00. Or just buy the book that you want for around $5.00. Can’t wait buy the Advanced Reader Edition (Basically the copy that the proof readers edit.) He also gives away CDs with certain Hardbacks. CDs come with Fan Art and other content. You can download those from the 5th imperium web site. Well his company is dedicated to publishing Science Fiction and Fantasy. BTW Eric Flint’s 1632 universe has an outlet for Fan Fiction plenty social if you ask me.

Come on, guys says:

“But no ebook-reader I could find would let me just load up PDFs or just simple text files.”

Are you serious? They all do, just check

I’ve owned a DR1000S for the last couple of months and it’s great. E-ink is wonderful for reading outdoors. PDF is my preferred format. I layout the text in two columns, just like reading a regular book.

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Bauhaus or Facebook...

Kindle has issues, I agree.

There are two sides to the problem, however. The obvious is that Kindle is essentially trying to be one of the first to bring a viable psuedo-book machine to the market. The display is key here as is the form factor/physical design of the device. While many can (and do) read short texts from their LCD screen mobile devices, many peopledon’t care to read at-length using those mediums. I can see there might be a market for a well-designed machine built almost exclusively for this purpose. I’m not sure Kindle is yet Bauhaus to this function.

However… on the softer side of the market

The biggest issue imo is the closed system approach Amazon has taken with this product.

While I recognize their desire to be to books as iTunes is to music, the e-books market truly isn’t ready to shudder windows before they’ve even been built into the house. At least early iTunes users had the mp3 standard to fall back on when the store couldn’t produce. With e-readers, the players are all trying to simply lock the market without any development of an open e-book standard of publishing (we have PDF, but it needs some work, imo, to serve reader-devices better).

There should have been an open standard that looks good on e-readers, without DRM, that was supported by Kindle.

Obviously, being ‘closed’ and monolithic also limits development of the platform into something more integral with modern vitual life. Like zipping paragraphs from one of Mike’s books to Facebook.

Personally I don’t want another social app tie-in on an e-reader, I just want a good device that works WELL with an open standard. However, I’m guessing I’m in the minority here.

TXCHL Instructor (profile) says:

Kindle has issues...

…the biggest of which is that when it comes to digital rights, I don’t appear to have any.

My notebook (running Ubuntu) & netbook (currently running Vista, but soon to be upgraded to Ubuntu) both do an acceptable job of displaying PDF and TXT format ebooks, and I have a rather large collection of them that I haven’t gotten around to just yet. Some of which I actually paid money for, and would be more than just a tad peeved if the seller decided to reach into my system and repossess them. When I can get a generic reader into which I can load my own PDFs and TXT files (say, using a USB drive) with no mechanism for somebody to swoop in and delete them, then I might consider a dedicated ebook reader.

Oh, and regular paper books still work just fine, too. With some advantages, and some disadvantages. At this point, I see more advantages in plain old paper, and I still have lots of tread left on my public library card. There may come a time when ebooks have the advantage, but that time has not yet come.

Thanks to the Chicago thug in the empty suit with the blank resume, my business is booming!

milrtime83 (profile) says:


As has been mentioned, the ipod/itunes had the same type of very restricted format early on and still became a hit because it was a great way to carry thousands of songs around with you easily.
With books, I don’t think there is really as much of an interest in having all of your books with you at all times because they aren’t consumed constantly and repeatedly like music is.

Designerfx (profile) says:

POS device

I pity anyone who buys a kindle. It’s like buying an apple. It sounds excellent until non-techies realize what kind of crap they’re being sold, and rationalize off the buyer’s remorse.

“Why can’t I read my book anymore?” ends with “I’ll just buy another copy” or someone realizing the frustration far too late to back out on the purchase.

Meanwhile, prices for the books are excessively high for something you don’t even get to own, and the price of the kindle is it’s own scam.

Basically, amazon found a market of a bunch of suckers, and proceeded to squeeze the dumb ones for lots of cash

breakfast (profile) says:

Ebook Clubs

This does make a lot of sense. To keep the publishers happy, you should only be able to see discussions that are registered to the books you actually bought. I could see ereader book club discussion forums starting. I could also see the benefits for educational use with students sharing and posting ideas about the books they are reading (of course this may support the slackers who never bothered to read it)

The question i have though is…can an E-book be properly turned from a content consumption device, to a content creation device?

Bob V (profile) says:

More than is required

I really think you want a ebook reader to be a computer and because its not it is lacking in features. For the most part most dedicated ebook readers are just that dedicated. I don’t need to make phone calls on my books. I don’t need to check email, tweet, prepare reports or anything else.

If you added in the functionality for all that the battery life would drop. The hardware cost would increase. And what do you have in the end. A slow processor, sub par display, and the ability to do some activities on the net. That sounds a lot like a netbook to me.

If you want a social experience reading a book join a book club or discussion group.

BookLover says:

Kindle simply works

First consider the market segment….book lovers.
Next consider convenience….the ability to carry hundreds of books in my purse. I read alot, and mostly when I am waiting for my kids to finish their afternoon sports. I can read a book with the print quality equal to or better than a traditionally printed book. I can read pdf’s, .txt, .doc and many many more formats. My books are searchable (wonderful for the non-fiction books I currently own). And I can switch between my books should I start to find my interest fading. And most importantly, I can do this without the eye strain or back strain I would get should I decide to lug my laptop (or even dell mini 9) around.

So having listed the reasons I love my kindle (and probably would love the sony product as well), let me state why I don’t need it to be social. I don’t read as a social event. I don’t want to see anyone elses notes on the newest fiction I’m reading…I don’t care what anyone else thinks of it. Call me anti-social, but come on….I bought a kindle to read books in a more convenient manner….plain and simple.

Erika Jong says:

I know three people with Kindles. All are over the age of 50, college educated, two with advanced degrees, two are female and one is male. All three of these people are sophisticated tech users with decades of hands-on computer experience.

Two bought for themselves, while the third one received a second-generation Kindle as a gift. This last person was less than impressed, and the Kindle has ended up in the back of a closet. It was bought for her as a retirement gift.

The other woman, a just-retired librarian, worships her Kindle, talks about it almost obsessively and is probably the best PR firm ever for the product. I have no doubt that her friends (she’s a friend of my grandparents) will be more likely to consider purchasing a Kindle because of her enthusiasm, and her continued use of the product. She bought the newest Kindle with the bigger screen.

The third one, the man, is a rich lawyer whose wife is legally blind but has some functional sight. He buys any new technology that might be useful for her, and he also bought the newest Kindle, with the bigger screen. She didn’t like the Kindle. He likes it, but it’s more like a toy than anything useful, because the Kindle doesn’t integrate with the rest of his life, such as reading legal documents and the million other things he already does with his Windows Mobile smartphone. His Kindle will probably end up in the hands of their adult child, who I suspect won’t have any more use for it than his parents did.

Doug says:

Its closed content will keep me from buying

I am a big fan (pun intended) of fan fiction and other “amateur” writing. In fact, there are some that I think are better than what the original author has written. Because the Kindle won’t allow me to download/convert content to pdf or mobi format and load it on the Kindle, I won’t buy one. I currently have just shy of 100 works saved in mobi format on my laptop and on my WM Phone. It is really nice for when I travel for work, as I don’t have a bunch of loose books taking up space in my luggage. I would like to get an ebook reader, but because of how I would use it, closed content is a dealbreaker. I’m not even sure if I would go with the Sony reader as I don’t think it natively supports .mobi ebooks. There are several out there that do, and I am still looking. I haven’t found one that shines above the rest yet.

Erika Jong says:

Amazon Does Have a Pay Service To Convert PDF Files To Your Kindle

I copied and pasted the following information from a website, which is cited at the end of my post. I remembered reading about the PDF format tricks when I was considering buying a first-generation Kindle.

“There are however, easy ways of doing it. One is by simply sending over your PDF documents to Amazon for conversion. And even with this option, you can choose between the paid or free service.

For the paid service which costs $0.10 per conversion, you just need to:

1. Send your document as an attachment to your Kindle email-address (“name”

2. Upon conversion, Amazon will deliver the file directly and wirelessly to your Kindle.

For those who don’t want to shell out the additional 10 cents per file fee or are living in an area outside of Whispernet coverage, Amazon actually offers a free conversion service as well.

1. To avail of this, send your documents to “name”

2. Amazon will send the converted file not to your Kindle but to the email address linked to your Amazon log-in account.

3. You can then load the converted document to the Kindle from your computer using USB connection.”

60+ old guy (profile) says:

Even Nokia

Did you see how open Nokia is today? The company talks about itself as a new Nokia.

The slogan means that they want to be in cooperation with their customers. Facebook is one of their newest partners.

What is the content of a big tech company ? The conversations and chats between their customers, I suppose. Their need new ideas – also after the N900.

Anonymous Coward says:

HMMM….no eye fatigue, access to a full library of bestsellers, having just published delivered to your device on the day it is published, can read for days on one charge (weeks if you turn off the wireless when not using it), free wireless everywhere you go (no need to rely on wifi), about the weight of a paperback, fits in a purse, full search on all content in kindle…download from your local library (if you know the trick), it remembers where you were in the book so you don’t have to worry about bookmarking. .txt,.pdf,.mobi,.doc,.mp3 and other i haven’t yet needed…..
If using a netbook makes you happy…I’m glad you found your spot, but….never ever think a netbook is comparable to the kindle for reading books…’s not nor will it ever be, just as I won’t try to play games on my kindle.

lefteriugheorghe (profile) says:


The Kindle’s antisocial nature might be a double-edged sword. While its focus on providing a distraction-free reading experience is commendable, some argue that it limits the social aspects of reading. However, it’s important to remember that the Kindle’s primary purpose is to offer a dedicated e-book reading experience, and its success lies in its ability to replicate the feeling of reading a physical book.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...