Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Oh, You Disappointing Bastard

I like Steve Jobs, and I love Apple, but the guy sometimes just makes no sense at all.

Today he had a wide range of observations on the industry, including the Amazon Kindle book reader, which he said would go nowhere largely because Americans have stopped reading.

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

Huh? What share of that forty percent are Apple users? Apple has to have some market research on their customers' broader media consumption, and I'm willing to bet that Mac owners are on the upper end of books read and purchased. Read and purchased from Amazon, mind you -- whose users also are more likely than average to read a bunch of books. What percentage of people in the U.S. used software to give a PowerPoint-style presentation last year, or used video conferencing? That doesn't stop Apple from selling that experience to users.

You may not be able to sell as many Kindles as you can iPods, or to put one in every household, but that doesn't mean that "the whole conception" of an electronic reader is flawed. I would rather say: "The problem with the Kindle is that people don't read the way that they used to; they read and view lots of documents, including web pages and email and photographs and movies, and they're used to a much more integrated and interactive experience. So if your goal is to try to recreate the book or the newspaper to the letter, you're fighting the wrong fight."

At any rate, if Jobs' vision of Apple is to make an increasingly large number of devices on which we can watch Zoolander, I find myself much less enthusiastic about that vision or that world.

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