Suffering by comparison

    “Mom always liked you best.”

That’s a catchphrase for The Smothers Brothers.  I like their act very much, and may still catch myself breaking into “Boil that cabbage down” or that one about the three-legged waltz or their version of Streets of Laredo.

It was used as an intended argument ender by Tommy to Dick (who was the straight man).   If “Mom always liked you best”, you had an unfair advantage.

Was your immediate thought, “But if Mom liked you also, why does it matter?”

I’ll admit it, this one is largely an opinion piece.  I like giving tips, analysis, news, and fiction, but I do these from time to time.  I’m certainly not going to say I’m right and someone else is wrong…I think two opposing opinions can both be right…or partially right.

However, this is one of those that still suprises me.  I honestly don’t quite get it, although I can come up with some of the logic behind it (although I don’t think it’s really logic driven).   If there are a limited number of necessities, and someone else gets more of them, that’s a negative.  However, when you are talking about luxuries, that seems different to me.  If your mother gave your sibling a toy and didn’t give you one (assuming the toy doesn’t provide a competitive advantage later), why is that a problem?

I know, that’s unrealistic.  Most people get into that “ten dogs and one bone” mentality.  Competition is good: I jokingly say to my Significant Other, “I can be less competitive than you can!”  If people didn’t want the next bigger better thing, we’d probably still be using hundred dollar calculators in our Model Ts.  😉 

I think what I have is a good competitive sense.  If I’m playing you in something, I’m not going to try and make things harder for you.  I’m going to give you all the tips and tricks I can.  I’ll give you the side of the court you want.   I want you to have the best day you’ve ever had…and I want to beat you.  It’s not as much fun to beat you on an off day. 

I had a flatmate who told me a great story once.  My flatmate was fairly small.  This FM had been in a bar when a fight broke out.  The FM grabbed a pool cue and broke it over the head of this giant opponent.  The Goliath just looked.  My FM said roughly, “I knew that was the best hit I was ever going to do…so I felt no shame in jumping out a window and running away.”

As Dirty Harry said in Magnum Force, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”  😉

So, what does all this have to do with e-books and EBRs (E-Book Readers)?

It’s just that I see this same sort of jealousy in the e-book world.

“I have the better one.”

D. Cary, in this thread in the Amazon Kindle community, reported being greeted that way by another mass transit rider with a nook (sic).  Another poster has called the nook the EBR of the season.

Why can’t they both be good? Let’s say you were perfectly happy with your EBR, and someone introduced one that allowed you to turn the pages with your mind.  Did yours get worse?  Nope, it’s the same, and you should still be satisfied, right?  Could you be happy for the other person?  I think it’s great that people love their EBRs, and that they are reading more (that’s what people report). 

It’s not just nook people, of course.  I don’t run into much from Sony owners right now, but when the wireless Daily Reader gets out there more, we may.  People use the terms “fanboy” for people who enthusiastically support something…with the implication that they won’t listen to criticism.  The sort of opposite is a “troll”…someone who goes into a product forum, for example, just to knock down the product.

I think there may be more of a tendency on the part of nook people to want theirs to be better right now because, well, they waited.  Early adopters expect devices to get better.  We pave the way…we are pioneers, the pilgrims into the new land.  Yes, when we got there, there was only a rock to greet us.  Four hundred years later, people will fly into an airport and take a cab.  That’s okay with me…jealousy of future generations is particularly bizarre to me.  I’m not jealous that my offspring’s future kids may have it better than I did.  🙂

So, you want to prove you were smart to wait…while we were enjoying what we had.  You want that, “Ha, ha…you see?” moment. 

Not all people with nooks, or most, or anything.  Some Kindleers did it to people with paperbooks…oh, not that they had waited since Gutenberg, but that they had the “better one”.  Kindleers tend to love paperbooks as well, but were defensive.

It can be natural for those with more power to feel more comfortable.  It’s to the advantage of those with less power for the current situation to change, so they may be more likely to challenge it.

Do I like my Kindle better than a nook?  I haven’t played with a nook much…some, certainly.  There are factors that I like better about the Kindle.  But what if the nook was clearly better…would that bother me?  Nope, I would see it as a good thing.  It would drive innovation in EBRs in general, and in the Kindle in particular.  If the nook was better, my Kindle would get better in response.  I’m not saying it would copy the same ideas, necessarily, but it would eventually need to offer a more attractive alternative.  

I’m happy when more people are happy.  🙂 

Upgrade envy

Whenever Amazon introduces a new feature, some people who don’t have it get jealous…downright mad!  When the Kindle 2 came out, people with the Kindle 1 complained.  When the Kindle 2 international came out, people with the Kindle 2 complained.  If you were happy before, what’s changed?  What’s wrong with the idea that other people might be happier?   When there’s a price reduction, how does that hurt you?  If you made a good decision, it’s still a good decision.

I find the same thing with people who want to get a free e-book because they bought a p-book version of the title before.  When you paid $4.95 for that paperback in 1995, did you not get a good deal then?  Have you been griping about it for fifteen years, because the price was such a rip-off?  If not, why should you get something more now?  If you didn’t think the price was fair back then, why did you buy it?  Yes, it would be cool if they gave you a free e-book, but it would cost Amazon money…probably more than they made on your first purchase.  It would be cool if they gave you the DVD of the movie adaptation, too…why doesn’t that make just as much sense?

“An e-book should never cost more than a p-book.”

I addressed the reasons why this happens in this earlier post.  It’s rare, but it happens.  I’ve seen people say that they would never buy an e-book that was more expensive than the p-book.

Just to be clear: if you could get an electronic version of the entire Oxford English Dictionary for two cents, you wouldn’t buy it if people could get it in paper for one penny?   I’d much rather have it as an e-book, by the way, but that’s sort of beside the point.  You want to buy it in paper in that situation, go ahead.  “But then I need to have a bookshelf to keep them on, and pay to move them, and…”  Yes…so it sounds like the paperbook may have disadvantages for you?  The  e-book may be worth more to you?  E-books and p-books are both good.   However, even if I thought one was better, I wouldn’t mind if mine that was “worse” cost more…if it was a fair price for what I was getting.

If the one penny/two penny thing sounds ridiculous, it brings to mind the possibly apochryphal story with Winston Churchill.  The way I recall the story is Churchill saying to a woman at a party, “Would you sleep with me for a million pounds?” and the woman saying yes.  He then says, “Would you sleep with me for five pounds?”  She: “No!   What kind of a woman do you think I am?”  Churchill: “We have already established that, madam.  Now, we are just haggling over price.” 


Just pointing out, it’s a matter of scale.  If the p-book was $5 and the e-book was $7.50, the question is still, “Is the e-book worth $7.50 to you?”

Someone recently cited the example of The Unseen Academicals  (published by Harper, a company currently not blocking text-to-speech in e-books, to my knowledge).

As I write this, yes, the e-book is more expensive than the p-book at Amazon.

The hardback is $12.99.

The Kindle edition is $14.29.  (UPDATE: Since I wrote this, the price dropped down to $9.99…not a surprise to me)

“Outrage!  How dare they charge me more for it?'”

Well, let’s look at the discount on this book.  Both the paper and digital list prices (set by the publisher) are $25.99.

The e-book is 45% off!

The p-book is 50% off!

Those are crazy huge discounts.  The paperback isn’t due until July 26, 2010.

Now, if the hardback didn’t exist, a 45% discount would seem huge for an e-book…or pretty much, anything else.  Of course, the digital list price probably wouldn’t be $25.99, so the Kindle price would be lower.  I think this book was $9.99 for awhile as a Kindle book, as I recall…not positive.

If you don’t want to buy it because it is more expensive than the paperbook, you can wait.  The p-book price is likely to go up, and/or the Kindle price will come down.  The Kindle price will almost certainly come down when the paperback is released.   If the p-book price went up,would that make you happier, that other people who don’t have e-book readers have to pay more?  Why? 

However, if you want to point out the price discrepancy to Amazon, they may lower the e-book…I’ve heard of it apparently working that way before.  They do want the perception that e-books are cheaper.  Right now, a lot of people think of e-books as less valuable than p-books, because they can’t sell or lend them…well, not as easily on the lending, anyway.  Well, not in the same way.   See, even that perception has started to erode. 

So, I’m not claiming I do this perfectly.  I do, though, tend to feel good when things get better for other people…and worse when they get worse, like a lot of people.

Technology is an interwoven ecology.  If things get better for other people, they’ll probably get better for you eventually.

So, be selfish: hope that the iTablet is way better than your current e-reader.  Hope that the next generation of your EBR is cheaper and does more than yours.  Eventually, that will improve your lot as well…so it’s in your own self-interest.  🙂

“Wait, that guy has more self-sacrifice than I do!  I want more!”  😉

Okay..this is me.  This is my soapbox.  Getting off now.  😉

Disagree?  Great!  Let me know what you think…

 This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

2 Responses to “Suffering by comparison”

  1. Bernadette Says:

    An excellent blog post. I totally agree with everything you said and love your logic. As a life-long Apple/Mac user I’ve experienced all the negative comments by non-Apple trolls a person can bear. I’ve chosen to purchase Apples because I love them but I’ve been besieged by PC bullies since I bought my first Apple IIC. Yes, I always paid more as an early adopter of many Apple products from the Mac to the first IPOD. I’ve been told how stupid I was and how superior they were. But I continue to love every computer, Ipod and Iphone I’ve ever owned and have never told anyone that they made poor choices in the tech hardware. I just received a Kindle for Christmas and it’s has brought the same magic and joy that Apple products have always brought me! Can’t wait for the Tablet but I doubt I’ll ever regret buying this Kindle!!!

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Bernadette, thanks for writing!

      I’m glad you’ve been happy with your choices…that’s an important thing to be. 🙂 While I’ve worked primarily with PCs, I’ve never had anything against Apple products. I think it’s great to have a philosophy of making things easier for your consumers. That’s the way of the future with technology…make it easier, make it smarter (on its own). I just got a Flip camera: what a great device! I used to edit Super 8mm movies with a crank editing machine. I had a VHS camcorder…a huge clunky thing. This was turn it on, use it, plug it in with a built-in plug, let it edit the clips, e-mail from that interface…so easy!

      I love that you love your Apples, and let me say,

      Welcome to the Klub!


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