Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Kindle and the cost/payoff of experiencing content again

In thinking about the Kindle (Amazon's electronic book reader) I got thinking about a larger question about how people experience content. I'm one of those people who can watch the same movie multiple times, and I tend to accumulate tapes and DVDs of my favorite movies. My wife has never understood this, once she's seen a movie she's done with it and has no interest in seeing it again. We've both tended to think the other one was rather peculiar. We were at a brunch today and I tried to enlist support for my way of thinking but found surprising diversity.

Some people viewed movies as one-shot experiences but would read a book multiple times, others viewed both movies and books as one-shots, but most people viewed music as something to experience over and over again.

So I asked people: what's different about experiencing a song from experiencing a movie?

Several people said that while movies are based on a narrative, they did not see music that way. Several said that they did not feel that songs told a story (some of the others of us found that idea shocking...of course a song tells a story...for us). So for these people a movie is boring the second time around because the know the story but a song is just an experience ... so repeating it is still rewarding...perhaps like eating ice cream? The fact that you've eaten ice cream before doesn't diminish your enjoyment of more ice cream.

I wonder if there is a different kind of answer underlying this: limited time. I can listen to a song in 2-3 minutes, watching a movie takes about two hours, and reading book might take 5-10 hours. Who has that kind of time for a repeat?

On the other hand, there is a payoff for getting involved in a long get to know the characters. I tend to dislike short stories because why should I get invest time in a story that won't return my investment? Think of the angst many people feel when a beloved TV series ends (The Sopranos, Friends, Mash, etc). There has been an investment and the end of the story brings an end to the return on that investment. For some of us, re-watching a movie gives us some extra return on the time we spent on the content in the first place.

The link back to the Kindle for me is that for many people the fact that Kindle does not contain your existing library of books is simply not an issue. Many people view their existing library of books as more or less dead storage; perhaps to be rarely accessed at some time but certainly not in need of ready access. From this point of view loading the Kindle with only new material is just fine. I suspect that this sort of person would also be happy with a Kindle-like device with very limited storage, perhaps only enough to hold the books you were currently reading.


  1. you have a point about the ice cream metaphor :)
    what do you think about people who rarely move on to a new book/movie/song? they are more common in my age group i think- people who are fine with reading only one book or series over and over...(ex twilight series)

  2. My kids can watch the same movie over and over again. They've been able to do this since they were very young. As teens, part of the attraction was trying to memorize dialogue, so they could impress their friends.

    There are some movies, which for me, are worth watching again. The Usual Suspects comes to mind, since it is a very different movie once you know the ending than when you didn't.