Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Village For Sale

What Megan McArdle tells you about the Kindle.

But even without format lock-in, the Kindle has some formidable advantages. Aside from the small problem of reading in the bathtub, the Kindle is simply a better (and pricier) version of a book: lighter, thinner, and much easier to read with one hand. You use it the way you would use a book, on park benches and long airplane trips. The Kindle doesn’t do much of anything else, but it is an excellent book replacement.

The iPad does a bunch of things, but none of them especially well. You can’t read it in full daylight, and its battery life is much shorter than the Kindle’s. With no true built-in keyboard or ability to multitask, it’s not a substitute for a laptop—and unlike my iPhone, it won’t fit in a pocket, take pictures, or make calls. Unless you need it for one of a handful of specialty uses, it doesn’t replace anything you already have; it’s just one more thing to carry. Apple’s gee-whiz design talents are compelling, but hardly infallible: consider the fate of the Newton handheld device, or Apple TV.

But perhaps the Kindle’s biggest asset is that it can bundle e-books with … actual books. If an e-book is unavailable through iTunes, tough luck. If a book is not available in Kindle’s e-book format, well, with one click I can have it shipped in a couple of days. The convenience of one-stop shopping for a book you really want is apt to be a powerful incentive to stay in Amazon’s domain during the transition from printed books.

What Megan McArdle does not tell you about the Kindle.

On December 4, Motoko Rich reported in the New York Times about a partnership between Amazon and The Atlantic to bring short stories to the Kindle, Amazon’s e-reader. The first two stories appeared in the Amazon Kindle store last Monday. Written by Edna O’Brien and Christopher Buckley, each story sells for $3.99 and is readable exclusively on the Kindle. (As of this writing, both stories are featured in Amazon’s Kindle Exclusives store.) Another story by Curtis Sittenfeld will go on sale in January. So far, then, we have three well-known writers, but Amazon promises that two new stories “by both well-known and up-and-coming authors” will appear each month.

(The article this quote comes from is very interesting.)

Maybe I expect too much and disclosing relationships is unnecessary in this multi-corporate world. Besides, David G. Bradley is an information broker. He stages what he calls "events" and "dinners" to give corporations media access. It's not about journalism, it's about setting up a toll road on the information highway.

Atlantic spokesperson Zachary Hooper told Talking Points Memo on Monday that "the corporate sponsor comes to us and says, 'We're interested in having a discussion on a certain topic.'" And some corporate sponsors, TPM reported, have included AstraZeneca ("Healthcare Access and Education”); Microsoft (“Global Trade”), G.E. ("Energy Sustainability and the Future of Nuclear Power"); Allstate ("The Future of the American City"); and Citi ("The Challenge of Global Markets").

When asked by TPM, Hooper declined to comment on how much a corporation pays to sponsor an event, so it is unclear if the Atlantic asks anywhere in the $25,000 to $250,000 range described in the [Washington] Post's flier that advertised for underwriting opportunities.

Corporations need a seemingly impartial way to shape public opinion. They pay Bradley to procure his pet journalists at the Atlantic, who moderate discussions on the corporations' interests and pass on the impartial, balanced information to the public. His journalists pass themselves off as idea people, problem solvers, the leaders of the new generation. Sages who can outline "a better policy model for thinking about failures at the individual and institutional level."

Well, they say it takes one to know one. Meanwhile, our nation still refuses to ignore the chronically, cravenly wrong and the hopelessly inept.


Clever Pseudonym said...

Again, the comments are filled with people pointing out how many things Megan got wrong.

"Perhaps Atlantic writers should not be writing about technology if they can't keep up."

That was the last one as this is posted. Imagine if Megan didn't write about things she didn't understand or know much about...

bulbul said...

Again, the comments are filled with people pointing out how many things Megan got wrong.
God bless them, at least I don't have to get worked up over her nonsense. Because really, I should stop reading anything about iPad, it's not good for my bloodpressure. Seriously:

"Truth is, Apple is a neophyte at books, and is recycling decade-old LCD panel technology for it's iPad. Little distinguishes the iPad from all the touchpads that failed in a wave three years ago. (Oh, but it's Apple, so it will "change everything")."

On the other hand, could anilpetra, the author of this comment, be one of Megan's sockpuppet? That would certainly explain the monstrous stupidity of this statement.

Anonymous said...

OT, but, my books don't break if I drop them.

I don't have to plug new batteries in them either.

Kathy said...

zac882: AND they can be read in the bathtub. Not the shower, though. What I'd like: a book that can be read in the shower, yeah.

Seeing as how Meggie waited in like 5 hours to get the first iphone, she's being kinda duplicitous in sneering at the iPad. Just give it a year or two- it takes time to "take over the world".

Kathy said...

Umm. Lotta errors in previous post, and I can't blame Vicodin this time.

Meg stood in LINE for 5 hours (she says, comparing it, as I recall to Depression era folk standing in Soup Lines. Or something.)

bulbul said...


but on the other hand, I have about 30 books on my iPod that I'm currently reading. Try carrying all those physical books around. I also love reading in bed, but I hate having the light on once I'm vertical and Principles of Historical Linguistics is fucking heavy.
Get fucking real, ppl: $device/$technology ain't a miracle cure for all your problems. It has some advantages and some disadvantages and the question you have to ask is if it fills your needs. I hate how some of my fellow technology geeks and technology fashionistas (hello, Megan) keep insisting their own preferences are the only objective measure of $device's usability and market success. But this kind of thinking is par for the course for Our Lady of Two Kindles.

bulbul said...

Horizontal. I meant horizontal.

Clever Pseudonym said...

It's just like her Christmas recommendations for kitchen stuff - what a cook or baker does or doesn't need in their kitchen is very specific to the type of cooking/baking they do. With a very few "must have" exceptions, there's no way of knowing what appliances someone else needs. Same with this e-reader stuff. I've recently been considering buying one, and read a run-down comparing the strengths and weaknesses of each device based on what a consumer's particular needs for a reader may be. This one is great if you intend to use a lot of PDF files, this one's the best for your money if you're only a casual reader, etc. But all that matters to Megan is how useful these things are to her, and therefore a good measure of their overall worth to everyone else.

Kathy said...

"all that matters to Megan is how useful these things are to her..."

Or how large a kickback she gets for flogging Kindle in her blog.

bulbul said...


precisely. And this is doubly ironic, considering Megan once compared her writing on makeup to that of Mark Twain on cigars. Ignoring the galaxy-wide difference between the two styles of writing and their quality, Twain wrote this:

As concerns tobacco, there are many superstitions. And the chiefest is this--that there is a STANDARD governing the matter, whereas there is nothing of the kind. Each man's own preference is the only standard for him, the only one which he can accept, the only one which can command him. A congress of all the tobacco-lovers in the world could not elect a standard which would be binding upon you or me, or would even much influence us.

To Megan, her own opinions on anything ARE THE STANDARD, though she continually proves that she hasn't got the faintest idea of what she's talking about. Like the man said:

Children of twenty-five, who have seven years experience,
try to tell me what is a good cigar and what isn't. Me, who never learned to smoke, but always smoked; me, who came into the world asking for a light.

tat said...

As an aside, I love how her Kindle obsession has led her to throw out phrases like, "during the transition from printed books," as if that's simply a given. Of course she's probably thinking that it's the same as mp3s replacing CDs, but she's not stopping to consider the differences between music publishing and book publishing. No matter how popular the Kindle becomes, printed books will be here for a long time to come. It's foolish to think that the publishing industry is going to transition entirely over to digital formats because of this device.

tat said...

Oh god. So I actually bothered to click through and read (some of) her post. Sure enough, she's thinking mp3s vs. CDs is the same thing as e-books vs. printed books, but what I really have to comment on is the opening line. Megan has written mountains of dumb stuff, but that opening line is jaw-droppingly stupid.

"Can it be a coincidence that J. D. Salinger died the same day the iPad was introduced?"

Uh, yes, it's a coincidence, you nitwit. As usual, she thinks she's making a point with some clever humor, but it just comes out as incoherent stupidity.

Kathy said...

How long before iPod & iPad type devices are being given away free with Happy Meals? I'm not really interested in using a digital book, but I can see where downloading text books from the internet will be a God-send for schools currently forced to accept Texas-sized Garbage School books. Ug!

mw said...

Anybody else notice how McMegan has been using "y'all" a lot lately? Has she made the switch from British affections to Southern belle affectations?