Epic Book Fail

The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-and a Vision for ChangeI was watching Colbert the other night, and caught the very tail end of an interview with author Annie Leonard.  She was promoting her new book, “The Story of Stuff.”  I didn’t catch enough of the interview to know if I wanted to buy it, but did catch enough to grab my Kindle to order up a sample chapter.

The subtitle of the book is: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-and a Vision for Change.  Let’s stop and think about that one for a second.  The author is railing against how the obsession with consuming, ostensibly, atoms is ruining the planet.  OK, I get that.

Imagine my surprise when I could only purchase her book in atom form.  Not available on the Kindle.  Wha?  Look, I get that not everyone has a Kindle, and that reading devices aren’t quite mainstream, but doesn’t this hypocrisy sort of negate her whole message?  Dave Ramsey rails against the use of debt for anything.  He’s a man who stands by his principles.  You cannot use a credit card to purchase wares from his site.

What principles is Ms. Leonard standing by when her book is not available at ship date in any form other than atoms?  The lesson here for entrepreneurs is pretty clear.  Know what you stand for, and why, and stick to it, lest you ruin your credibility.  This is an epic fail.

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  • Jodie

    Although, it doesn't mean that it *won't* be available via Kindle – thing is, depends on the publisher. We didn't get the full PDF/Kindle version for several weeks after it was published. Also, I have “transformed” a couple of ebooks to Kindle and it does take a lot of fiddling. Could just be a time/timing issue. However yes… considering the nature of the book, maybe a different timing for launch could have been used to make sure people could purchase a non dead-tree version.

  • The thing is, book schedules are pretty long lead, and the Kindle has been around for a little while now. A great counter to this is a new book that dropped yesterday – “What Do We Do Now” by Keith Malley and Chemda. It was available day one on Kindle. As was the new “Rework” by DHH and Jason Fried.

    I could have simply bought the book on my Kindle, but instead, I have to get up, go to a store and purchase for a higher price, her book at retail. All the very things she rails against in her purchase, work, watch TV treadmill. Oh well – hopefully they get the memo and put the book on the Kindle.

  • Christopher

    Perhaps she feels that the damage to the earth from the trees killed by producing the book is still better than the energy spent powering your Kindle for the hours while you read it. Perhaps she feels that the net benefit to the earth of spreading her message (albeit in “atom” form) is worth the loss of those few trees. Perhaps she had no control over the decision about what form it's available in. “Epic fail” is perhaps strong.

  • heady

    I saw her interview as well, she had almost no sense of humor. I've seen her video before, it was really well done and I've heard nothing about the book, but lets hope this honest message isn't being created on the contradictory.

  • PJ Davis

    Sure dave ramsey (begrudgingly) takes credit cards. but only because visa/master card's cardholder agreements state you must take both.

  • Turbulence

    The kindle display consumes zero power when you're not changing pages. I use read for about two hours a day every work day and my kindle batter lasts about three weeks. The energy costs of reading a kindle book pale in comparison to the environmental degradation associated with killing trees, printing a book with their carcass, and shipping the dead tree bits around using gasoline.

  • There are too many confounding variables here to properly assert your claim. I fear you may be missing the woods for the trees.

    Firstly, let's get one thing clear – an eBook version still requires atoms – wether it's the silicon or germanium transistors in your Kindle's flash drive or the aluminum platters spinning away at thousands of rpm continuously in “the cloud”. The storage of digital information, like it's analog counterpart, is neither free nor perpetual. If your original iPod is any indication, then most likely you won't be using your current Kindle 5 years from now, certainly not 10 when the EEPROM starts behaving erratically. Meanwhile Amazon's cloud storage is so vast and their facilities so numerous that drives are failing nearly continuously, like every few minutes continuously, swapped piecemeal as the second law of thermodynamics takes its inevitable course, as certified by Underwriters Laboratories.

    The author seems to be arguing that we shouldn't be so wasteful as to throw away our Plasma Televisions just because they discolor after 7 years and upgrade to newer models with LCD's or LED's or OLED's or 3D Internet Streaming or… ad infinitum.

    I can scarcely get software from 40 years ago to run, even when I have their source in plaintext; the entire infrastructure which supports it has since moved on to newer platforms, which among other things, require exotic minerals (such as Coltan) from genocidal economies which we're arguably better off not supporting in their current forms.

    In the time it takes for a book to turn to pulp, one can grow a new forrest. For the next few generations at least, one can scarcely say the same about the resources involved with manufacturing Kindles. And while yes, one can rally on about evils of producing physical goods, I think it may be missing the forrest for the trees.

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  • Intrawebs

    People want to buy a book, not buy a license to read a book. Therefore paper book > digital book.