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Me and my Kindle

One bookworm's tale of Kindle woe.

By Nora Ephron
Last Updated: July 24, 2008: 11:26 PM EDT

(Fortune Magazine) -- I can't possibly convey the wild excitement that surged through my heart when I first read about the Kindle. I can tell you the exact date: Nov. 19, 2007. The Kindle had just been announced, by Jeff Bezos himself. I read about it online, and my lust for a piece of technology that instantly implied a complete lack of technological expertise was immediately ... kindled. What a divine thing: It was simultaneously new and old. It was an homage to books without in any way promising their extinction. Within seconds of reading about it, I went to Amazon (AMZN, Fortune 500), pressed my one-click and bought myself a Kindle. I became so overexcited that I contemplated buying Amazon stock. A few minutes later I was so carried away with the thrill of it all that I ordered two more, for each of my sons. No socks this year, guys. No shirts that I like but you don't. No books that I already gave you and forgot that I did. I've done it: the Kindle. A great gift and what's more, a gift that promised to go on giving, since I could supplement it forever with Amazon gift certificates for Kindle downloads.

At about this time (which was, let me make clear, no more than five minutes after reading about the Kindle), it dawned on me that I already owned a similar device, the Sony Reader, and had never once used it, never, not even once. It was in a drawer. It was still in bubble wrap. But so what? The Kindle was so obviously superior to the Sony (SNE) Reader that I didn't care. It had access to many more books, it was going to be able to download the New York Times, and what's more, it was wireless.

My euphoria had lasted a week when, after bragging for days to friends that I was the proud owner of the new Kindle, I realized that I in fact wasn't. None of my Kindles had arrived. I had ordered them for two-day delivery. Where were they? I went to Track My Purchases at Amazon and discovered that Amazon was out of Kindles and was unwilling to tell me exactly when mine might arrive. How was this possible? I couldn't possibly have placed my order any faster without having had inside information. Were they stockpiling them and saving them for favored customers? Did you have to have pull to buy one? Was this one of those deals where they were deliberately making something scarce in order to add to its luster? I had no idea, but it didn't really matter. I could wait. Kindles would be in stock in time for Christmas. Surely they would be. I mean, what's the point of introducing a brand-new thing like the Kindle if no one is going to be able to buy it or give it to anyone? Just to be on the safe side, I decided not to buy Amazon stock.

Well, long story short, guess what? Weeks passed and still no Kindles. So I canceled my Kindle order. My kids ended up with socks and shirts they did not like and books I had already given them. And meanwhile, my lust for the Kindle dwindled and died. Out of curiosity, I checked Amazon again this spring to see if the Kindle was in stock. It wasn't.

So goodbye, Kindle. It was almost swell. To top of page