Through the invention and sale of its Kindle e-reader, Amazon has brought incredible convenience to many readers. The compact, sleek, and affordable Kindle allows its owners to carry upwards of one thousand books anywhere. It enables easy searching, highlighting, and note-taking; instantaneous book purchasing; transferring of purchases to other devices; even book borrowing. And, as if all that weren’t enough, the Kindle has produced a (perhaps) unanticipated benefit: the availability of books in the developing world where books remain scarce.
The Kindle . . . actually meets the needs of the developing world very nicely. Kindles have become increasingly affordable, the battery-life can be as long as a month, and they are easily recharged using wind or solar energy. Since they use cell-phone networks to operate, which are already omnipresent even in the remotest parts of Africa, they don’t require new infrastructure in the schools. And the kids can read them outside, even in the brightest sunlight.
Best of all, one Kindle holds more than a thousand books, and new books can be downloaded in 60 seconds. That means printing costs disappear, and shipping gets reduced to nearly nothing. Suddenly it becomes feasible to imagine every child having access not only to books, but to a choice between thousands of books from all over the world.
This spectacular value that Amazon has provided to the developing world is a stunning example of the overflow of prosperity that is characteristic of capitalism. As Ayn Rand explained in Atlas Shrugged, the customers and employees of the creator of a new invention receive “an enormous payment in proportion to the mental effort . . . require[d] of [them]” while an inventor of a new product “receives but a small percentage of his value in terms of material payment, no matter what fortune he makes, no matter what millions he earns.”
Kindle owners, for very little mental effort, gain access to the incomparable value of “thousands of books from all over the world” and “the life-changing, power-creating ideas within them.” In contrast, while Amazon’s key personnel—from CEO Jeff Bezos to the web developers—have expended, and continue to expend, massive mental effort to invent and bring the Kindle (and related products) to market, Amazon receives, in material payment, only the dollar value of the reader and of the media they sell for use on it—a very small percentage of the value the company has created.
In justice, Amazon deserves additional, spiritual payment—in the form of recognition, gratitude, and praise—from those who understand the value of its products.
- Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand’s Morality of Egoism
- Amazon’s Robots: “Raising the Productivity of Your Time”
- The Objective Standard Kindle Subscriptions