My research and inspiration for this particular post begins, significantly, with a background story and Amazon (the company, not an, otherwise, defined mythological group) contacting us about approving my Blog for it’s revolutionary Kindle. However, that’s another story in-of-itself. It only, today, sets the stage for the next several paragraphs (and, a bold excuse for yet another dissertation over truth and light)…

Thusly, it was inevitable, that, given my voracious appetite for reading certain types of material (namely Biographies [The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson by Kevin J. Hayes and The End of Empire: Attila the Hun and the Fall of Rome by Christopher Kelly are two long-standing favorites] and tombs focused on Comparative Research /1) that Joanne would gift me with a Amazon Kindle.

Once this potentially ingenious device was in my hands, however, there could be no doubt there would follow hours of interrelated research around how it works, why it works and the people (Rowdy, for example, holds technology in even-tempered disdain) that might find them most useful.

I won’t go into any real detail, nor attempt a technology review of this “eBook”. There are other people better suited for such efforts. You can be almost anywhere, think of a book, and get it in one minute. Similarly, your content automatically comes to you. Newspaper subscriptions are delivered wirelessly each morning. Most magazines arrive before they hit newsstands. Haven’t read the book for tomorrow night’s book club? Get it in a minute. Finished your book in the airport? Download the sequel while you board the plane. Whether you’re in the mood for something serious or hilarious, lighthearted or studious, Kindle delivers your spontaneous reading choices on demand.

However, and almost immediately, my research took an unexpected turn – if not twist… My mind wandered to the wireless element of the eBooks.  For example: who provides the wireless service? How does it work? And, who pays for it?

Because the Kindle is a wireless device, there is no PC (or, Mac) and no syncing needed. Using the same 3G network as advanced cell phones, Amazon delivers your content using their own wireless delivery system called Whispernet (apparently an “optimized” version) service and started with Sprint national high-speed (EVDO) data network and then recently changed to AT&T. However, unlike WiFi, you’ll never need to locate a hotspot. And, there are no confusing service plans, yearly contracts, or monthly wireless bills. Says Amazon: “We take care of the hassles so you can just read.”

The process begins when you order your Kindle on-line from Amazon. The price is diabolically reasonable and clever at $259.00. You then have access to a growing number of books (NOTE: this does not currently include Harry Potter), and periodicals such as The Wall Street Journal. And, you don’t pay for the wireless service; Amazon apparently does. I will, eventually, sort out what Amazon’s true cost for the KIndles is (just as I’ve done with Apple products). But, meanwhile, Amazon clearly makes money when Kindle users download and purchase reading material (you should know that I’ve only just downloaded A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson for only $9.95).

And, this is precisely where my radar popped-up, and I decided to look a gift horse in the mouth. I tracked down two wireless technology analysts (one a school mate). This was no mean feat given the Holidays. My question was simple: “what might the financial arrangement be between Amazon and a service provider – Sprint now AT&T?”

I learned that Amazon is still working with Sprint on the bigger Kindle DX, which only works here in the United States, because that’s how limited Sprint actually is. However, Amazon made the change, and went with AT&T, for the Kindle 2, so you could use a Kindle almost anywhere in the world. As I dug deeper I uncovered some additional interesting facts. These include, but are not limited to Amazon and Sprint found themselves in a tussell (there are many spelling variations for this word). Sprint was reluctant to help off-set the hardware costs of the Kindle, and wanted more of the revenue. So, Amazon hedged their bet with AT&T – and , also get broader coverage (even though that service often sucks – you can read more about that here: candid colored Apple) for Kindle users.

In any event, apparently Amazon pays AT&T and Sprint about $5.00 for every Kindle buyer. This is likely easy money for both service providers.

Side note (relative to cellular handsets):

Craig Moffett, the telecom analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein, says that AT&T and Verizon are in something of a a bind because they want to keep individual subscribers, yet they don’t want to undercut the pricing to business accounts (read more about this later and below, in the event you become disoriented).

“The worst of all possible outcomes would be for the big guys to cut their prices to match Boost,” he said, thinking about the situation from the perspective of investors. “But it’s not a picnic if they leave prices alone and lose subscribers to Boost either.”

Mr. Moffett says the shift in the market to flat-rate, all-inclusive price plans will ultimately increase competition because such plans make it easier for consumers to shop around.

“For years, the wireless industry had a halo of price protection because users had no idea what price they really were paying,” he said, noting that it was hard for people to figure out which calls were included in various buckets of free airtime, etc. “Once you cross the Rubicon of flat-rate pricing, there is no going back.”

Important note: The Sprint Right Plan Promise allows you the flexibility to change your rate plan at any time without fees or renewing your service agreement.

And, as I circle-back, we begin our decent towards the very nexus of my point…

Comcast charges us about $100.00 a month for internet service. We get a special deal. But, this whole Wifi element needs some deeper evaluation.

With Sprint’s Simply Everything plan you pay $99.00 (more after taxes and related crap) each month for talk, data and messaging).

With AT&T’s Nation Unlimited scam plan you pay $99.00, but also have to pay for separate data and messaging plans if you use a Blackberry or iPhone (for example).

So… Why does Amazon only pay AT&T and Sprint $5.00 per Kindle user, while individual users pay roughly twenty times as much for WiFi connectivity? Obviously, this brings Comcast into the fray as well. Do corporations have access to more palatable price plans? If so, what are they?

I really like, and am thoroughly enjoying my Kindle. More so because it’s use has opened a door filled with many questions with answers that could topple veritable empires. And so, these questions are going to burn brightly in my mind and heart for some time. We need to sort ths out because I think it, ultimately, means we are having to pay way too much for cellular wireless service – especially in light of how awful that service is becoming (against the elegant simplicity demonstrated by the Kindle). It also raises questions, and suggests possible road-maps around fairness, and uniting over common objectives, eh.

Understated ubiquitous note: That research (and it’s dire ramifications for the wireless industry) is in motion, and you know it is! All evil must fear the careful scrutiny of a Prudent and Optimistic Gentleman.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork


Unexpected bonus reading:

1/ Following reflection on similarities and differences across religious boundaries has got two cues: “recognition” and “interreligious theology”.

In the English idiom, recognition can either mean rediscovery of things familiar or acknowledgment of something that may be distinctively unfamiliar but is still worthy of appreciation. In the encounter with other faiths, I may recognize essential features of faith that are equally dear to me. But just as often, I face the challenge of coming to terms with conceptions and practices that are foreign and do not give any immediate sense to me. Can I still acknowledge and appreciate such conceptions and practices, as expressions of a God-given diversity? Sometimes I can, in other cases maybe not.

In what follows, I will reflect upon the double meaning of recognition (as rediscovery and appreciation) in interreligious theology. I use the term “interreligious theology” as a reference to dialogical reflection on ultimate questions, carried out in the space between different religious universes. With “the space between”, I allude to Martin Buber’s conception of a sacred realm which opens when people of different faiths speak profoundly to one another, from heart to heart. In the suggestive words of Buber himself:

In the most powerful moments of dialogic, where in truth “deep calls unto deep”, it becomes unmistakably clear that it is not the wand of the individual or of the social, but of a third which draws the circle round the happening. On the far side of the subjective, on this side of the objective, on the narrow ridge, where I and Thou meet, there is the realm of “between”.