How Amazon’s Kindle Fire is Saving Civilization

Oh what a seemingly overblown headline. And yet, if you think about it, it’s not that far from the truth. Because with its broad potential reach, and its likely ability to get people to pay for valuable content, the Fire seems poised to provide a counterbalance for a “free” web, while also giving people the freedom to choose.

Such heresy! The idea that people who make content should get paid directly for what they produce. Hey, I am no enemy of free content. As a fairly prolific blogger, I am well aware that providing free access to content is an incredible force for free expression.

And it appears that Amazon is more than aware of that value. In fact, it has created a browser to help people get and consume the free content of their choice more quickly and easily.

No, I am talking about the other side of the content equation. The one where professionals make great stuff that is rather difficult to properly monetize in the current environment. The situation where professional reporters get laid off in droves because publications cannot pay them on the meager revenues they generate from the online web.

Reversing this decline in professional content is absolutely critical to maintaining a real culture and civilization. Without a way to monetize what pros produce, our culture really does suffer. We need investigative reporters, independent film producers, full time authors, and the like to provide the richness of our society, and the checks against growing government power.

And besides, the free web really isn’t free. What’s happened is that hundreds of billions in investment capital – a synonym for which is our pension and 401K money — have been subsidizing the “free” infrastructure of pipes and pictures and videos and words. Oh, there are also ads to monetize it – something like an average of 14 blinking ads per page – many sold for less than a dime per thousand.

But that arrangement hasn’t favored “good,” it has favored “all,” which is marvelous on some levels, and has made more than a few people millionaires from its democratic largesse. But we also need to ensure that the best and brightest can make their livings producing content.

And that’s also where Amazon Fire fits in. A device that tens of millions more will be able to afford versus iPad. A device created in large part to monetize content through purchases made by those that choose to consume it. A MOBILE device that is sufficiently different from a PC that most expect people to be willing to actually pay for the good stuff. Paying for the best content out there. So great content producers can make their livings creating great content.

I am very grateful for the “free” web – especially in an era when a handful of companies own virtually all American media. I am grateful as well for an FTC that is trying to promulgate net neutrality. But I am also grateful that Amazon has launched Fire – a device that holds the promise of helping the best content creators make enough to live on. Because they are just as important to the preservation and expansion of “civilization.”