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Planned Obsolescence?
by G Frank Miller 
05/07/12
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My wife, Helen, recently bought a new iPad. She didnít make the purchase because she needed or even wanted to be at the cutting edge of technology. She felt almost forced to move up to this latest and greatest piece of digital marvels. Neither of us are ones who like new gadgets just because they are new or because we desire to be the first in our circle of friends to have something. However, if it is something we can use, we are not averse to purchasing a new electronic device.

Six years ago, Helen, decided she needed an eBook reader. We were making a several long trips each year to Mexico as missionaries. Each trip Helen would take a heavy bag of books. Somehow she heard about an eBook reader where she could load all the books she wanted to read on one device, and only carry this small reader instead of the heavy bag. She did some research, and found the only reader available was from Sony. She bought one and loved it.

Her library of digital books on our computer grew and grew. Looking over the Sony bookstore for inexpensive and free books, Helen found public domain books written in the 1800s that she loved. There were wonderful authors whose works she devoured. The bookstore also had a link to Google books. Google had set as a goal to digitize all the public domain books in libraries, and make them available to readers like Helen. This was like finding a treasure for her. She downloaded books by the dozens and read them with relish.

This past March, Helen needed to get some new books to load her reader for a trip we were taking to California. Going on the Sony Bookstore website, she looked at the familiar place for the link to Google books. It wasnít there. Doing her usual computer research, Helen found Google had opened their own bookstore. The public domain books were now only available at that website.

Downloading books from the Google bookstore to her Sony eBook reader library proved to be a challenge. She couldnít figure it out. Helenís usual next step was to call Sony support. This call added to her frustration. The support person didnít seem to have a clue what she was talking about. His English was difficult to understand, and he seemed to be having problems understanding her. The conclusion we both reached was that after all these years, the electronics companies think it is time to upgrade to a newer device. The support they provide over the years begins to diminish in quality as the product ages. I wonder if this isnít a form of planned obsolescence. Their attitude must be that even though the device still works fine, it is time for you to upgrade to the one with the new bells and whistles.

Helenís iPad is her upgraded book reader. It is an amazing device. After spending about a half hour with the Geek at Best Buy, she was not only able to download and read books, but she could send and receive emails, take photos and videos, and yesterday she used it to see her grandchildren by Skype.

Her comment the other day was that the iPad cost about the same as the original Sony book reader. Helen is so happy with this upgrade I think she would like to call that Sony help person and thank him for confusing her so much she ended up with her iPad.





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