Is my Kindle nickable?


A lucky escape yesterday when someone tried, and failed, to break into some houses on our road led to Corrina instructing me today:

“make sure you put your Kindle well out of sight when you go out of the house”

Which has got me wondering:

“Is a Kindle nickable?”

I’m not sure it is, really. Sure it’s portable and it’s electronic, but is that enough to make it liftable? 

Technically possible, socially and economically less so

The Kindle is technically very nickable. It’s portable, it uses a standards based charging system (mirco-USB), and it can be reregistered to a new account in moments from its menu (I did this with mine, which came preregistered to the wife’s Amazon account). A quick Google search suggests Amazon aren’t interested in adding any more complex protection against theft, in the style of MobileMe on iOS devices. The best you can hope for protection wise is to write down your MAC address as proof that it was your device.

Pssst mate, fancy one of them Kindles?

We’ve see a lot of headlines about the Kindle recently, which indicate it’s a mass market electronic device and platform. That must put it at high risk of being stolen, right?

The evidence which we use to frame this is based on comparison with booksales, and booksales figures are skewed (I think, if this wrong do tell me) by people who are avid readers. Kindle is as near as damn it a single use device which means that it only has value to people who spend a lot of time reading. Within that group you have hardcore bibliophiles who are devoted to the book as a fetish object, and then those who are open to new ideas. The latter group is the constituency for Kindle; Kindle isn’t as a mass market as we might think it is.

If I were to apply a simple marketing exercise to this, and imagine the typical Kindle customers they would be called David & Sara. A professional, middle class couple they want one day to go to the Hay Festival. Sara runs a book group that meets in a trendy independent coffee house, and works in a vintage store. David is an IT consultant, whose favourite author is Ian McEwan. If you siddled up to David & Sara in a pub and offered to sell them a DVD player they would be aghast. Though of course they’d never go to that sort of pub, although there is a nice place near them that has started doing thai food and keeps some interesting fruit beers.

What I’m saying, in a nutshell, is that the Kindle is a device designed to serve Archers listeners and Masterchef viewers – people who are unlikely to buy hookie goods. Furthermore, the Kindle’s price point is such that they wouldn’t need to risk buying it from the back of a Mk.1 Focus in the car park of the Dog & Duck. 

So who could you sell a knocked-off reader to? Sure there is a casual book reading market, but they have less need of a specific device for reading. I’d wager my Kindle lacks an aftermarket, and I’d also wager that this lack of incentive makes it fairly un-nickable.

Reasons a Kindle might get stolen

  • A few people, me included, have had their Kindle mistaken for the more nickable iPad
  • Thieves are opportunists, and if they have the chance and can’t find laptops, cameras, etc. they might reach out and grab anything that looks like it might be worth while
  • You might just leave it somewhere and not get it back

So what do you think? Have I misjudged how attractive the Kindle is to thieves?

By Jon Hickman

Hi, I'm Jon. I teach and research digital culture, social media and new media practice at Birmingham City University. Find out more about me with this lovely CV: Find out about my work at the Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research: