Stephen at HD BizBlog follows a train of thought from the Kindle’s terms of service through Fahrenheit 451 to Webster’s definition of “kindle” in his post, Why Call it “Kindle”. Now, I kinda like the Kindle (or, rather, I want to like the Kindle), but I do share Stephen’s curiosity about how the product got its name. I can only imagine it went something like this: [swirly fade out]
[Scene: A conference room at Amazon's secret underground headquarters high above the Arctic Circle]
Marketing Guy One: What should we call this ebook reading device?
Marketing Guy Two: (excitedly) I’m so excited about this. I think it’s going to really burn up readers’ notions of what reading is!
MG1: (stone-faced) Yes, we’re all excited. I can hardly contain myself. And I think you’re right: this device is going to set the reading public on fire.
MG2: (squirming in his seat) Yeah, yeah, yeah! It’s gonna be so popular, it will spread like wildfire! Everyone’s gonna want one!
MG1: (shifts imperceptibly) I know that if I read, this is how I’d want to do it. My hands would be burning to get hold of one of these.
MG2:(explosively) The cool thing is, people can load all their books on it. They won’t need paper books anymore. They won’t need all those bookshelves, all those hardcovers taking up space. They could literally set all their old books on fire!
Marketing Woman: Uh, guys…
MG1: (flickering suddenly to life) That’s It! We need a name that suggests that if you own this device, you could burn all your other books! And that this device is going to start the fire that frees readers from the drudgery of old-fashioned, (sneering) paper books.
MG2: (sputtering) Yes, this device is the kindling that starts the fire!
MW: Guys, I think you’re going down the wrong —
MG1: Yes! Kindling! Hand me that dictionary!
(MG2 hands him a dictionary, sneering at its paperyness as he does so)
MG1: Hmmm… K, ke, ki, kig, kin… here it is, “kindling”, oh look, right before it, “kindle”, “To build or fuel (a fire). To set fire to; ignite.” That’s what we want! The Kindle is starting the fire!
MG2: Reminds me of that Billy Joel song.
MW: Reminds me of Nazis!
MG1: Did you hear something, Marketing Guy 2?
MG2: Nothing important, I’m sure. Anyway, I’m excited abut this. Readers are going to love this idea. Burning books is bound to go over really, really well!
MG1: I agree. So it’s settled: “Kindle” it is. Let’s get lunch.
(MG1 and MG2 leave.)
MW: (calling after them) Guys, I think we need to talk about this a little bit, I’m not sure this is a great– oh, damn it all!
I’m not sure that’s exactly how it went. It’s entirely possible that they knew there was a woman in the room, for example, but chose to ignore her instead of doing so reflexively. Perhaps they thought she would bring them coffee. And at some point, someone might have said “I think readers dream about book burnings” — it’s unclear from the data I have whether this was actually said, or only thought.
In any case, I am pretty sure that aside from minor inaccuracies, this is exactly what happened.