Addicted to novelty since 2001

Amazon is Kindling Some Conversation About E-Readers

Or is the Kindle kindling for the file, joining Microsoft Bob and the Apple Newton? Okay, that’s my last ever Kindle pun.

The Kindle is Amazon’s grand entré into the e-reader market. To understand what the product is, you can read the enormous Newsweek cover story or visit Engadget for some photos. Rafat has extracted the pertinent tech specs from the Newsweek story, some of which I’ll repeat here:

— It costs $399.
— Kindle is a 10.3 ounces device, with dimensions of a paperback, with a tapering of its width that emulates the bulge toward a book’s binding, the story says. Kindle’s six-inch screen uses the display technology from E-Ink, which mimes the clarity of a printed book.
— It can hold as many as 200 books on the device (with more on the memory card), gets as many as 30 hours of reading on a charge, and recharges in two hours.
— Also, it has wireless connectivity, via a system called Whispernet, which is based on the EVDO broadband service offered Sprint, (NYSE: S) allowing it to work anywhere, not just Wi-Fi hotspots.

Here are Robert’s and Seth’s reactions to the piece. I like what Seth has to say about promoting the thing:

My thought was to use it, at least for a few years, as a promotion device. Give the books for free to anyone who buys the $400 machine. (Maybe you can have 1,000 books of your choice, so there’s not a lot of ‘waste’.) You’ll sell more machines that way, that’s for sure. And the people willing to buy the device are exactly the sort of people that an author like me wants to reach. No harm, no foul, all three of us win.

Reading in the Bathroom

We don’t have a printer here on Gozo, but we haven’t really needed one. Occasionally back in Vancouver I’d print out a long document to read offline (not very environmentally friendly, though I’d always recycle the paper).

Yesterday I was just thinking that it would be great to have a comfortable offline reader. Ideally, it would have a Firefox plugin or bookmarklet where I’d just move stuff–web pages, PDFs and such–to my Kindle (or whatever) with the click of a mouse.

The Kindle might fit the bill. I like that it’s incredibly lightweight–10.3 ounces is about 300 grams. What weighs 300 grams? A paperback book, maybe? And obviously I like that I could use it anywhere and that it has a robust battery life.

I don’t like the price. I’m pretty sure that it’s going to have to come down in price. If you buy it at US $400, you’re paying the early adopter tax. I also don’t like that it seems to be (thus far at least), a closed shop. It’s early days, but I haven’t seen any talk of third-party applications or APIs. Here’s the most problematic ‘feature’, and the one that Amazon’s going to get abused on:

Via the Amazon store, you can subscribe to newspapers (the Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Le Monde) and magazines (The Atlantic). When issues go to press, the virtual publications are automatically beamed into your Kindle. (It’s much closer to a virtual newsboy tossing the publication on your doorstep than accessing the contents a piece at a time on the Web.) You can also subscribe to selected blogs, which cost either 99 cents or $1.99 a month per blog.

Er, what? You want me to pay to read what I can get for free online? After paying $400 to buy your gadget? Sorry, but that’s not going to fly. Not for The New York Times or Boing Boing.

In short, I’m a potential Kindle customer. I’ve got to get one in my hands first, and I’ve got to see a price reduction before I’d consider buying one.

10 Responses to “Amazon is Kindling Some Conversation About E-Readers”

  1. filmgoerjuan

    From the (rather hyperbolic) Newsweek article:

    says Bezos, “This isn’t a device, it’s a service.”

    Yes, a locked-in service. And one you’re paying for handsomely up front.

    Readers have long complained that new books cost too much; the $9.99 charge for new releases and best sellers is Amazon’s answer. (You can also get classics for a song: I downloaded “Bleak House” for $1.99.)

    Wow, $1.99 for a book in the public domain and that is widely available online for free? I guess that’s the Kindle tax. And $9.99 for a book that I can’t loan out and probably can’t use on my computer or other device. Delightful.

  2. Michael

    Would it be that difficult to get blogs onto the Kindle for free? You can email pdfs to the kindle and they show up in your library, so I imagine that you could write some sort of applescript to turn an RSS feed into pdfs and mail them to the kindle at specified intervals.

  3. darren

    Michael: You’re right, but it’s really a philosophical point as much as a practical one. I shouldn’t have to devise some hack to use a ‘reader’ to read stuff.

  4. Michael

    My bad, doesn’t support pdf. Same could apply to txt file though.

  5. darren

    It doesn’t support PDF? That’s crappy. I am no longer a potential buyer.

  6. Damiani

    My bathroom reading companion ends up being a Nokia 770. It’s connected to my home wifi network, let’s connect to my bookmarks and I can even read PDFs.

    The new Nokia N800 (or N810 that was just launched) even add a webcam – though not for the bathroom, I suppose. And the N810 has a keyboard if stylus input is a dealbreaker.

  7. zerohalo

    “Er, what? You want me to pay to read what I can get for free online?”

    I think you missed the point. You’re paying for the delivery service, not the content. While accessing NYT online may be free, when’s the last time you could do so while sitting on the beach nowhere near a wifi hotspot? Yeah, you could do the same with the iPhone and a 2-year ATT contract, but that makes the Kindle look cheap.

  8. Todd Sieling

    The more I read about this thing yesterday, the more I thought it was a hilarious joke. After checking my calendar and with a friend who worked for Amazon previously, I learned it’s a real offering.

    I just don’t know where to start – it’s fugly, limited to the point of being broken, and that screen. Oh, mine eyes.

    Where does Bezos get his peyote? If it makes Kinder look good I need some of that.

  9. Len Edgerly

    I bought one and confess that I love it. When I inadvertently broke the screen by resting my elbow on it (the screen is VERY delicate, it turns out), I resented going back to “real” books while I waited for replacement (which Amazon is shipping free of charge even though I clearly broke it). I find the screen easier on the eyes than a backlit computer screen, and curling up with the Kindle is ergonomically pleasant. I’ve loaded big pdf files on it for 10 cents a crack, no big deal.

    Longer post on my early experience here:

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