Monday, November 19, 2007

Is it a book? No, it's a Kindle!

Today, Amazon announced the release of the newest portable electronic book reader, Kindle. Kindle weighs only 10 ozs, uses the same network connections as a cell phone to download material, has no monthly fees or subscription for network usage, and projects the book pages in a way that looks amazingly like paper. New releases and best sellers can be downloaded for only $9.99 each, and users can also access a wide variety of magazines. The catch? It'll put you back $400 US if you order it from Amazon today. You could buy a lot of paperbacks for that price...

I'll admit that I'm excited. I mean, I am the girl who read ebooks on her pda for years, without complaint. But this just looks so close to printed text and is so convenient... The Kindle is being called the iPod of the book world; think for a moment about how the introduction of the iPod, iTunes and similar devices have changed the way we acquire and access music. Could Kindle do the same thing?

Does this hail the beginning of the end for books? I doubt it. But it is an interesting new technology with wide-reaching implications for anyone with an investment in the written word.


pstewart said...

A review of this one over at Boing Boing is kind of damning, especially considering that BB is one of the more gadget-friendly sites on the Web these days. The subscription fees for various services (including free ones), conversion fees, and the fact that it doesn't allow you to view PDFs or convert them to AZWs all seem kind of out there.

Technophile that I am, I think I'm staying with ink stains on wood pulp for awhile longer. I'm still holding out for one of these that doesn't nickel-dime its users or restrict what you're allowed to do with the thing.

Adam Crymble said...

I don't think much of that review. To suggest that Amazon is nickel and diming is a product of the "give me everything for free" generation that hasn't paid for anything since Napster came out.

Of course you have to pay for a newspaper feed. How else are the newspapers going to stay in business?

And as for the lack of Pdf compatibility; what the Kindle is trying to do is replace the Pdf with an experience that is more like a book. You don't scroll through a book, you flip the pages. And the Kindle is in competition with Acrobat, not collaboration.

VHS players never played Beta tapes. For years Macs couldn't plaly PC files. They're trying to redefine and capture the market, and by the looks of things they've got a promising little gadget there.

Remember, it's still new. They'll get better; and cheaper.

pstewart said...

There's a trend for newspapers putting their archives up for free these days. As we were told a few days back, they make more off advertising dollars than subscriptions these days, anyway. And charging for RSS feeds is patently absurd.

The VHS/Beta thing doesn't really work here, as it's far easier to convert a filetype than it is to convert physical media. If it can convert Word documents to the appropriate format (or if I can convert PDFs to arbitrary formats, which I can to a point), refusing to support PDF at all is a silly decision. Especially since PDF's the main high-quality document format these days.

I can't see a $400 gadget with functionality as limited as this one being much of a success, really. Maybe two or three generations of such devices down the road when the funcionality isn't quite so limited, but if this one gets anywhere I'll be surprised.

Sarah Waugh said...

As far as paying for content, Patrick, I also think you're missing the point that Amazon is not charging a monthly fee for data usage, or requiring anyone to sign a contract. Sure, you can use your Blackberry to access the New York Times website for free, but you're going to be paying your cell phone provider $60+ a month for the data charges.

And for the record, after communicating with my own "insider", Kindle does accept pdf and doc formats, however they do need to be emailed to the device, as they need to be converted to Kindle file format. This costs $0.10 per email, which is less than the cost of a text message on most cell phone plans.

I do see the price for the Kindle coming down, eventually. However, as a first-generation buzz toy, I don't see it as excessive. How many people cheerfully paid $600 for an iPhone (with a three year contract, none the less) when it came out in June? Kindle may not change the world right now, but I see it becoming a major force in the years to come.