« Best Truemors Posting Yet | Main | 23andme Party »

November 19, 2007

Amazon Announced Kindle

Today Amazon announced its foray into selling hardware with a data service. The device is called “Kindle,” and it represents a daring move for an “online bookstore.” You’re going to see two kinds of reviews: bad ones from people who haven’t used it and good ones from people who have. It’s that kind of product—plus Jeff Bezos’s reality-distortion field isn’t as large as Steve Jobs’s. I have used it and if someone gave me a choice of receiving an iPhone or a Kindle, I’d pick the Kindle. Here are the reasons I like it so much:

  • No computer required. Hooking up to, or synching with, a computer in any manner isn’t required. From my perspective, the ease-of-use of Bluetooth is a myth, and half the time a USB connection doesn’t work. Frankly, docking is for losers. You don’t even need to own a computer to use a Kindle. For light computer users (or for a heavy computer user on vacation), a Kindle can replace a laptop.

  • Content flows. Content is pushed to you via the EVDO wireless network. (This is the data network that’s about four times faster than the one used on an iPhone.) Think of Kindle as a Blackberry for blogs, newspapers, and magazines. You get up in the morning, and all the content you want to read is there (see below). You might be thinking there’s a catch: “I’ll have to pay a monthly subscription for EVDO,” but it’s not true. The $400 includes permanent access and unlike WiFi connectivity, you don’t have to find a hotspot and sign in using a WiFi account.

  • Content is king. Amazon has done a great job of lining up content from newspapers such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Le Monde; magazines such as Forbes, Fortune, Time, and Atlantic Monthly (but sadly, not Hockey News yet); and blogs such as TechCrunch, Scobleizer, Huffington Post, BoingBoing, Truemors (!), and Motley Fool. You have to pay for subscriptions, but you will not get on an airplane with nothing to read again. If you’re like me and load up on reading material before a flight, a Kindle (10.3 ounces) will save you several pounds of newspapers and magazines. Amazon has essentially create the “iTunes of documents” if you will.

  • Battery life is good. Considering that content is always being pushed to it, I found that battery life was good—going a couple of days without charging. If I were more judicious and turned off wireless at night, it would have lasted much longer but that defeats the purpose of push technology. If wireless is turned off all the time, it will go about a week on a charge. And it charges up very quickly: about two hours. Oh yeah, the battery is replaceable—what a concept.

  • The screen is perfectly readable. I was skeptical at first, but I had no issue with reading the pocket-book size screen, and I’m an old man who needs reading glasses. It’s not color, but I’d rather have a long battery life than color. Plus, most physical newspapers aren’t in color anyway. Some people will complain about how reading a book is easier than reading a screen, but some people complain about everything.

  • There’s a real QWERTY keyboard. Call me old-fashioned but I like to feel keys go up and down as I type. If Amazon would include a basic email client, life would be really good. Even a Twitter client like Snitter would do the trick. But Amazon’s EVDO expenses might go through the ceiling if people used Kindles as laptops.

Will it replace printed books? Many people are going to opine about whether Kindle can replace a good ole printed book (and Amazon seems very focused on this topic too). Most will conclude that it won’t because of cost, requirement to recharge, dropability, and dunkability (ie, in water), and in these ways it won’t. But this is mostly true for novels and any book that you’d read once and not again. However, for reference books, Kindle kicks butt. For example, I would love to have the Chicago Manual of Style on Kindle, so I can search for rules in a much better way than referring to an index. You can roll your own by sending documents to your account, and they will appear on your Kindle.

There are only two things that I didn’t like about the Kindle. First, the bottom corners of the frame feel like they will poke holes in your palms. There is a carrying case, but reading shouldn’t be a religious experience. Second, there isn’t a page back button for your right hand. This is bad feng shui because there is one for your left hand.

Summary: If you want something that requires very little attention that will deliver your favorite newspapers, magazine, and blogs, you should definitely check out Kindle. Having reference books and documents handy is also quite valuable. Reading electronic versions of novels is cream. If nothing else, you have to admire Amazon for trying things that are as interesting as Kindle, S3, and Mechanical Turk.

Comments

The Kindle will probably change things the way that the IPod has. It may, however, take a little longer to get used to. Lots of folks like the "feel" and smell of a newspaper, or a book.
Joel Libava
The Franchise King blog

No Coverage in Rural States!

I bought a Kindle with high hopes. I live in Missoula, Montana, which is one of the largest cities in the state. It turns out that the wireless connectivity that the Kindle requires does NOT work in Montana. After several tech support calls they admitted that there is no coverage in Montana. There may also be no coverage in other states, such as Wyoming and Alaska. This means that the Service component of the device is useless, and that many, many people may be duped. I think this is bait and switch advertising, and I think Amazon owes people in Montana, as well as other non-coverage areas, an apology.

I don't have a good feeling about this product. The reasons:

1. It's way too expensive. I would rather buy a laptop and ebook online.
2. The outlook of this product is not too appealing, can't create a sense of fashion.
3. Hope I am not mistaken... the display seems like black and white only.
4. The key board seems very straightforward to me. Should there be a cover or something?

This is a post I made to another forum back in 2003 regarding electronic books. I think it's held up suprisingly well:

I am a computer programmer, so I guess that could be interpreted as a professional relation to the topic. I am not involved in the publishing industry, electronic of otherwise. So I suppose this is mostly just strong opinion.

However, I do know a lot about how people react to new technology. Quite often they try to see the new technology in terms of the old technology. At best, this portrays the new technology as inefficient. At worst, it appears worthless.

Let me offer a related example, then I'll talk about electronic books. Take newspapers for example. News stories are written by journalists, printed overnight, and delivered to your door or newsstand every morning. People have built up routines around reading the newspaper in the morning, because that's when it arrives. Past speculations about the future of newspapers involved newspapers that was faxed to your house, or downloaded into your PC, or downloaded into a portable reading device. But one thing that never changed was that you always got the news in the morning. People could not get away from the idea that the news was delivered in the morning.

However, the only reason for receiving the newspaper in the morning was that it took overnight to print the news on paper and deliver it to the public. But once you take the paper away, this all changes. Just look at the news on the Web, and news headlines on pager networks, and you'll see what I mean. Printed news can be available as soon as it happens; once it is delivered electronically (I'm ignoring TV news for the moment).

People have built up this habit of reading the newspaper in the morning. But they did this because that's the only way it could be done! You got the newspaper in the morning; that was the best time to read it. You didn't read it in the evening because it was old news. You couldn't read it earlier because you didn't have it yet. But when you can get the news anytime, this habit goes away eventually. You stop looking at the new technology in terms of the old technology.

(You may want to research how radio got it's big push when someone thought of broadcasting instead of 'narrow' casting from station to station. This is a good example of a new technology opening a whole new frontier, once people stop thinking in terms of old technology, such as comparing radio to telegraphs.)

Ok. Now how does this relate to electronic books?

People may seem to have this attachment to paper. But this is only because they can't conceive of reading books in any other way. They have built up habits that involve dealing with the way books are marketed, printed, and bound. People thumb through books because that is the only way to scan the information inside. People browse bookstores because that's the only way you can tell what titles the store carries. People buy bookmarkers because that's the only way to mark your place. We have all these habits involving the act of reading, but all we really want to do is read. I'm sure you have been involved in a really good story, only to look up and realize that hours have passed by. I doubt that you were noticing anything but the story. Certainly you did not care about the feel, smell, or sound of the paper the story was printed on. You were caught up in the story behind the medium. (True bibliophiles are exempted from this argument, because they really do care about the smell/sound/feel of the paper book. But most of us are not bibliophiles)

Of course, if the medium inhibits one from getting involved in the story, then the medium is not as good as a paper book. Bad electronic displays, awkward sized reading devices and short battery lives all plague the current crop of electronic books. People who turn up their noses at electronic books always seem to focus on the problems with the current devices. Then they extrapolate and say "Something like this will never replace a real book". They are right, because the first devices are always clumsy and expensive, and rarely as good as they could be. But I believe all these problems can be solved. Future devices will be cheaper, lighter, with much better displays. I imagine the devices being so cheap at to be almost worthless, something like the credit-card-sized calculators you can get anywhere. I truly believe that electronic publishing will eventually replace most (not all) of the printed books in the world.

To offer support for my point of view I point to the triumph of compact discs over vinyl records. Of course there are still a lot of people who like records and buy records, but there are a lot more who prefer CDs. This is because most people are not audiophiles. They are not interested in nuances. They just want to hear reasonably clear music and they want to take it with them. CD's allow this. Records do not. The first CD players were large and expensive. The latest ones are small and cheap.

One difference is that electronic books do not have to be sold in stores, while CD's still are. MP3 may change all that. However, MP3 brings up a problem that also faces electronic publishing: copyright protection. This will continue to be a challenge with the electronic book industry.

"For example, I would love to have the Chicago Manual of Style on Kindle, so I can search for rules in a much better way than referring to an index."

Have you seen the online version of the Chicago Manual of Style? http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/ It does a lot more than you can do with a Kindle. You can create and store your own stylesheets for instance. And would a Kindle have all the hyperlinking and navigation utility of the web version? The web is a much more powerful and flexible publishing platform than these ebook readers.

I love gadgets and technologies and I enjoy getting them as soon as they become available. However, I think there is still a huge benefit in being able to give a printed book as a present or walk into a client’s office and leave a copy of your own book on their desk.

I think the key issue is that it provides us with choices.

What's needed is a replacement, with phone capabilities, for the Axim X50v. See http://doiop.com/X50v . This can/will blow away an iReader or the Kindle. And why Amazon is charging to read blogs is beyond one's imagination. Dumb business move. But for novels, the pricing is quite good.

This product seems to be an implementation of
Alan Kay's vision, the Dynabook :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynabook

a 40 years gap, between Vision to mass market production :-)

Please note if I did not write execution, that's because the Dynabook did get designed and built some 40 years ago :

http://www.artmuseum.net/w2vr/archives/Kay/01_Dynabook.html

I look forward to Apple's answers to Amazon's Kindle.

I think they've what it takes to make an I-Read type of device for books, that would be what the I-Pod is to Music.
In terms of usability no ones can make magic happens like Apple.
I need to a device that would allow me to browse and E-book as I brow a paper based book.

A new whole ecosystems can be created from such a device, like decent online book publishers, e-commerce site like ibooks.com (the itunes for books)

I think the device war has not yet started in that thing, at least I've not heard from it yet.

But bear in mind that I live far aware from the Valley ;-)

This raises a new speculation :
"Who is going to set the standard on E-book reader ?"

Best Regards from France,
Tarek

That means, even if all the blogs I followed were on Amazon's Kindle Blog service, I'd be paying $99 a month to read blogs

Amazon has always been a leader online, this doesn't surprise me at all.

Why would I buy ANOTHER gadget? I already have an Ipod ... two phones ... a computer. As a small business person I have to lug these around everywhere I go. Frankly, my Ipod touch allows me to follow my blogs and news feeds via wi fi. I'll download ebooks and print them off, normally.

People have tried this Ebook reader thing already. But the way forward (as we're seeing with phones and Ipods) is increasing the functionality of small gadgets so people have to carry less ... not building new ones so we have to carry more.

Great discussion about the Kindle at Fred Wilson's blog.

It kind of insightful personally to me how much identity we actually be investing in the way we use our devices and so IMHO these discussions fall under the category of "no right answer", for whatever works is what works and if it doesn't try something new.

M.

I live outside of the USA, and I am considering buying a Kindle. Yes, I will loose out on the subscription options :-(, but I will still be able to pre-load it with tons of e-books (you can connect it to a PC to manually upload books).

I do believe that there is a convertor to be able to load PDF's onto it.

For me, the great advantage is the ability to have tons of books in a small & portable device - the subscriptions is a bonus.

I live outside of the USA, and I am considering buying a Kindle. Yes, I will loose out on the subscription options :-(, but I will still be able to pre-load it with tons of e-books (you can connect it to a PC to manually upload books).

I do believe that there is a convertor to be able to load PDF's onto it.

For me, the great advantage is the ability to have tons of books in a small & portable device - the subscriptions is a bonus.

I love the idea of an ebook reader. That's why I've had one for the last two years. My Treo 650. You don't need a 6 inch display to read a book comfortably. I've read dozens of books on my Treo and enjoy the feeling of not having to carry a book (or an extra bulky reader) around. My library is in my phone!

Musing about my personal list of needs/ uses concerning media portability:

* I need an audio-carrying device, as I fill a 4-hour train commute or a 15-minute walk with MANY snippets of music and spoken-word podcasts (iPod). I need a syncing mechanism with my home-base (iTunes on desktop computer) or with my multi-purpose device I carry around anyhow (iTunes on laptop). I would need an online audio backup service (?).

* I need my portable multi-purpose device mentioned (Toshiba) to accomplish the MANY tasks of business and personal digital life.

* I need a mobile high quality camera (Nikon) to take MANY pictures. I need a syncing mechanism (Adobe Lightroom), and I need an online backup/ publishing service (flickr).

* I need a mobile phone to take MANY calls a day which additionally serves as a low-quality camera and recorder (Sony Ericsson). I need a syncing mechanism (Windows Explorer).

* I need a text display device to read say a MAX of 100 pages a day from a RESTRICTED number of sources (one or two books and two magazines/ newspapers) when not at home. Let it be 1000 pages for a holiday. But nevertheless: I concentrate on/ dive into ONE or TWO books then, reading sequentially. Concerning the magazines and newspapers: I browse them - which is different from searching. Paper is fine for that. The use case of researching (full-text search) is so tightly coupled to re-using the found text snippets instead of just reading them that I would use my laptop anyhow.

Is the Amazon Kindle the future of the book? No, definitely not. But ...

... it might be the future of a completely new need/ usage scenario.

Tell me how!

If I offered the Kindle to Tarzan, he would probably say "Me not buy this klunky thing, will wait for rollable display, to fit in loincloth".

Where I would differ from Tarzan is that IMHO the Kindle looks far too ugly a thing for me to buy, especially since that Steve Jobs dewd has now thoroughly spoiled me rotten about what looks good in userville, and since nothing lasts forever and all our electric toys end up in device heaven, it might as well look good while my personal thingy still works.

Come on besides that, I can't sneak a Kindle when I am invited to some boring social function where I am expected to be by high command, so I need both my sneaky peekies and I need my flashy dash and and so Wo! Bro! Kindle just don't go...for beauty is in the eye of beholder.

I guess it was faster for me to simply say, I ain't going to buy it never mind try it.

M.

Sweet review Guy. I'd love to get my hands on a Kindle. Does it integrate with your computer? For example, if I highlight a passage can it automatically stream this data into a document on my computer?

Guy:

I hope that your comparison of the Kindle to iTunes doesn't mean that it will be saddled with all the troubles that come with Apple's music program. Time will tell if your assessment remains true to your original review.

This is a great consumer play and will be wildly popular with two large constituencies - people who buy lots of books..........

Check out romance readership statistics.
http://www.rwanational.org/cs/the_romance_genre/romance_literature_statistics/readership_statistics

The comments people are making about college and textbooks being an important niche for this device don't know that cafescribe.com tried this with the Iliad a couple years ago. A lot of students liked the device, but since every college kid has a laptop these days, an expensive b/w e-book reader is a tough sell. Cafescribe now concentrates on PC-based e-books and creating communities and collaboration around textbooks and studying.

Another problem Amazon will have is getting the handful of companies that own the textbook business to open up. Textbooks are a huge business and the companies that own them do not want to cede a large portion of the profit to a distribution company like Amazon. Expect the large textbook companies to form a consortium to try to run this kind of thing first. They will have to fail before giving up the ground. (This isn't a guess. It is happening right now.)

The OLPC computer, XO, has a dual-mode color/BW display. I hope to see more of that technology in new mobile devices. The XO also has 200 dpi in BW mode. I think the Kindle looks pretty cool for a 1st-gen ebook, but I am holding out for next years replacement.

Kindle also seems to be more about being a mobile store than about being a flexible, personal reading device.

A nice review, but folks should know that bloggers like Guy will receive $40 from Amazon if they can get folks to buy a Kindle when clicking through the link they provide in their blog to buy one. Also, Guy will receive some royalties from his blog if folks subscribe to that on their Kindle. So one has to wonder if this review here isn't somewhat biased.

***********
Captain Latte,

Unlike my book reviews and author interviews, my Kindle link doesn't contain my Amazon Associates ID. I know I can make $40 each, but I was too lazy to do it.

As for royalty on my blog subscriptions, that is true. I would just be surprised if it's serious money. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and enthusiasm is just enthusiasm.

I suggest decaf.

Guy

What Ankit said. The greatest comparative advantage Kindle offers really applies to only a niche audience. They can be successful with this audience, but without a few tweaks to the features and price, it's going to be difficult to grow rapidly.

However, if they do focus on the college crowd, they can build a steady stream of customers who will use Kindle for all of their book purchases as they grow older.

Post a comment

This weblog only allows comments from registered users. To comment, please Sign In.

My Photo

Contact Me

  • bar.gif


VisualCV


Search this blog

Alltop

  • Alltop, confirmation that I kick ass

Advertising

Feed and Leads

Categories

Alignment of Interests

  • Alltop
    Stay on top of all the news topics.
  • BagTheWeb
    Find, bag, and share websites and articles.
  • Doba
    Drop-ship products for ecommerce sales.
  • Garage Technology Ventures
    Raise venture capital for your tech company.
  • Paper.li
    Publish social-media newspapers.
  • Statusnet
    Make an Open-Source Twitter for your organization.
  • Peerspin
    Pimp your MySpace pages.
  • Sixense
    Control your game like never before.
  • SocialToo
    Engage people at social media sites like Twitter.
  • StumbleUpon
    Find interesting stuff on the web.
  • TicketLeap
    Sell and manage online ticket sales for events.
  • Triggit
    Make real-time bids for online ad space.
  • DataSift
    Analyze big data from social media.
  • Tynt
    Trace who's using your website content.
  • uStream
    Stream video live.
  • Visible Measures
    Monitor how people interact with online video.
  • Writer.ly
    Find freelancers for book projects.
  • XAT
    Chat with people.

Optimization

  • quick sprout