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.