The Kindle

I really don’t know what to think about the Amazon Kindle.
My immediate reaction was extreme skepticism. After all, e-books have been around for years; even the much-heralded electronic ink technology the Kindle uses isn’t new, and as reading computer screens is much easier for me than reading paper, it isn’t exactly a virtue either. Steve Levy’s Newsweek cover story seemed to confirm my impression of the device as non-news being excessively promoted because it’s from Amazon (Levy compares Jeff Bezos to Gutenberg – really). When Apple gets that type of breathless hype, I listen; Steve Jobs has rarely, if ever, failed to meet the spectacular expectations the press sets for him. Bezos, on the other hand, lacks such a track record.
But I had nagging concerns that it might actually be good, so I checked out the product page. It’s decidedly less objective than your average Amazon page, which is understandable, and it contains several testimonial videos; I think it’s safe to say that the Kindle is the only product ever plugged by both Toni Morrison and Guy Kawasaki. The demonstration video included, however, was quite helpful. The Kindle does seem remarkably convenient, both in its self-sufficiency (there’s literally no computer involved) and its form factor. It may sound silly (because it is), but one of the main reasons I read computer text much faster than book or magazine text is page-turning, and the Kindle really turns that into a non-issue. It seems like I could get used to reading this way.
But reading what? It would make no sense to blow $10 a pop on books I already own and haven’t gotten around to reading. I opened the Amazon pages of all 35 books on my wish list, only to find that none of them had a Kindle version. This may get better over time, but for now there’s nothing attractive in the book department for me. I can already read the NY Times and Washington Post online for free, so spending $14 or $10 a month, respectively, on them seems more than a little ridiculous. I already subscribe to the print editions of all the magazines I’d want to read, so spending $1 or $2 a month on those is useless too. Finally, there’s easily the worst feature of the Kindle: it forces you to pay for blogs. Seriously. And you can’t buy any old blog, of course. You have to choose from the ones they’ve chosen. And in the news/politics category at least, they haven’t chosen well at all: there are 15 total, 7 of which are produced by news organizations, 3 of which are conservative (and noxiously conservative at that: Instapundit, Michelle Malkin and
Wizbang), two of which are non-press but neutral (Truemors and Boing-Boing), two of which are liberal (Huffington Post and Crooks & Liars), and one of which is a hate site (Little Green Footballs). The absence of Daily Kos is pretty conspicuous; considering the inclusion of LGF, I wonder why they didn’t throw in Stormfront for good measure.
And that leaves…nothing. As it stands, there’s absolutely nothing I could read on it that a) I haven’t already bought elsewhere or b) I can’t already get for free elsewhere. I do think the Kindle looks promising; I’d like to try it sometime to see if it’s as intuitive and comfortable as it appears to be in their demo video. But it’s hard to change the way people read when there’s nothing for people to read. And for me at least, that’s the current state of affairs with the Kindle.

2 thoughts on “The Kindle

  1. Daring Fireball pointed out its worst flaw: all of its content is strongly DRM protected, and it will only support its own proprietary format.
    Other formats like RTF can be converted to that format to read on it. The one format that it DOESN’T support and can’t be converted is PDF. Now if I had a device like that, the one format I would want it to support is PDF.

  2. Yeah, I agree with Mike – it’s primary problem is DRM or at least lack of the ability to read DRM free formats.
    I think the library problem where not enough content is available yet is a tacklable problem – I hope Amazon is already hard at work. Still while it of course isn’t going to help you with your existing library, I think it has merit going forward if it can grow it’s content quickly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s