The Mandelbear's Musings - Kindle? or fizzle?
Nov. 20th, 2007
09:53 pm - Kindle? or fizzle?
If you want everyone else's opinion, see the links after the cut. Here's mine: interesting play, but it's in the wrong game.
You see, Kindle is Amazon's attempt at an iPod for books. They're using what they hope is an elegant, convenient, and reasonably-priced piece of hardware (which I'd guess that they're selling at pretty close to cost when you factor in the pre-paid data plan) to sell digital copies of books (which are fairly expensive considering all the atoms they don't have to handle compared with their dead-tree counterparts).
Apple, on the other hand, is using convenient access to an extensive collection of audio tracks (which they sell at pretty close to cost) to sell a particularly elegant and convenient, but overpriced, piece of hardware. Apple isn't even in the hardware business, really: they understand that they're in the fashion business, and have made it really easy for other companies to sell accessories for iPods.
Hands up, who's going to build fashion accessories for the Kindle? Don't all speak at once... How many people are going to buy a Kindle for each of their kids? Is anybody going to let their kids loose on a piece of hardware that lets them buy books at $10/pop at the click of a button? That's what I thought.
The iPod succeeds, even in a market where there are plenty of far cheaper players, because its fashionable and because it's part of a large ecosystem of fashionable accessories. The iTunes lockin is negligible because hardly anyone bothers with it -- I seem to remember reading that the average iPod user downloads about three tracks from iTunes. The rest are all mp3's from ripped CDs.
There are cheaper alternatives to the Kindle, too: PDAs, smartphones, and of course paper books. You need a player of some sort to listen to a CD, and if you have a computer it's easy to rip any CD in your collection and put it on your iPod. You don't need a reader to read a book, and you can't put it on your Kindle!
See the difference?
Eventually, electronic readers are going to largely supplant paper; in order for that to happen they need to be cheap, and they need to be able to read books originally printed on paper. The first will happen pretty quickly: five or ten years. The second will require a display the size of a full page, and the ability of people to freely pass actual scanned page images from all those legacy books that were published before the age of computerized typesetting. That is going to require a massive shift in the copyright laws, and Amazon isn't going to help with that, any more than the RIAA is, and for the same reason: they need to protect their failing business model.
Meanwhile, if you're going to spend $400 on something that read electronic books, buy something that can also browse the web for free, display PDFs, and play videos. A low-end laptop, a PDA phone, a media-player, or an internet tablet. All but the laptop will also be small enough to fit in your pocket.
I ordered my XO a week ago, thanks.
Just to have everything all in one place, here are some links to what I've been reading in the last couple of days:
Amazon Kindle eBook Review (Verdict: Confusing, Expensive...but
15 Things I Just Learned About the Amazon Kindle in BoingBoing
Kindling Openness and Impact on O'Reilly
Amazon Kindle vs. Sony Reader and What You Missed: Kindle Coverage in Wired
folly book reader in El Reg
Amazon Kindle Hands-On and Questions Answered (Gallery), Amazon Kindle Delivers Free EV-DO 'Whispernet' Service, and Comparing Amazon Kindle to E-Book Readers of Yesterday and Tomorrow in Gizmodo.
Many details about the Kindle in Engadget
Kindle's Overpriced Content in Techdirt
Amazon pushes Kindle book reader, but will anyone buy it? in BetaNews
Amazon Kindle: Kool or Krap? at Infoworld.