Amazon’s Kindle: pay to read blogs? WTF?


So lots of people probably know by now (at least if they read Techmeme) that Amazon is launching an electronic book-reading gizmo called the Kindle on Monday, and there’s a gigantic cover story about it in the latest issue of Newsweek magazine. Speaking of which, the Kindle will apparently be a magazine and newspaper reader too, letting you read publications that you’ve downloaded using its built-in wireless connection.

amazoneink-thumb2.jpgFirst things first — I think that Bezos is right to emphasize the wireless aspect, which is based on a cellular-style service that Amazon is calling Whispernet. Previous e-book readers had to be hooked up to the PC or a cradle of some kind in order to download new books via the phone line and so on, but being able to buy and download them almost instantaneously will add a whole other dimension (I realize that the iPod has managed to succeed without that ability, but then I think music is different from books in a whole bunch of ways).

The second thing that hit me was the part where Steven Levy says that users will be able to download books, newspapers and magazines, and will even be able to “subscribe to selected blogs, which cost either 99 cents or $1.99 a month per blog.” That one made me do a double-take. Pay a monthly subscription fee to read a blog? Either Levy and/or Bezos have been smoking something, or they have found some magical way to get people to pay for something that has historically been free.

I’m trying to think of a blog that I would pay money to read, and nothing is really coming to mind — not even Engadget or TechCrunch or Boing Boing. But that line of thinking raises the inevitable question: if a blog like Engadget is pretty much as good as a magazine (which I think it is), then why would people pay for one but not the other? That can lead you in one of two directions: charge for the blog, or don’t charge for anything. We know which one Jeff has chosen — but is it the right one?

Other questions include: Is it really as ugly as it looks in the photo? Steve Levy says no on his blog, but David Rothman of TeleRead says yes. And will it be open and support industry standards, or will it be full of awkward proprietary formats and DRM?

Comments (32)

  1. Tony Hung wrote::

    It is truly and utterly fugly. I don't care what anyone says about holding it, or “people called the Nano fugly”, or what have you. That thing was dropped out of the fugly tree and was hit numerous times on the way down. I mean jaysus, with all that beige and the hard edges, it practically *screams* beige-box PC, circa 1995. (Where's the Gateway logo, man?)

    Sunday, November 18, 2007 at 7:21 pm #
  2. mathewi wrote::

    yeah, I have to agree, Tony — it doesn't even have a kind of anti-chic ugly look. It's just plain ugly.

    Sunday, November 18, 2007 at 7:27 pm #
  3. Jeremy Toeman wrote::

    Good post Mathew – I think Kindle is failware ready to happen. My $0.02

    Sunday, November 18, 2007 at 9:33 pm #
  4. Rob Hyndman wrote::

    Yup – I'm wondering how anything that ugly makes it though to production. Bezos must have wanted this one *an awful lot* for all those smart people to bite their lip.

    On the pay for blogging thing – like any other wireless service, I suppose people wouldn't be paying to read blogs so much as they'd be paying for the convenience of being able to do it wherever. I mean, it's just a device specialized for reading, isn't it? I suppose there *might* be lots of written content that people might want to access wherever or a device that makes reading a pleasure.

    Well, no, there isn't, actually. ;)

    Sunday, November 18, 2007 at 9:36 pm #
  5. strfireblue wrote::

    My first reaction to seeing photos of the Kindle was to react as others did. This thing is waaay too ugly for anyone to want to purchase it. Not with the iPod as comparison. People looking for new gadgets want something that's slim and shiny, which the Kindle clearly is not.

    Avid book readers, and ebook readers like myself, may not be turned off as quickly. I read all my books on a Palm Zire, whose tiny screen kills my eyes on a daily basis. If I'm willing to sacrifice my vision to bring my books with me, then I think I could shell out some cash to have something as ugly as the Kindle. It's the books I care about, not what the reader looks like.

    If it was $100 cheaper I'd be all over it.

    Sunday, November 18, 2007 at 10:08 pm #
  6. Daniel Ha wrote::

    I didn't look into the Kindle at all really, but it looks like an uglier way more expensive Sony Reader.

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 2:44 am #
  7. Dominic wrote::

    $399? BEFORE I read anything, including stuff that used to be free? Wad dem smokin' indeed.

    Sunday, November 18, 2007 at 10:41 pm #
  8. wrs wrote::

    Well, the Kindle is a kind of service, isn't it? So why not try to charge for it? Being bound to sit on a computer to read blogs is a drawback.

    I think Bezo's approach is perfectly in the line of Techdirts unified theory on the economics of free.

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 12:03 am #
  9. mathewi wrote::

    If Amazon wants to charge for the wireless access, that's fine with me. Charging for the content is a different story.

    Are they going to have tiers or packages like cable? You can have a bundle with Proust, Dostoevsky, the New York Times and PaidContent, but not Engadget, unless you get the sports package… what a nightmare.

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 8:49 am #
  10. Of course, the blog subscription serivce also begs the question, if Amazon is making money off a blog, where does the creator of that blog sign up to get their cut of the profits. Every content creator deserves to be compensated when money is made off their content, regardless of how its delivered.

    Is Amazon contracting with certain bloggers to make their content available for a fee? One would hope.


    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 12:23 am #
  11. GearsofWar wrote::

    They are paying a kickback to the bloggers listed, based on subscriptions sold:

    Now, correlate that list with how those blogs are currently covering the launch, given they have been given a stake in its success :p

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 7:08 pm #
  12. I was under the impression that bloggers would pay the monthly fee to be featured on the Kindle, not that people would pay to subscribe to blogs. If people had to pay for blogs, wouldn't Amazon have to pay the bloggers for monetizing their content? I don't think Amazon can charge for content that I write and intend to make free to people, can they?

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 12:25 am #
  13. mathewi wrote::

    I assume they're going to make deals with certain blogs, Matthew. At least that's the way I read the Newsweek story.

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 8:50 am #
  14. Tony wrote::

    Amazon is in favor of DRM-free these days (as evidenced by their MP3 store). I don't think they'd do DRM books since that's not really their style.

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 12:30 am #
  15. Ryan Block wrote::

    Thanks! Although I might be 5% more flattered if you felt we were worth paying for, too.

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 1:41 am #
  16. mathewi wrote::

    Tell you what, Ryan — let's cut Jeff out of the loop and I'll send you the 99 cents a month directly :-)

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 8:42 am #
  17. Aaron Huslage wrote::

    You forget that there apparently is *no* monthly service fee associated with the device. I'm sure you (or someone you know and love) pays for your bandwidth at your home or office.

    Charging a small monthly fee for certain things makes sense (although .99 seems a bit steep) given the network connectivity that you're getting for free if you don't download anything onto the device. Someone has to pay the bills.

    Amazon, whomever they're buying their wireless from and the blog publishers are not charities. They want to build an industry and if they need to actually <gasp> charge money for stuff then we as consumers will need to assign value to those things.

    Just going OMG they're gonna CHARGE for something that I read for Free( like this blog…the one with ADS all over it that pay for it) is not the solution to solving your content woes, my friend.

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 2:20 am #
  18. mathewi wrote::

    Aaron, I don't have any content woes — I read things on the Internet and they are free, apart from what I pay to access the Internet. If Amazon wants to charge a fee for the wireless access, that makes sense to me — but then I already pay a fee for my cellphone, and I can read any blog or information source I want to on there as easily as I can on the Kindle.

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 8:46 am #
  19. David wrote::

    It doesn't look so ugly if you look at the final product, which is a tone whiter than the FCC leaked one.

    Check out… for some real photos.

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 5:22 am #
  20. It looks like some sort of handheld medical device, like a heart or blood sugar monitor. Now THAT'S ugly.

    And for $399? My library card is free, my books don't need batteries and they won't be destroyed if I drop them.

    I can also see air travel hassles. I travel a lot for business and I've seen several occasions on which a traveler patiently tried to explain what “airplane mode” means to a flight attendant who refused to listen. You'd think the airlines would have sent a memo or something, but…

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 1:06 pm #
  21. HalJ wrote::

    Wait, as a blogger, are they going to pay US to allow our blogs to stream on their device? If not, I'll look for a way to block it. Blogs are monetized by ads, and how would I make money from those readers? Surely we could block their IP range from accessing our work.

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 5:48 pm #
  22. mathewi wrote::

    It's something you have to sign up with Amazon to be part of, Hal —
    as PaidContent and others have. That raises an interesting question
    though: if I pay for those feeds on the Kindle, do they come with ads?

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 5:52 pm #
  23. pants part deux wrote::

    wow. this thing looks like a medical device.
    dont let motorola see this! they will want to add a camera + mp3 player to it!

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 6:56 pm #
  24. panamajack wrote::

    I suppose Amazon sees this precisely as a way to *creatively* charge for the EVDO bandwidth in an ala carte fashion (while also trying to make a buck for themselves and their affliated A-list bloggers) … which does make a bit of sense when considering that your Kindle book purchase is directly subsidizing the bandwidth as well. Certainly though the web has come full circle when it comes to providing free content (when is the G&M going to drop online subscriptions a la the NYT and WSJ by the way ?).

    How much would you personally pay to have unlimited RSS feeds downloadable whereever you go? How about a selection of any 20 blogs provided ? I think the latter at $5 a month would be my pricepoint.

    Oh but why oh why so fugly !

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 10:43 am #
  25. wraith808 wrote::

    Being able to download books wirelessly… I already do that on my phone. And my phone does other stuff. Like… make calls. And i can carry it with me anywhere. I jumped on the whole dedicated reader thing when it came out a few years ago, and didn't like it. And I don't see anything compelling about this entry, either.

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 2:16 pm #
  26. panamajack wrote::

    Wraith, where can you wirelessly download new releases (in any format) for $9.99?

    Heck, where can you download any major new hardcover release for $9.99 ?

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 11:23 pm #
  27. wraith808 wrote:: I can do it from either from my Blackjack… and did it on my mx220 and my HTC Star Trek… this isn't new.

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007 at 3:29 pm #
  28. Karoli wrote::

    I don't get the whole concept. First of all, what is the point of the keyboard if you're reading, not writing? Second, I know of no eBook reader that's been even moderately successful no matter how much buzz there is around it, so why would they put any effort into this? Being a bookworm myself, I'd much rather have that new book with the freshly-printed smell and smooth paper in my hand.

    The only application that I can see for a device like this is educational. If textbooks can be put on it, it would be helpful for students. But even then, college students would just as soon have it on their laptop, and K-12 students wouldn't necessarily be trusted to keep it operational, so I'm not sure it's a great solution for that either.

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007 at 4:40 pm #
  29. mathewi wrote::

    I agree, Karoli. It seems like a gadget with no obvious reason for
    being. Kind of like the Segway :-)

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007 at 4:56 pm #
  30. Raymond wrote::

    I think this is unfair for all the bloggers around the world. Amazon was not the one who writes the blog, why the heck would he ask for a payment for something that he didn't publish?

    Come to think about it, Amazon is serving us with Whispernet for free.. So do you think they will compensate the payment from whispernet through the means of paid subscription on blogs?

    And, if this is the point.. Then should we also say that Amazon must divide the earnings to the bloggers?

    Wednesday, January 2, 2008 at 6:38 am #
  31. john wrote::

    you can but the kindle here..its the best!

    Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 11:16 pm #
  32. janf wrote::

    Take a look at Kindle Netshop that are in Association with Amazon.

    Take a look….

    Best Regards


    Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

Trackbacks/Pingbacks (14)

  1. Notes from a Teacher: Mark on Media » The first “r” on Sunday, November 18, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    […] I’m with Mathew Ingram in being puzzled by one of the services that will be available: the ability to subscribe, for a […]

  2. Amazon Kindle To Debut On Monday on Sunday, November 18, 2007 at 9:59 pm

    […] able to browse the web, and Amazon is offering access to some blogs for a monthly subscription fee (some bloggers are wondering why Amazon is charging for […]

  3. Transnets » Blog Archive » Livre 2.0: nous y sommes presque on Monday, November 19, 2007 at 2:28 am

    […] Monde, le New York Times et le Wall Street Journal) et mêmes blogs (pour lesquels il faudra payer ce qui ne réjouit pas tout le monde […]

  4. Amazon Reader Hate « Scobleizer — Tech geek blogger on Monday, November 19, 2007 at 3:35 am

    […] Mathew Ingram: WTF? […]

  5. Pilgrim’s Picks for November 19 - Reversed Edition on Monday, November 19, 2007 at 8:56 am

    […] have you been this weekend? Oh wait, you have a life outside of the "internets?" Well, Mathew Ingram is pretty shocked–us too–that you’ll have to pay to download RSS feeds from blogs–say what […]

  6. Kindle, SitePoint, Network Design, Video Games on Monday, November 19, 2007 at 11:15 am

    […] Kindle has officially been announced. Lots of Techmeme coverage. Steven Levy, Rafat and Matt Ingram have good coverage. Three key thoughts on this from me. First, b5media is providing a tonne of the […]

  7. Kindle: Big Money if Amazon Gets it Right « SmoothSpan Blog on Monday, November 19, 2007 at 11:41 am

    […] 99 cents to 1.99 a month per blog and I read 171 blogs as of this writing.  Mathew Ingram is right when he says, “Pay to read blogs? WTF?”  The economics make no sense for that, and I’ll have […]

  8. Kindle: Colour me still unconvinced - - on Monday, November 19, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    […] ← Amazon’s Kindle: pay to read blogs? WTF? […]

  9. Astroturfing Turkey: Shelfari » The Buzz Bin on Monday, November 19, 2007 at 10:39 pm

    […] from Amazon. Yes, the same Amazon that pissed off many authors across the social media sphere with their BS Kindle reader that gives away intellectual property for […]

  10. […] Saturday, Matthew Ingram noticed this about the Kindle: The second thing that hit me was the part where Steven Levy says that users will be able to […]

  11. Kindle and burn - Clicked - on Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    […] You pay to read some blogs on it but you can also navigate to other blogs for free?On that subject this stuck with me:”If a blog like Engadget is pretty much as good as a magazine (which I think it is), then why would […]

  12. Amazon Kindle | Sam Levenback on Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    […] including a cover story in Newsweek. Everyone has something to say: Robert Scoble, Seth Godin, etc, etc, etc. Most of the reviews are cautiously negative. A lot of people will be arguing that ebook […]

  13. RSS, Meet Television | Scott Clark - Finding the Sweet Spot on Monday, January 14, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    […] Developer Platform. Amazon sure blew it with Kindle as a “walk around RSS reader” by charging people to subscribe to RSS feeds, and my Blackberry Google Reader is not that great for monitoring things […]

  14. […] 99 cents al mese per leggere alcuni blog. Anche se � un prezzo cos� basso, Matthew Ingram commenta con una semplice abbreviazione : ‘WTF’. Che non vuol certo dire, ‘whaaa, troppo […]