Kindle: Colour me still unconvinced

by Mathew on November 19, 2007 · 13 comments

So Amazon has launched the Kindle, its e-book reader, with a press release and an event with CEO Jeff Bezos, which TechCrunch is live-blogging. Several sites have hands-on details, including Engadget (which I would be happy to pay for, Ryan, just not via a monthly fee).

If anything, my skepticism about the Kindle — some of which I allowed to escape in this post yesterday about the paying for blogs option — has increased. And not just because it looks (as someone said) like a giant version of a Handspring PDA from 1997, although I think that’s going to reduce the demand more than Amazon might like to think.

The thing that I’m really torn about is the wireless connectability. On the one hand, it’s great to have a device that can download books (although it reportedly takes a while), and it’s nice that Amazon has built that into the price. But then you have to pay to access the RSS feeds of blogs, which makes no sense — especially if, as Boing Boing notes, you can go to the blog directly with the built-in “experimental” browser. At this point, I feel compelled to use the phrase “WTF?” again.

The wireless also isn’t Wi-Fi, but a specially configured version of EVDO, so you can’t do all kinds of things with it. In other words, the wireless connection is sort of crippled, just as a whole series of other things about the device are crippled — and that would include the inability to put certain kinds of content on there because of the proprietary or restricted formats that Amazon is using.

I’m with Rex Hammock on this one: I would much rather have a larger version of the iPod Touch (assuming we could hack it, of course). Saul Hansell thinks we might get something like that in the future. Fred Wilson — who was approached about including his blog on the Kindle — says he thinks the whole idea of a dedicated e-book reader is ridiculous, and Kevin Kelly says he sees e-books as just one possible app on the Cloudbook of the future.

  • http://www.en-dash.com/blog Jake

    The blog thing is super dumb, but I guess they're hoping to get some money for things that will require significant cell bandwidth use. That said, this will create a great niche for a web-based RSS reader made specifically to work on the Spindle web browser.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Definitely, Jake. And how much bandwidth is the average blog going to
    use anyway?

  • http://www.en-dash.com/blog Jake

    Well my thinking is that a blog creates continuous, regular bandwidth use, whereas a book is a one-time (or maybe two- or three-time, but not many-time) bandwidth hit. Depending on how it works (like whether the user can manually check for updates or if it's automatic and occasional), a blog subscription could use up a lot more bandwidth than a book.

    Amazon will have a better idea of how this works, money-wise, once people start using it. I would be surprised if they don't revise this position once the nerds start revolting.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Good point Jake.

  • http://www.rewinder.ca Greg

    Can someone say… Segway?

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Good one, Greg.

  • http://www.sabreean.com Constance Reader

    Another “WTF?” feature is that in order to download a public domain book to this thing you have to pay, but why would someone do that instead of sending that browser over to the Gutenberg Project or Google book search?

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Good point, Constance.

  • http://www.sabreean.com Constance Reader

    But it could be that this thing will work. I wrote on my own blog that while it seems really, really stupid to imagine that people would pay for something they can get for free, I looked over at my colleague's desk.

    At the $3 bottle of water.

    So as stupid as it may sound, it has precedent.

  • Norm Potter

    Look for a wireless Apple tablet computer coming in January 2008.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    depending on the price, weight, etc. that could kill the Kindle dead.

  • Roy

    Does it do color? Seems aimed at the novel (fiction) market… so non-fiction is out methinks. Personally I will stick with my Tungsten for a while longer.

  • Roy

    Does it do color? Seems aimed at the novel (fiction) market… so non-fiction is out methinks. Personally I will stick with my Tungsten for a while longer.

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