Will the Amazon Kindle Be the Next ‘Must-Have’ Technology?

Amazon has just introduced a new e-reader called the “Kindle,” and it looks like a fantastic piece of technology. The company must have high hopes for the Kindle — today, when you type “www.amazon.com,” into your browser, you get a letter from Jeff Bezos touting the new product.

I have to say that it looks quite enticing. Amazon also provides a very persuasive video demonstration — in addition to being a great piece of marketing, it reveals that the folks at Amazon have excellent taste in non-fiction.

I’ve never actually read an e-book (after all, I am hopelessly behind when it comes to technology), but this new development is encouraging me to finally try. I would be interested to hear from readers who have tried both the Sony Reader and the Amazon Kindle as to which they prefer.


Michael

Given the long string of unsuccessful eReaders in the past, and your own admission of difficulty in judging new technology (see your "Advice for a Chronically Late Adopter?" blog entry) I'm hardly ready to jump onto the Kindle bandwagon.

Dan

The problem with the Kindle is that it costs $400. You have to an avid reader to make it worth while. Also, I think a good portion of avid readers like having the books on their shelf. Its an intellectual's trophy case.

Bryan Larsen

Too bad you can't actually buy any books to put on this device. This product is encumbered by DRM, so what you are really doing when you give Amazon money for a book is more akin to renting the book. Dive into Mark has a great commentary: http://diveintomark.org/archives/2007/11/19/the-future-of-reading including some quotes from Bezos himself.

Joel

The Kindle is not 'must-have'. First off, it's expensive. How can you justify a cost of $400 for the unit alone? The cost of text to read on it afterwards is similarly high, as well as locking the customer into having Amazon as the supplier of text.

The only way I could really see the cost being acceptable to the consumer is if they are a college student and they can buy textbooks for steep discounts. Of course for a myriad of reasons this isn't the case.

So the user is eating the cost of the device itself, and the price of the ebooks at $10 isn't going to help the unit "pay for itself" either. Charging money for things like the Times (which is fetched off the internet anyways!) which is already available for free with ads...

If it cost $100 it'd be the next must-have. $400 entry price on top of the not-really-competetive price of ebooks is going to make this a flop.

Allen Varney

Commentators have also complained about the Kindle's Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), which prevents you from lending books to others; and about the Kindle's terms of service, which permit it to phone home to Amazon with your entire reading list, bookmarks, and annotations.

Jrrd

The Kindle could be the next Ipod/Blackberry gadget. However, like those devices, I doubt that this first version will have across-the-board success. It seems a little clunky and the interface and buttons seem a little dated already. My guess is that Steve Jobs is already working on a sleek, futuristic-looking competitor to the Kindle. The only advantage that I see is Amazon's customer know-how and library of books. But I guess Apple would just have to sign on with B&N to fix the second issue. The real success and life-changing implication of the Kindle et al will be when they replace textbooks. America's backs will be relieved/straight when that happens.

Kyle

To me, the problem is content... until there are a lot more books available in e-formats, I'm not going to bother with an e-book reader, as much as I'd love to be able to carry 200 books in my purse (the choices!). But I'm not signing on based on what's currently available. Classics and bestsellers are all well and good, but where's my beloved midlist, my kidlit, my genre fiction?

88,000 books are available, and I know I sound like a crazy person, but that's not nearly enough!

Marianne

As an avid reader, I like having books on my shelf, but I would also like an easy way to take them with me. I view the Kindle as a potential add-on to my library (or would if I had the money to buy it). My books are always outgrowing my shelves anyway, so it would be nice to pare down what I have and find a better storage method.

How many avid music collectors are out there whose musical trophy case was a large collection of records/tapes/cds? How has the iPod changed that?

Cara

Are you crazy? Amazon's charging the same price for e-books as it is for real books, this is never going to fly.

logan

i've been theorizing non-tangible media for a while now and no ones really stepped up to the plate. think of how much cheaper a book is if it doesn't have to be printed, distributed, trucked, shelved, and handled by so many middle men. this goes for music, newspapers, dvds, etc. cheaper products means more people can get their hands on this stuff.

the kindle seems to fit the bill quite nicely. $400 is a bit much, but it also has more features than i'd imagined... free broadband, wow. i wonder if someone will hack it so that you can browse online and what not.

Steven

Heh. You'd think they'd give you some sort of promo copy of the Kindle after that kind of plug in the demo.

Mike

Several more problems: 1) The price. In addition to the $400, you still have to pay for the actual books. Assume the average hardcover book costs $20,and you can download them on the Kindle for $10 (the announced price). If you're saving $10/book, you need to buy 40 books to make it balance out financially. I'm guessing this is considerably more than most people will read in a year (or even two or three), meaning its hard to justify the upfront cost with savings over time.

2) How appealing is it to have immediate access to 200 books? Again (see #1) most people don't read nearly that much. Even for those who have significant libraries, is immediate access really that desired? About the only people I can see really wanting and/or needing this kind of access are people in the publishing industry itself and possibly academics. I just don't see where the demand is for this product.

An e-reader isn't comparable to portable music players for the simple reason that most people experience the desire to listen to various songs back to back. Few people experience the desire to read sections of various books in a short period of time.

3) It lacks one of the main benefits of reading printed materials - you can't highlight it, takes notes on it, mark certain passages, etc. This makes it much less appealing to students or to those (including academics and publishers) who would be using it for work-related purposes.

Read more...

logan

ok, now i read all about the DRM and prices...

why is it that no company can distribute digital media properly?

if it's not tangible and it's distributed via the internet if should cost FAR FAR less.

dear media companies,

make a device that can play movies, music, and anything you can read (magazine, book, blog, etc.). then make a website that distributes all of this DRM free for a small fraction of what these products normally sell for. make the quality and format better and more consistent than the pirated versions (and grant lifetime rights to that person so they can redownload the material anytime they want). watch your profits rise as record, book, and dvd retailers, distributors, and manufacturers go out of business because you've just made the marketplace way more efficient.

Aaron

Amazon made a big bet by including an EVDO modem, which jacks the price up, but charging for downloadable content that's offered for free. Who's going to pay $15 a month for the NY Times? Even the Times couldn't make a subscription model work. Why does Amazon think they're any different? Charging for "subscriptions" to blogs like BoingBoing is even more laughable.

Here's my vision for a business model for this device:

- Build a best-of-breed RSS reader. Borrow Google Reader if you'd like.

- Bake in Opera or Firefox for full web browsing. It's already running Linux, right?

- Charge $15-20 a month for unlimited data, or allow it to tether to your cell phone. Existing Sprint customers can add on a Kindle to their plan for $5 a month.

- Charge $2-10 for books. (I think they got this right the first time.)

- That's a device that's probably worth $200, and you're getting a cut of the EVDO revenue to make up the rest of the cost. If you're going to tether to your own phone, you pay the unsubsidized $400.

Read more...

Chance

No. It costs too much, compared to the Sony reader. Plus, I don't need or want a wireless ebook, if I wanted that I'd get a blackberry or something similiar. Also, in the description I see something about having to email Amazon to convert files. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the Sony device does that.

I was waiting until Kindle came out before making my choice, but now that I'm looking at it I know it will not be my pick.

Plus, it's kinda ugly.

Mike B.

There is almost nothing attractive about the Kindle. Not the price, not the DRM laden architecture that leaves you "owning" nothing tangible, and definitely not the stunning lack of an ability to read .pdf files, which would actually make this useful for the workplace.

The entire purpose of buying a digital copy of something is so that costs are lower, yet these Kindle-ized books are more expensive than used copies (and you can't resell them once you're done). Also, I'm hard on books, and can't imagine carrying a Kindle out with me to the Jacuzzi, for example.

Kindle=fail. Can't believe anyone could think otherwise.

Joel

Actually, this could lead into a blog post about the state of digital media. It is new ground for economics because a digital file like an mp3 or ebook may be reproduced with a cost so low it's within a few millionths of a cent of being 0. To stop piracy Amazon has severely limited what can be read by the Kindle down to their proprietary formats laced with DRM to enforce a traditional view of information as a finite commodity. After all, if the marginal cost of producing an ebook is, after a sufficient period of time, almost nothing then why are we still paying $10 instead of moving to a substantially different business model, instead of forcing a square peg into a round hole?

tim

Its not a must have device and it is not equivalent to the iPod and this theme comes around every couple of years. For the same reasons that everyone else already cited: price, DRM, and lack/price of content. People forget that when the iPod became available - it already had loads of content available to it - it was called the Compact Disc.

Besides the printed paper remains one of the most flexible means of distributing information. Easy to read, doesn't need batteries, doesn't break when you sit on it, and I can give the paper/book to a co-worker without an extra charge.

This model will only work if it is advertisement driven.

duder

Why can't we get these same benefits on our laptop? Or build it into our blackberry/iphone like device?

Personally, I wouldn't mind carrying around a device that was the size of a small laptop (because I usually have a bag) and a cell phone. But that's all I want to carry.

The laptop has to be powerful to run lots of applications but I don't need a large hard drive because I can keep things on flashdrives and external drives. The laptop should consolidate my bills, do all the things a computer does, and incorporate features of this kindle thing.

The cell phone needs to have a good camera. 5.0 mega-pixel at least.

As a consumer... that's what I want. Maybe that is already out there, but I'm not good enough with technology to either find or make the product sing the right tune.

Toni

I'm glad I found out about it here first. I'm too hooked to real books anyway, and to gutenberg.org and archive.org for anything else. Plus, anything that has to check back in with the mothership makes me nervous.