Kindle as “Future of Reading”? More like Present … of stupidity.

I don’t usually pan products here but the Kindle coming out from Amazon tomorrow is *really* a bad idea.   Not because it wouldn’t be neat to have a great reading device to replace books, but because of the demographics involved here.   Amazon is going to be lucky to sell enough Kindles to keep this project going through Christmas.     Part of the challenge for the Kindle is that it’s ugly.   Butt ugly based on the picture, though some are saying the Kindle picture does not do it justice.

Newsweek Reports with a title that is now in first place for journalistic hyperbole gone mad. 

But even if the Kindle was an AppleEsque stylish, techological beauty, who do they think will buy these things?

The early adopters of techology – folks like me who have a lot of computers, a laptop, and a fancy phone *already have* devices where we can read blogs and websites and books.   Oh yes, most of that reading is free on my laptop, where the Kindle is going to charge you – even for blogs if early reports are correct.  Sure it would be nice to have a portable reader for the coffee shop when I don’t have a real book to bring there.     But I *do* have a real book around somewhere that I do bring to the coffee shop if I’m not bringing my …. laptop … which gives me more than just reading capabilities.    Can I blog from the Kindle?    I’m not going to carry a Kindle AND my Laptop around with me.

OK, so what about those folks who are not attached to their technologies pretty much every waking hour?   The folks who may not even have a laptop to carry around.    They are going to budget $399 for a .. ummm …. ugly Kindle?  Huh?  The folks who don’t particularly like computers or gadgets and don’t think it’s fun to have a laptop at the coffee shop are going to jump right out and buy an ugly, new, unusual ….. uber gadget?     No.    What will the marketing say “Luddites of the world wake up and get out your wallets, because the Kindle is the high technology for YOU!”

As Matt Ingram notes, what in the world is Jeff Bezos smoking over there?.    The Kindle is yet another gadget designed by the folks who have everything for the folks who have everything, and therefore brings to the marketplace pretty much … nothing.  

OK, I’ve been mean and harsh because I think the Kindle is going to fail pretty dramatically.   I also feel bad because I understand Jeff Bezos is a cool, nice guy.    Yikes, I’ll never get a job selling Kindles door to door now, but the ugly Kindle truth is more important than that.   However, I would have to say that *some day* we may see lots of this type of device in libraries and coffee shops as a great way to bring people fresh and hugely diverse content without subscriptions to hundreds of magazines and papers and blogs and websites.   That is the neat part of this idea, but unfortunately for it to work the Kindle would need to kindle a lot of interest in the device as much as the idea, and this won’t do that.

3 thoughts on “Kindle as “Future of Reading”? More like Present … of stupidity.

  1. I don’t think the Kindle will be a hugely popular device; even if it was pretty, it’s too expensive. But I can tell you why I bought one: While I have all those other gadgets, and have been reading e-books consistently for ten years now on my Palms, extended reading on CRT and LCD screens kind of sucks. That is, I think, why so many people swear they will never give up their paper books.

    On top of that the battery life of palmtops and especially laptops is really too limited for book reading. Back when I had a black-and-white Palm (5000 and later V and Handspring Edge) the battery would last for a couple of weeks of a few hours a day of reading. With today’s color LCD technology, though, I’m lucky to get eight hours and six is typical. Six hours is not even one trip across the US on a plane unless it’s direct. I often bring paperbacks purely because I know the battery won’t make it, even though the Palm is otherwise superior given that it has a library of about 80 books in it; I will never run out of reading material on a trip (and be forced to buy something lousy at the airport shop).

    To me the current generation of e-ink based readers bring back the weeks between recharging I loved with my original Palm devices, and provide the best electronic screen ever created for reading — it’s not quite paper, but it’s pretty darn good.

    I skipped the Sony device, which certainly has it over the Kindle in price and form, largely because it was highly limited in terms of formats it could take. That need not be a killer; I have tons of eReader documents on the Palm. Unfortunately the Sony book store had very few titles I was interested in. I compare that to the e-book title availability on the Palm and there is just no contest.

    Amazon brings all of the major publishers to their Kindle party, something no e-book before has offered. Even right out the door it has almost as many e-books as the largest PDA vendor, and far more than all other dedicated readers. The book selections are good, too. Needing some titles to start fiddling with the book I went browsing for both current titles and back-catalog titles. I found almost all of what I was looking for. New title availability is far superior to any other e-book store I have ever seen.

    The extra-base hit compared to previous e-book readers is the wireless access. With that I effectively have access to tens of thousands of books with only a few keypresses almost anywhere, brought to the device in a minute or two. The convenience and accessibility that brings are second to none. Compare the ease of getting a new book with the Kindle versus all previous technologies. With the exception of the Rocketbook (with its built-in analog modem) you were SOL if you weren’t near your PC. This, and push of dailies and periodicals, are very big features.

    You raise some good points, and yet as I’ve said there are reasons that the device is at least somewhat appealing now It’s definitely not mainstream technology yet, but I think it has just defined the playing field whereas previous attempts were rather haphazard.

    As for the future: They’ll make it look better. Color e-ink will be available. It will be faster, handle more formats. I expect subsidized readers within five years, although the actual cost of the device ought to hit $100 within two or three years anyway. These and other rough spots are sure to be smoothed out in the coming years. Many of the problems are A Simple Matter Of Software, not expensive to fix.

    I bought this thing primarily because I want to play with it, see how well it works in the real world. But it would have to be a lot worse than various reviews suggest for me not to prefer it over reading on the Palm, and it sure will be nice to have something that works on longer trips without frequent charging so I don’t have to lug books around.

    YMMV, but people have panned all kinds of technologies that turned out to be long-term hits. Remember the Rio? We’re still in roughly that time-frame in the e-book reader world. Lots of things are yet to come.

  2. Pingback: On the reaction to Amazon’s Kindle

  3. Jim thanks for that very thoughtfully detailed post. At $100 and more of a discount for the fact the publishers don’t need to spill any ink, I can see the economics of this changing considerably. I’m not convinced Amazon would be the key beneficiary of that change though, especially given that they have set the price bar very high here and are unlikely to “devalue” the device anytime soon.

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