Amazon's Kindle eBook Reader

On Tuesday last week, to much fanfare and extreme skepticism, Amazon launched their Kindle book reader. If you went solely by invective and blog traffic, a casual observer might surmise that Amazon had been handed a monopoly on reading and thus any failure of the device was somehow a personal attack on the intelligentsia, rather than the release of a small niche-market consumer electronics device. Within hours there were hundreds of reviews on Amazon for the device, most extremely critical, yet by definition there were no devices in consumer's hands. Even a week later, the love-hate relationship seems far more fired up with invective than could possibly be justified based on what the device is, and more importantly isn't. Noted tech-wonk Robert Scoble went so far as to switch from baseline praise to mind-wrenching red-faced diatribe calling for unemployment lines at Amazon. Notable author Neil Gaiman managed to get into a well-mannered disagreement about it with large-funny-person Penn Jillette.

All this over a gizmo?

The Kindle is really a dull and simple device designed to do exactly two things: Get stuff you can read, and then make it easy to read it. And yet, all of the discussion seems to be about its digital rights management, and its industrial design.

This DRM debate is endless and in my mind somewhat pointless. The exchange between Penn Jillette and Neil Gaiman on Neil's blog is typical: Penn argues for the pointlessness of DRM and the irrelevance of the product in the face of the joys of a physical paper, Neil points out that the whole DRM thing is a red herring and that the device has substantial benefits over paper. (At the end of the day, Amazon's DRM applies only to books you actually buy - everything else works natively or with minimal hassle.)

So which is it? Sliced bread or failed better mousetrap. Rather than engage in the kind of feature dissection we technophiles live on, I thought I'd just record how this thing has actually fit into the life of my family in the last 7 days.

Day 1: Ooooh, Shiny! And small!

Jess and I take turns poking around on it, trying to figure out what it does in the corners. We get used to holding it. Our first impressions are favorable. It's incredibly light and geek-lust thin. The navigation, through a little scroll-wheel and click, is completely intuitive. The screen essentially is paper, which even in the age of Rock Band seems somehow magical. We download a handful of books and subscribe to a bunch of magazines. We take turns fondling it.

Day 2: I haven't seen it in a day, because Jess downloaded a new release in a hardcover series to which she is addicted. It's 800 pages in print form, about twice that in digital clicks.

"So how do you like it?" I ask.

"It's good. Not as good as the last one, but it made me cry about half way through. They killed off one of the main characters, so I just had to finish it and see how they ..."

"No I mean the Kindle."

She looks puzzled.

"Oh. It's fine I guess," she says, shrugging. "I didn't really think about it. It's nice you can read it with one hand instead of lifting weights with a hardcover."

Day 3 (Thanksgiving): Now that Jess has finished vampire romance novel number 324, I spend some quality time goofing around with the Kindle. It's surprisingly easy to get non-Amazon material on it. I just plug it in to the USB cable which perpetually hangs off the back of my laptop, and it shows up as a hard drive. I drop .txt and .mobi files into the "Book" folder and they show up. I convert a handful of PDFs to .mobi files using Mobi Creator and they work perfect, Tables of Contents and all. Sweet.

Like a set of prayer beads, I take it with me to Thanksgiving dinner, and spend some time reading "The Secret Garden" to my daughter. I quickly see what Jess was talking about. After a few pages I forget I'm just reading a book. Yes, the page "flashes" briefly on page turns (a function of e-ink, not the Kindle per se). But after a few minutes, it ceases to be distracting. The only ongoing perception I have of the device itself is how nice it is not to have to hold it. Sitting curled up on the couch with my daughter, the kindle just rests on my lap, and I tap the "next page" button now and then. When I shift positions, I can just hold it lightly with my left hand by the spine of the cover, and nudge the page button with my thumb.

Day 4: I grab the kindle from my wife's nightstand. Yes, she's still dominating it. I'd bought a few books I'd been meaning to get and she's now decided they're at the top of her reading pile too. Curse Amazon and the "buy it now, get it now" book thing. I can tell it's going to be a constant battle who has Kindle rights.

I head downstairs for morning coffee. The previous night I had subscribed to a bunch of blogs, newspapers and magazines. I try browsing some blogs, and give up. While the idea of reading blogs on the Kindle is a good one, the problem is that most of the blogs I read are as much about linking to web content as they are content in their own right.

The Kindle will load the web pages most of my blogs link to. There's a rudimentary web browser. But it's less than ideal, and absolutely no substitute for a laptop, or even an iPhone. The web functionality is more an emergency backup than a true feature. This doesn't disturb me in the least - it's not supposed to be a portable browser, it's supposed to be a book.

My subscription to "Slate" and "Salon," more traditional internet magazines, is much more rewarding, and I spend an hour reading over coffee and a bagel. Again, the fact that I don't have to hold it is wonderful. It just lies flat in front of me, out of range of Bagel crumbs. Since I have it at some distance, I increase the typeface a notch, and it's comfortable to read at a distance of about 3 feet - way further away than I can read a paper, and while it shows poorly in photographs (like everythign about the Kindle) the text is, in short, gorgeous.

Day 5 AM: The Gym Test. My mom picks me up. Yes, my mom is my gym partner. Instead of my usual random magazine, I put the Kindle on the treadmill rack. Again, I'm delighted to be able to read a book without holding it. It's pretty much impossible for me to hold open a book on the treadmill normally. I'm just not coordinated enough. But lying flat in front of me, I can sweat like crazy and just tap the page once in a while.

Inspired, I crank the typeface all the way up and try actually running. Oh Joy oh Rapture Unforeseen! Yes, I can actually read a book at a full out run. I lose 20 minutes to Larry Niven's new tale of known space with my heart rate over 150. Simply impossible with a paperback, and it fills me with delight.

Day 5 PM: I spend some more time poking at the deeper features. I confirm that you can indeed listen to audio books on it just fine, and it's a miserable, but I suppose functional MP3 player. It's not going to replace your iPod, but for a little Brian Eno background music, it fits the bill. I play around with the Dictionary and the Wikipedia lookup features and they work - nothing fancy, just functional. I spend half an hour poking around the store and, like a jaded lover, discover the first big wart.

Book selection. Just as many early-adopter music services suffered from critical holes in the back catalog, so too the Amazon Kindle. I've been dying to read Into the Wild. It's not available. Thinking this might be a gaffe purely on Amazon's part, I poke around the web and discover it's not available in any eBook format, for the Sony Reader or the Kindle. Another hour shows me holes all over the library, again, not limited to Amazon, but rather limited to the whole idea of eBooks. And while Amazon accurately shows that 100 of the 112 current best-sellers are available, if you're after book 101, you're still heading to the bookstore.

That evening I just read. The Kindle disappears, and I realize how important the design of the book is, and how strongly I disagree with so many web comments about it's supposedly horrendous un-holdability. The instructions for the thing say that it's designed to be used with the cover on (even though all of the marketing shows it with the cover off). Being a weak pawn, I tend to follow directions, and I can confirm that wiith the cover on, it's extremely difficult to accidentally hit any buttons while reading, and the left hand spine becomes a natural handle. The super-matte surfaces of both the screen and the frame make it readable and un-distracting at any angle, in any light. The next page buttons on both sides make it usable in more positions than a normal book, and in no case does it ever require two hands to use.

It is, in short, the most invisible piece of technology I can recall owning. This makes it supremely unsexy, and exactly right.

Day 6: Once again, I wake up early and grab the Kindle from my Jessica's nightstand. The Kindle falls out of the cover and bounces off the floor of the bathroom. Thankfully no damage, and looking at the drop-test video on the Amazon website, I have some hope that my good fortune isn't accidental, but it highlights another wart. The kindle isn't a book, it's a device. It can break. It can out of batteries. It can drown. While a drop into the tub hurts any book, I imagine it ruins an expensive kindle exceptionally well.

No harm done, I descend to the temple of my morning ritual. It's Sunday. So I buy the Sunday New York Times for 75 cents (a bargain for a non-subscriber). While I miss the crossword puzzle and the smell of newsprint, I still get sucked into the Magazine's discussion of Rock Band and a dozen other articles of note. It's completely satisfying.

That's my week with the Kindle.

It's been at least what I expected. Yes, it's expensive, but with Jessica chewing through dozens of hardcover books a year, my payback on $400 will be less than a year. While this cost-justification was part of my purchase-justification, I find it's the subtleties that make me really pleased with it. Short of reading in the tub, the Kindle is easier to read in more places, positions, and situations than a physical book. The simple ability to lie flat or be held comfortably with one hand means I can read for longer, more frequently and with more comfort. And grabbing a book or a newspaper on demand is enough to make any word-geek giddy.

But it's far from perfect. It is expensive. The cover, which I find completely necessary, is in desperate need of more secure attachment (Velcro works great). The book selection is less-than-perfect, although I imagine this will improve with every passing day.

And Amazon needs marketing help. The Kindle's launch reeked of "get it out fast." The big-picture marketing efforts (like video demonstrations and blurb's from authors) we're great, but simple things like communicating how freakin' easy it is to get non-Amazon content on to the device, for free, remain horribly misunderstood.

But in the final analysis, the point of the thing is to be a better book. It does this very well. Everything else is just icing on the cake, which is, in this case, not a lie.

Comments

To add to Rabbit's train of thought, I hope that a wider adoption of e-readers will make all-electronic ebook publishing a viable option (and a feasible enterprise) for strapping authors who're plumbing separate niches of the market. Stuff like "Day To Day Armageddon", for example.

rabbit wrote:

As for books: I just don't see how the pricing is bad. Book pricing will always be more than the library (free). Until now, eBooks cost, in general, at least as much if not more than buying the paper version. Until last week, it cost $13 to get a best seller hardcover for the Sony reader. This week it's 30% cheaper. I don't see how this is a "first offer" from a publisher's perspective. The critical price point is "cheaper than paper" which, for the most part, it finally is. The last hardcover I bought was "Making Money" by Terry Pratchet.

List: $25.95
I paid: $21
Audiobook: $21
Online Price: $17
Kindle: $10
Local (small) Library: Free, but 1 copy and there's *always* a waitlist for new books

How this is hoser pricing I don't see. If you wanted the physical book, obviously $17 is the way to go. $7 seems like a decent premium for the paper. Would I rather it was $9, or $4, or that they paid me to read? Sure. But this crossed the critical "does it pay for itself before I see it going obsolescent" test. Obviously for you it doesn't.

I also don't get your comment about "old books" - this is how the book industry in general works. Back catalog paperbacks at Borders sell for cover price minus whatever store discount applies to everything. Amazon doesn't work by some magical inversion of the pricing process - they've just got buying power like any big-box. I think it's unrealistic to imagine that they will somehow go from charging about a buck less for a paperback to a buck more in the next year.

Well if you're doing a deal always negotiate up from the seller's costs and not down from the seller's asking price.

So when I see these prices I don't look down from what they were selling before in a different format. I ask myself how much money is a book publisher saving by going digital. What's their cost now? My hunch is that they are saving a ton by going digital. Much much more than music or videogames or movies. Also it's a pretty sure bet (see other media transitions and typical large corporate behavior) that they are going to try and fatten their profit margins in the eventual transition to digital media. So I doubt these prices are their best offer. There's no reason they would be.

Also, from what I read, Amazon's wholesale cost is $10 for ebook best sellers and they are selling the best sellers for $10. They are losing money on each one in other words.

Supposedly they hope to make up for that by selling older books at fatter profit margins ie charging you the same for a text file as a paperback. I don't think that will fly with many customers and so I don't think their business model is sustainable. They will have to increase prices or get a break from publishers on the best sellers.

Also it's a sure bet that there is pressure from retailers (like Walmart, Target, B&N and Borders) to not undercut them with low digital media prices.

So imo prices are too high.

Don't all of those arguments go for music as well, and the pressures that Walmart brought to the party when Apple decided to start changing the game for real?

And it will be interesting to see how consumers respond. Amazon can afford to make no money on virtual books for a very, very long time. And I can tell you that of the 10 books or so we've bought, about half have been paperbacks that were just 10 or 20 percent below retail. I guess I'm not a "normal" book consumer, but I'm not holding off buying Neuromancer because I know I can get it for only a dollar more at Borders next time I actually manage to get there.

I'd enjoy something like a Kindle for light pleasure-reading, but I think it will be some time yet before an e-book reader satisfies my otherwise more stringent academic needs. Rare is the day that I open fewer than a dozen books, and I've come to depend on the many advantages of their format.

With a book, I can hold a place with my finger and flip rapidly between two (or more) passages in order to compare them. I can employ varied and versatile schemes of marginalia. I can open several books at once--or even several dozen of them, as I occasionally do when writing--and since the books exist in meatspace I can arrange them (atop my desk, or on the floor, or on my shelves) so that they are accessible and also organized in response to my needs. Since books are three-dimensional, I can build up a sense of how far into the book lie certain points of interest, and I can remember easily where parts of the book lie in relation to other parts. I can rifle through entire chapters within a few seconds just by flipping the pages with my thumb. I can photocopy from them. I can scan parts of them and email them to a friend or to a class. I can lend them to or borrow them from my colleagues or students. And books seem (so far) to present more information at once: e-readers either cram fewer words into the same area, or else offer less area overall (since they do not present facing pages), or both.

However, I harbor no undue attachment to the mere fact that the things I read are books. If some piece of technology could match these advantages, I'd happily trade in my library for a Tricorder (or whatever they choose to call it).

Yeah it will interesting to see how customers respond and whether they can make money with the Kindle.

I predict failure for reasons I've already mentioned. I guess it's mostly price at this point although I think it's a pretty tough sell to convince folks to move from paper to digital. Much tougher than it was or will be with music, movies and videogames.

Sure Amazon can afford to lose money selling ebooks to you for a long time as long as it remains a very niche business. The question is why would they want to do that? They are in the business of making money. If they find out their business model ain't profitable in the next 6 months to a year then something will have to give. It doesn't sound like it's a volume business. And I'm not sure they have to grab market share or anything. They really have to prove the market exists. So imo prices will increase or they'll try and get a price break from publishers or ....

Oh this just occured to me, but I think the Kindle is like the AppleTV. Kool product and yet the whole thing is just not quite there yet.

I like the idea of the AppleTV. IT's $300-$400. You can get just one and yet that only covers 1 of your TVs. So you probably will need more than 1 unless you're single. You like the idea of the convenience of it all. No messing with DVDs. And you get just the tv shows you want. Nice easy to use menus and remote. Slick compared to cable boxes.

However there's currently alot of holes in the content lineup. No live sports. Many TV shows and movies are missing too. Then there's the pricing of the content. Movies are $10 or $13 for new releases. There's no rentals. I can rent movies for a $1/night from the machine around the corner and there's Netflix. TV shows are $2 which ain't bad, but I also have this thing called Cable. Not to mention hi-def network content on the antenna for free. I would like to switch to AppleTv only and yet with the holes in the content lineup I need to keep Cable. And Cable is even cheaper if you have a family of four with a few different tvs.

So I don't buy in. I see the Kindle in the same sort of light.

Lobo wrote:

I can build up a sense of how far into the book lie certain points of interest, and I can remember easily where parts of the book lie in relation to other parts.

One feature I haven't seen mentioned here yet. You can actually see where you're at in a book on Kindle at all times. There's a "progress bar" both on the "front page" that lists all the books marking where you're currently at, as well as when you're reading the book at the bottom of the screen.

trip1eX wrote:

Yeah it will interesting to see how customers respond and whether they can make money with the Kindle.

I predict failure for reasons I've already mentioned. I guess it's mostly price at this point although I think it's a pretty tough sell to convince folks to move from paper to digital. Much tougher than it was or will be with music, movies and videogames.

I think everyone who predicts "failure" has a very specific (and so far, not unified) view of what would constitute "success". I doubt anyone really expects the Kindle to replace the book, least of all Amazon. This is similar to the original nay-sayers over webcasts of TV shows, "it'll never replace the television." Who said it had to? And how big of an industry is that now, thanks to advertising revenues? Isn't there some sort of "strike" over its potential right now?

I think failure on any level will have largely to do with just where they want to go from here, and if they overreach. I also think that their selling out of the device in under 7 hours could mean they've already exceeded their original expectations.

Look at BlackBerries. They may not have "replaced the traditional cellphone" but earlier this year they hit 8 million subscribers (that's only about 3% of the total market, but imagine if 3% of readers had a Kindle), and that's in spite of all those thorny legal issues. I'd say that's hardly a failure.

I watched that Scoble video. Most of his ranting isn't very logical, is he really some sort of techie kingmaker? I turned it off after the "you didn't convince my wife!" part. The dichotomy of complaining how people are interested in the Kindle and their attempts to grab it inadvertently changes the pages with "my wife doesn't like it" is mildly entertaining.

Did a little light research on production costs, and it seems to be around $4-5 a book. If a publisher normally rakes in $15 (average an around 15% of retail for a $27-30 book) then that's about $10 left over, which is what they're charging Amazon. This is where it gets tricky though, I doubt an author would be excited to only net $1 per book instead of $2-3, so however those contracts play out with new media affects the publisher's profit margin. Where they would be making the most savings is in distribution, warehousing, and returns. I'm not really sure how to calculate that, either. Keep in mind marketing costs will be the same, and there's still the equivalent of book design, typesetting, etc. It also makes an assumption that digital distribution costs are nearly zero, which I can't believe is true. Another problem is Amazon seems to be footing a lot of the costs with pushing the eBook, their deal with Sprint, selling bestsellers so low, etc.

This makes my head hurt, I think that's my last attempt at tackling the economics of publishing without adding some 10 years of editorial experience to my life somewhere along the line.

magnus wrote:
Lobo wrote:

I can build up a sense of how far into the book lie certain points of interest, and I can remember easily where parts of the book lie in relation to other parts.

One feature I haven't seen mentioned here yet. You can actually see where you're at in a book on Kindle at all times. There's a "progress bar" both on the "front page" that lists all the books marking where you're currently at, as well as when you're reading the book at the bottom of the screen.

I noticed that, but I don't think the progress bar would be so immediate or helpful a gauge to me as a book's depth. The progress bar is just a graphical representation of something like MS Word's "page 43/70" page-count feature. In order to remember how far into an e-book a given page is, I'd have to make a mental note of its place, whereas with a book this tends to happen of its own accord, since the organization of the book's content is reinforced tangibly. I can get very easily the idea that the page that interests me is "somewhere in the middle" or "around twenty pages from the end" or what have you, since reading the middle of a book feels different (in multiple senses of the term "feels") than reading the end.

So, for example, if you handed me two unknown works, one on a Kindle and one as a book, and asked me to read a brief poem from each, I would have no trouble later on telling you roughly in what part of the book the poem lay. But unless I made particular note of the e-book's progress bar (and in this case, why would I?), I wouldn't be able to do so for the Kindle.

I am sorry, but even with all the hype, the Kindle is going to be a spectacular failure.

Why?

1) At $400, you could easily buy a decent laptop instead.

2) At $10 a pop, ebooks are just not much of a bargain.

3) You can't loan an ebook to friend; you can only read it and then delete it.

4) You can't resell an ebook; you can only read it and then delete it.

5) It's monochrome. And it doesn't do video.

wildshovel wrote:

I am sorry, but even with all the hype, the Kindle is going to be a spectacular failure.

Why?

1) At $400, you could easily buy a decent laptop instead.

2) At $10 a pop, ebooks are just not much of a bargain.

3) You can't loan an ebook to friend; you can only read it and then delete it.

4) You can't resell an ebook; you can only read it and then delete it.

5) It's monochrome. And it doesn't do video.

1. Not one the size of a paperback, that I can curl up with one the couch, and hold in one hand.

2. It is for books only in hardcover.

3. Or read it and save it forever?

4. I've sold a lot of books in my time, and their resale value is pretty nonexistent. Ever carted a car load of books to Half-Price? You're lucky to get enough to cover gas and dinner. And the textbook market is a wholly different economy unto itself.

5. Unless you're reading House of Leaves, which defies the eBook format just by existing, would a full-color screen really affect your choice of reading? And I will happily be the first to go on record and say an eBook reader that displays video would make me headdesk myself to death.

The only thing keeping me from buying one at this point (I got a new job! And a raise! I make as much as some entry-level teachers now! Woot?) is that it might ship while I'm on vacation, leaving a very expensive package sitting on my doorstep across the street from my neighbor's deviant and foul-mouthed children.

Or pay the deviant foul-mouthed children's parents to accept the package with cookies or money...

Another Question: Since Krindle has a keyboard, does it support full-text searching of uploaded books? (i.e. I could search for a specific phrase or character reference) Or do I only have that with my mobi formatted books?

unntrlaffinity wrote:

I remembered another question. What about illustrations? If you're reading a book to your child, do you miss out on that moment where you turn the book around and show them Max dancing around on monster island in "Where the Wild Things Are"?

Jess here hijacking rabbit's sign-on to comment: While the Kindle is great for reading our daughter books like "The Secret Garden", it will never replace picture books. No way, EVER. And it will never truly replace our hardback cover of "The Secret Garden" either (yes, we do own it) because I want her to have the experience of picking up the book and reading it to herself someday (and I ain't sharing the Kindle right now). But for me? I really enjoy having 10 books to choose from in my purse as I sit in a line or wait for the kids at swimming or...you get the idea. (Yes, I tend to have multiple books going at once.)

And a perfect chance to slander rabbit's good(?) name with obscene posts goes to waste.

I was going to make a comment about the purse, but then I thought better of it

McChuck wrote:

And a perfect chance to slander rabbit's good(?) name with obscene posts goes to waste.

Flashes of bash!

I want one now. But I recognize this variant of desire as mere technolust. I think I relish the feeling of smugness that would undoubtedly come over me as I finished a book, lamented this tragedy loudly and vocally to everyone in earshot, then downloaded a new one from my high seat of Technology while chuckling delightedly. Yes.

OK, so I'm a grad student, and the only reason any e-reader appeals to me is the ability to download journal articles as .pdf files and forgo the expense of printing them. Which brings me to my question, how does the Kindle or any other e-reader for that matter do for presenting charts and graphs? As we all know the only useful part of any article is the pretty tables and line charts, and if it can't decently reproduce those then I'm not interested.

AmazingZoidberg wrote:

OK, so I'm a grad student, and the only reason any e-reader appeals to me is the ability to download journal articles as .pdf files and forgo the expense of printing them. Which brings me to my question, how does the Kindle or any other e-reader for that matter do for presenting charts and graphs? As we all know the only useful part of any article is the pretty tables and line charts, and if it can't decently reproduce those then I'm not interested.

Perhaps we have run in different circles, but most of the "tables and charts" I've run into in scholarly articles are the kind of "'bush' as sign/signifier vs. [image of bush]" crap that bleeds its way into literary theory from those silly linguistics jerks. As I think of it, the notion that the image wouldn't display strikes me as hilarious.

wordsmythe wrote:

Perhaps we have run in different circles, but most of the "tables and charts" I've run into in scholarly articles are the kind of crap of "'bush' as sign/signifier vs. [image of bush]" crap that bleeds its way into literary theory from those silly linguistics jerks. As I think of it, the notion that the image wouldn't display strikes me as hilarious.

Indeed our circles appear to be unconnected. At least for me and the research I do, which is mostly quantitative statistical stuff, I find being able to see the raw data in a table to be more informative than trying to fight my way through another scholars vain attempts at coherence.

AmazingZoidberg wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

Perhaps we have run in different circles, but most of the "tables and charts" I've run into in scholarly articles are the kind of crap of "'bush' as sign/signifier vs. [image of bush]" crap that bleeds its way into literary theory from those silly linguistics jerks. As I think of it, the notion that the image wouldn't display strikes me as hilarious.

Indeed our circles appear to be unconnected. At least for me and the research I do, which is mostly quantitative statistical stuff, I find being able to see the raw data in a table to be more informative than trying to fight my way through another scholars vain attempts at coherence.

I remember having to take a class on scientific writing from the bio department in college. At the same time I was taking a writing class from the humanities department that focused on retraining professionals so that they could write coherently. If I hadn't already viewed the hard sciences as intrinsically tragic, it might not have been as funny to me.

I thought it would be interesting to post the top sellers at the Kindle store: NY Times, Wall Street Journal, and . . . Glenn Beck.

Didn't see that coming.

I think any bookreader will be ass for doing technical work. I do a lot of writing that involves charts and stats and journal articles and it would never even OCCUR to me to try to read that on a bookreader, this one or some mythical 2.0. I read those things either on paper or on my 21 inch vertical monitor, otherwise my eyes bug out.

theoretically, a letter sized tablet might be good for this. But until you can get a WHOLE PAGE of standard paper I don't think there's a real academic use here.

rabbit wrote:

theoretically, a letter sized tablet might be good for this. But until you can get a WHOLE PAGE of standard paper I don't think there's a real academic use here.

Now that you mention it, what's it like reading non-fiction works that are usually formatted for hardcover or large softcover? Are those stripped of artwork and any tables, footnotes, and the like?

Funkenpants wrote:

I thought it would be interesting to post the top sellers at the Kindle store: NY Times, Wall Street Journal, and . . . Glenn Beck.

Didn't see that coming.

I have to say I didn't see the majority of the 25 top sellers coming. What an eclectic grouping not withstanding how random the list appears to be (Is that not a redundant statement?).

wordsmythe wrote:

those silly linguistics jerks.

You take that back Smythe! Without us there would be no understanding of your precious grammar!

And you call yourself a student of language...

Don't forget google books and Carnegie Mellon's 1.5 million digital books as additional sources for books.

Funkenpants wrote:

Now that you mention it, what's it like reading non-fiction works that are usually formatted for hardcover or large softcover? Are those stripped of artwork and any tables, footnotes, and the like?

Eh. With any ebook you have some issues. Books with lots of Margin material, illustrations, footnotes - no matter how they get rendered, it's never as good as it was in a large-page glossy print edition. For example, the new colbert book is ASS in its ebook format, because its just loaded with references, pictures, etc.

eBooks shine when it's the words that matter.

Oh, and LoBo: WELCOME BACK BRO!!! And I agree with every single point you made about writing. I keep paper references within reach at all times, even those I have eCopies of. Today's 3 foot radius includes: Tufte's Visual Display, my 12C manual, AP & Theseauras, OED and two newspapers. The Kindle is upstairs on the nightstand.

On the "buy a laptop" argument. Totally different uses. It's like sayign "Buy a laptop. It has a cell phone modem and you can use skype. Who needs a phone." The whole point of a reader is that it's NOT a backlit power hungry LCD screen that makes your eyes bug out and gets warm in your lap. It's paper, reflective, easy on the eyes, no heat signature, usable with one hand and that's pretty much it. There's no booting, no loading, no hard drives, no games, no viruses, no patches, no OS, no nothing. It's just a book.

rabbit wrote:

Eh. With any ebook you have some issues. Books with lots of Margin material, illustrations, footnotes - no matter how they get rendered, it's never as good as it was in a large-page glossy print edition.

I'm thinking that the next iteration may need a bigger screen, giving the reader the hardcover sized page that people like. Assuming they can do that without the cost shooting up. Come to think of it, no matter what they need to get the costs down to make it a mass market product like they want. Conceivably, they should be selling or leasing the hardware at a loss to get people in to buy more books and buy them exclusively through Kindle.

Free beer. Overwhelmingly, these are what people say they want:

Free to own, so they make money off books
Books need to be really really cheap compared to paper

(can't have both)

Much bigger screen
Cheaper

(can't have both)

Way more features
Cheaper

(can't have both)

Completely open format
Cheaper/cheaper Amazon books/Free reader/etc.

(Cant really have both, although this is more a publisher issue)

Yes, a lot of this is solved by Moore's law and all its little children, but if you're saying "what they should have done is..." then you just can't have it all. My guess is that the whole endeavor is like the Xbox - a giant hole in the ground into which Amazon will pour money until it gets to surface level, then the mound will slowly grow profits.