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

rabbit wrote:

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.

Like a money compost heap! Full of revenue generating worms and maggots!

I will officially purchase one after Christmas vacation. My desire for instant gratification will be satisfied by their free 2-day shipping, and I doubt I'd get one before I leave on my trip anyway.

Does Adobe charge a license fee for .pdf support? That's the only thing offhand that might silence many of the critics (despite the ease of mobi conversion.)

Librarything integration! Social book networking! The casual encounter section of craigslist in addition to Wikipedia! Maybe?

rabbit wrote:

Overwhelmingly, these are what people say they want:

Whoa, don't lump all those together. Open format stuff is more of the tech-head thing, a demographic who want the most free content at the lowest price. Some people are never going to be satisfied and will dislike any dedicated device. I was speaking about what I think the wider audience of book buyers may need to get on board.

First, the company has to decide on whether it wants to make money selling hardware or selling books. The cable company rents set top boxes because they make money off access to the content. TIVO practically gives boxes away provided you pay them a monthly fee for the service, and they now take in ad revenue (not happy about that, but I liked getting a cheap box). It's not impossible for a company to make money off content delivery while renting out the hardware or selling it at cost or below. Whether it works for Kindle would depend on a bunch of factors, none of which we can evaluate from our position outside the company. I just raise that as an issue.

Second, the decision to use an expensive cellular network rather than relying on landlines and wireless networks is cool but also may have driven up the cost of the service. I know some people want to be able to download books anywhere they get cell service, but wireless networks and landlines are are almost ubiquitious these days. Is it impossible that going with a less sexy system that doesn't rely on Amazon paying a cellular company could have lowered the price of the unit?

Third, I don't see the cost of Kindle books as out of line provided they are equivalent to their paper analogs. If a hardcover that costs $16 can be had over the wire immediately at $10, I'm getting a deal and don't need to go to the store. But it has to be nearly the same product as I can get from paper if it's going to serve as a worthwhile substitute. Whether the necessary larger screen is possible without drastically driving up the cost of construction is something I don't know.

I'm not really asking for it all. I just think that when it came to designing the product and system they maybe made some decisions that will keep them from reaching their goals.

The wireless-is-ubiquitous argument is actually falacious if you're a business traveller (clearly a target demo here). 90% of US airports charge for their wireless service, as do most hotels. Building enough smarts into something to handle the zillion different ways you have to pay for it would be a huge pain in the ass, and one I dare say more trouble than its worth.

And I know there are lots of different "I want" contingents out there, my point is just that you can't please everyone, and Amazon has taken the balance-it-all-out approach instead of the satisfy-one-market-completely approach. Only the market will tell us if they got it right.

Deserter wrote:
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...

I don't need to know the Proto-Indo-European versions of words. I'm happy enough with a basic understanding of Greek and Latin. You show me a good Proto-Indo-European epic poem and I'll take note. It would be neat if I could get it on Project Gutenberg so I could read it on a Kindle.

I hate seeing the same kind of armchair quarterbacking that we see in the console wars, apply to a device that will help people read more. But I guess that's the way the "gamer" mind works.

The Kindle really appeals to me. Here's why:
1. Changing the font size. People say that reading on a computer hurts their eyes, but when I increase the font and use an LCD, reading on the computer is much easier on my eyes.
2. Easier to handle than a book. I may be some kind of freak, but physical fatigue is often the limiting factor when I read books. Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon in hardcover weighs three times as much as a kindle (~3 lbs vs < 1lbs). Paperbacks on the other hand try close themselves, which can tire me out after extended periods.
3. I don't like reading articles on websites. I flat out do not like using a mouse. When articles require me to use the mouse over and over, for like a 12 page article on the net, I lose the desire to read it all. I prefer using some kind of "next" key so much its ridiculous. Thats why I like the NYTimes electronic reader program so much.
4. Going green. Paper is a lot less energy efficient than things like LCDs and e-ink.

I really want to read more books and more news and magazine articles. The Kindle seems like it would make this a lot easier.

One last thing, I use a very simple web application for my personal organizer, so Rabbit, can you do thing like select items from a drop-down list, or type into text boxes on the kindle? If so, it would become my ideal PDA.

Holy crap, it just took a few days. There are some on eBay and it's selling for between $700 and $1000. Christmas makes people insane.

rabbit wrote:

The wireless-is-ubiquitous argument is actually falacious if you're a business traveller (clearly a target demo here). 90% of US airports charge for their wireless service, as do most hotels.

Aren't many business travelers in that target demo already using laptops that access the internet on the company's dime? A kindle plugged into that existing internet access wouldn't need a separate cellular service. I'm wondering how big the need is for instant independent access through a cellular network is, but yes, it is a debatable question that can't be answered from our position outside the company, where we don't have their market research data.

When you go on the road and your Tmobile or Boingo account goes live, this does nothing to get your kindle (or your PSP or your DS) doesn't magically get on the hook too.

You've both lost me.

Given what seems to be the exact nature of their marketing and production, I think they made the right choice with the wireless features, whether it contributed to the cost or not.

They didn't make 10 million of these things in anticipation of pleasing everybody, or even the majority, and taking over the book reading public. They're carving out a specific market, and to that end, picking the option that doesn't rely on outside internet access (I'm bored in an airport, I can either screw around with wifi or just walk into the duty free shop and pay $15 for a paperback. That's an impulse buy you'd lose) was a wise decision. Maybe that will change in the future if the market grows, but listing it as a mistake of the current generation is premature.

As to your previous points Funk, we don't have "inside information", but it's easy to see they've made that decision, the bestsellers they sell are at cost. It is just a perception and opinion of my own, but I'd be willing to bet my tuition fee bill for next semester that trying to make money off content delivery would sink them. Not enough people are ready to pay $15-20 for ebooks to have made the device viable in the first place.

And a large screen would kind of defeat the purpose for a first-gen device. It would affect one of its best current features, its portability. Maybe years from now when McGraw-Hill is on board and selling its textbooks for way too much online a large screen version would be practical, but otherwise, yes, my ignorant self can say that would have been a foolish idea.

I would also like to point out again that they sold out of their first batch in under 7 hours. What could possibly have been a higher reaching goal for them? 2 hours? Until we see stacks of these things sitting on Walmart shelves collecting dust like the PS3's did, I think saying they're not meeting their goals is ignoring the demand they've generated, all-encompassing in its nature or not.

It's weird how people treat these discussions, mp3 players, ebook readers, online delivery services (comics), as if that to not achieve 100% dominance means the companies involved have failed. If you're selling enough to turn a profit, isn't that the definition of success?

rabbit wrote:

When you go on the road and your Tmobile or Boingo account goes live, this does nothing to get your kindle (or your PSP or your DS) doesn't magically get on the hook too.

No, they don't. I was talking about downloads through the laptop and then synching it into kindle, which would work as an alternate when wifi/landline access wasn't available.

unntrlaffinity wrote:

It's weird how people treat these discussions, mp3 players, ebook readers, online delivery services (comics), as if that to not achieve 100% dominance means the companies involved have failed.

I don't remember saying anything like this. And we won't know whether there are profits until financial reports start being released with kindle costs and revenue broken out, so until then I'm just speculating.

Listen, I'm not saying that I'm right and that Amazon or you or Rabbit is wrong. My analysis just came out different. It's no different than people who analysis the stock market or any business field for a living. With new segments, there's always very different opinions about the companies/products involved until a couple of years down the road.

Funkenpants wrote:
unntrlaffinity wrote:

It's weird how people treat these discussions, mp3 players, ebook readers, online delivery services (comics), as if that to not achieve 100% dominance means the companies involved have failed.

I don't remember saying anything like this. And we won't know whether there are profits until financial reports start being released with kindle costs and revenue broken out, so until then I'm just speculating.

Listen, I'm not saying that I'm right and that Amazon or you or Rabbit is wrong. My analysis just came out different. It's no different than people who analysis the stock market or any business field for a living. With new segments, there's always very different opinions about the companies/products involved until a couple of years down the road.

We're all just speculating, but just bouncing between these conversations I get the impression people view dominance as the only criteria for victory, which is how I interpreted your comment on Amazon's goals. I suppose you're right, we're all waiting on more information, but in all these cases (and it's bleedover for me, Marvel Comics online, the Kindle, the Zune) people keep predicting "failure" as if it's clear what that constitutes, and in spite of there currently being no evidence to indicate a fiscal catastrophe. The Zune's gaining marketshare, even if it's not the new iPod, Marvel Online can barely handle the number of subscribers they're getting, and the Kindle is backordered essentially until next year, all indications that each of these companies have hit their initial milestones.

Another complaint in all these cases is addressed by an interesting phrase I stumbled over, "displacive fallacy", which a concept that I've been trying to express to varying degrees of success.

Funkenpants wrote:

No, they don't. I was talking about downloads through the laptop and then synching it into kindle, which would work as an alternate when wifi/landline access wasn't available.

I disagree with that concept because I believe the requirement of another device, even one most people have at hand, would work against the Kindle's portability/ease of use. Even a small laptop is a bigger pain in the ass to haul around than something as small as the Kindle, and it's one more step that's involved.

Take the airport scenario. The Kindle and laptop are both in your bag, you have anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours to kill. You can either pull out the Kindle, purchase a book, and start reading, or take out your Kindle, take out your laptop, boot up your laptop, find a wifi hotspot, log on, purchase the book, take out your usb cable, transfer the file, and then pack up your crap again. One of those methods is easier than the other.

In this scenario, I could easily see more people complaining in reviews that the Kindle doesn't have wifi than complain about its price. Alternate-universe Scritch sees the phrase "in this day and age" being bandied about quite regularly. Also, Schwazznegger is president, Stallone is eating rat burgers and learning how to knit, and Wesley Snipes is a crazy maniacal retro supervillain.

There's also an alternate network it can access if EVDO isn't available (1xrtt? I'm not a techie, but the articles I've read say it expands coverage beyond EVDO).

Also, you can download and transfer via usb. I'm not sure if people realize that.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200137100

Scroll to the bottom. "Download to computer."

Sorry if others have said this, but I wanted to chime in. As someone who has read more books than I can count, this is a very touchy subject for me. I love the "idea" of this because I literally have RSI in my thumb caused in large part from the act of holding open a paperback. So being done with that pain would be pure joy. That said, I really love paper. I don't just love the feel of it, the smell of it, the fact that it doesn't require power and that I can build up a library as Grumpicus said, but I also love that I can share it. When I get finished with my books I often either donate them to my local library or sell them to Powell's used books. Either way I am satisfied in the knowledge that someone else will get to enjoy the book as I did. And maybe when they do, they'll pick up other books, maybe new books from the same author.

It's the same reason I prefer having the actual disc for a game. Or the actual CD. However in this case we're talking about something much more important to me, a book.

Not sure I understand any of the download pricing debates up till now. Feels like the same situation as mp3s, in that anyone who wants to not pay for them can find the "no cost" alternative, torrents and whatnot. So authors are competing more with being lost in the deluge of free, needing to create value to keep customers, yada yada. Doesn't hurt Amazon, because you're still buying hardware from them. People may start asking exactly what publishers are doing for them these days, as authors getting 5-10% of d/l price seems not so great. Especially given that to make the paper book, they'll go thru the process of making a PDF and doing promotions.

The tinfoil hat tells me it being cell based does leave open the possibility of them snooping your Kindle periodically without notification. Would expect Amazon to be more into data mining than DRM enforcing if they were peaking (Top 10 Kindled Books of the Moment!). Assume it also opens up the idea of tower-based location tracking, since this probably an on-to-standby device (Top 10 Kindled Books Near You!). Not that I listen to the hat much, but it is what it is.

unntrlaffinity wrote:
Funkenpants wrote:

No, they don't. I was talking about downloads through the laptop and then synching it into kindle, which would work as an alternate when wifi/landline access wasn't available.

I disagree with that concept because I believe the requirement of another device, even one most people have at hand, would work against the Kindle's portability/ease of use. Even a small laptop is a bigger pain in the ass to haul around than something as small as the Kindle, and it's one more step that's involved.

Take the airport scenario. The Kindle and laptop are both in your bag, you have anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours to kill. You can either pull out the Kindle, purchase a book, and start reading, or take out your Kindle, take out your laptop, boot up your laptop, find a wifi hotspot, log on, purchase the book, take out your usb cable, transfer the file, and then pack up your crap again. One of those methods is easier than the other.

Good point, but the Kindle holds 200+ books and a typical book for me takes many many many hours to finish. In other words the chances I would suddenly instantly need a new book to read in order to kill 20 minutes to 2 hours in the airport will be slim and none.

It's overkill imo.

The iPod is considered easy to use and yet it requires a computer. Every Amazon customer uses a computer. They wait days for their books to arrive via FedEx.

I don't see any great need for anytime, anywhere as far as books go. I would think the ability to get 1 in a few minutes through your computer would be more than fast enough.

I think what Amazon really wants to do is put a portable electronic Sears catalog of yesteryear in your hand that they control.

trip1eX wrote:

I think what Amazon really wants to do is put a portable electronic Sears catalog of yesteryear in your hand that they control.

Well, yes. And it's brilliant.

I think the iPod comparison to eReaders breaks down around here, which makes the iPod being a USB only device completely acceptable. Things like the practicality of delivering music via a celluar network due to filesize and the difference in the way a person enjoys music versus how they enjoy a book come into play.

It's easy to fill your 80gb iPod because all those songs aren't going to be from the Apple store, you can rip your existing collection of music. You can't do the same with your library (the thought makes me drool.) I find it unlikely anyone would have paid for 200+ books at $5-10 apiece and have them just idling there unread on the device's memory. More likely you have 1-3 books you're in the middle of/haven't started, if anyone else's reading habits are anything like mine.

Also, if I've already listened to an album before, I can listen to it again, and again, easily (to a point.) I rarely re-read anything but my absolute favorite books. A memory full of 100 books I'd already read wouldn't interest me in the same way as a memory full of 100 books and access to Amazon's catalog would.

Another option although I think it might cannibalize the current sales is to sell the Kindle with and without the wireless connectivity.
Current version $399
New version with USB hookup to either a laptop or external wifi dongle (dongle $49) for an out of the box price of $250 - $299.

I tend to agree that I don't need the wireless access. As a former road warrior logging 150,000 air miles a year, I can say I wouldn't need instant access to new content. The key reason to not need it is that the Kindle holds ~200 books. If you don't have something interesting already on the Kindle, all I can say was bad planning. the downside to Amazon is that this would likely take a decent sized bite out of Kindle impulse content buys, but for me it would be more useful and affordable.

I don't *need* instant access to book content, but by God is it sweet to have it. I tend to do all my shopping from my laptop, and instant delivery makes me happy.

Instant for me is I'm flying through an airport and just got finished reading a book. I can walk into a bookstore and get a new one.

I'm quite surprised by the amount of debate this device has caused, considering that this isn't a new idea. Amazon seem to have managed to create quite the hype machine.

A lot of people have mentioned laptops or tablets as an alternative, but very little mention has been made of PDAs. I have been reading ebooks for years now, on a variety of Palm and Windows Mobile devices. It started because I read for at least an hour in bed, and my wife likes to go to sleep earlier than I do. A backlit screen meant that she could turn out the light.

Over time, I started to read more and more on the PDA. I still buy the occasional hardcover, but only the authors that I really like. I read 3 to 4 books a week on my PDA; I keep a couple of thousand books on an SD card. If it wasn't for this, my house would be packed with books, since I don't like to sell them or throw them away. I can just archive the ones that I have read on a hard drive or DVD, and they are always there if I want to re-read them.

The added advantage is that my HTC Universal is also a 3g phone, web browser, MP3 player, video player, email device, camera, has the mobile versions of Word etc, can play games and so on. It even has a built in keyboard, for much the same price as the Kindle (it was free on my phone contract, in actual fact). As it is always in my pocket, I can always just start reading when I hit an unexpected gap in my day.

In terms of glare and so on, I use uBook reader (it's a pico, not a u, but I can't be bothered to find the right symbol!) which allows you to change font, colour, size, background colour, and a host of other items. It also supports images.

It's certainly worth thinking about something like this as an alternative.

I've read books on a variety of phones and PDAs over the years, starting with a Newton. The advantages of a high resolution, large, e-ink screen can't be overstated, and there's no way to convince someone unless they've tried it. It completely mainstreams the issue. To put it in perspective, my wife kept reading last night as she was blowdrying her hair, because she could set the kindle on the countertop and up the size, and read comfortably from 3-4 feet away.

Pico book is very good at what it does, but unless you had them side by side, I don't think I could explain the difference in terms of the experience. Screensize, resolution, contrast and lighting really make the difference between something that entertains you for 20 minutes on the bus and something you read for three hours on the couch. If it works for you, awesome.

Do you get any mainstream non-public domain fiction on it?

I read on it for hours. The initial set up ubook takes some time to get how you like it, but once you get away from the default setting, it is far easier on the eyes.

I'm sure that the Kindle is a nicer solution, but the software for PPCs will evolve to keep up (just look how many iPhone emulation systems or competitors are around already).

The extra functionality and portability of pocket pcs definitely make it a better solution for me.

In terms of books, most puchased ebooks can be converted to run on ubook with a minimum of fuss. I have no personal problem with using a scan of a book that I have purchased in the past, or that my wife owns. She is a real book person, and we read much the same things. I bought the new Iain Banks in Borders yesterday. I'll read the paperback, and then put it into storage. When I am ready to read it again, I'll more than likely find a scan of it to reread on my ppc.

You know me, I can't get enough Kindle news.

http://blog.wired.com/gadgets/2007/12/kindle-drm-hack.html

Kind of neat, there's a hack to let you read Fictionwise books (and other DRM'ed mobipocket books) on your Kindle. It essentially tricks the Kindle into thinking that you bought the books from Amazon instead of somewhere else.

http://mobilitysite.com/2007/12/fictionwisecom-supports-amazon-kindle/

Or you can just use your Fictionwise books on the Kindle or Sony eReader.

http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6512445.html?desc=topstory

A library is loaning out Kindle's. The patron gets to download 1 book onto the Kindle via the library's account. If they download more than 1, they will be charged for it.

http://www.dymocks.com.au/iliad/default.aspx

E-reader alternatives. No built-in sprint, still has wireless, expandable memory, reads pdfs, and has a larger screen. Of course, it doesn't connect to Amazon, only offers about 23,000 books, and they cost a lot more. And the reader itself costs around $400 more (depending on exchange rates.)

Seiko Epson is making a thinner e-reader with a larger screen than the Kindle too, but chances are it will be more expensive.

While I like how the newer e-readers look, and some of their features, the more I read about them the more I think Amazon made some very wise decisions. All these "simple" additions people are complaining about must bring with them substantial costs, or else these companies would be trying to undercut Amazon right now. The Kindle is cheaper, has a larger selection, and the books themselves cost less (which is interesting, since the #1 complaint is probably paying "too much" for an ebook. The bestsellers on these other sites cost anywhere from 17-30 dollars.)

Also, color e-ink technology is slated for 2009.

unntrlaffinity wrote:

http://blog.wired.com/gadgets/2007/12/kindle-drm-hack.html

Kind of neat, there's a hack to let you read Fictionwise books (and other DRM'ed mobipocket books) on your Kindle. It essentially tricks the Kindle into thinking that you bought the books from Amazon instead of somewhere else.

You are a lifesaver. This means I can finally buy Swedish ebooks and read on the Kindle.

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Very cool

I broke down and ordered a Kindle. The amount of pdfs and other documents I'd have to print out for my distance learning classes let me talk myself into it, if not for the economy of it, then for my sanity and ease. And it's a late extra xmas to myself.

I was thinking though, since up to six Kindles can be associated with a Kindle account, and you can share the books bought on that account among those six, couldn't six friends form a sort of book club account? Might be neat if you had a friend with similar tastes.

But doesn't it not handle PDFs natively? Or most other formats? I'm looking at one for making technical books more portable and easier to update, but it sounds like many of the O'Reilly published books just won't display properly. Anyone have experience with books from them on the Kindle?

Amazon will convert .pdfs to a Kindle format for free, but the layout doesn't always transfer perfectly.

Since this thread resurfaced...I'm still in love with my Kindle. I'd pick it over my iPhone as my must-have device any day of the week. The "Send Sample" feature from amazon is simply great, allows me to just send samples and buy when I'm out of other things to read. Battery life is still awesome. I'm using it every day and find myself reading a lot more(and putting more money in the Amazon coffers) and I bring it with me everywhere I know I'll have time to kill.

The only downside is that I'm missing out on the few books I want to read that is not yet available on the Kindle, because I just can't read a normal dead-tree book anymore.