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November 27, 2007

Amazon Kindle, an all-in-one wireless reader


Amazon recently released the Kindle ($399), an electronic reader that can wirelessly download books without a computer.  Once you buy a Kindle there are no service contracts or recurring fees and you can shop Amazon's selection of books, magazines, newspapers and blogs right from the Kindle.  The Kindle has a 6" electronic ink display that sips power and offers a reading experience very similar to paper.  The Kindle is definitely a breakthrough device and it's already being compared to the iPod.  But if the Kindle is the iPod of reading, where's the iTunes of reading?

I really appreciate that the Kindle is an all-in-one solution, it's the bookstore and the reader in one compact package.  Also, it makes owning a Kindle super simple and easy, you don't even need a computer (except to buy the Kindle from Amazon's website).  However, for heavy computer users, the fact that the content you buy can't be viewed on your computer and is ONLY viewable on the Kindle seems really limiting.  For books this probably isn't a big issue, but for newspaper and magazine articles I think it is: I search the web for things I read about in magazines all the time.  Also, just from a convenience standpoint, if I'm working at my computer I don't want to have to dig the Kindle out of my bag to re-read a passage from an article, I'd rather just pull it up on my PC.  That said, I'm sure a desktop Kindle application will be coming soon that will enable users to read Kindle content on your computer, manage content, and synchronize notes and bookmarks.  Hopefully, Amazon isn't totally mired in publisher's concerns about users copying-and-pasting from Kindle books, or (gasp) printing.

The Kindle can display PDFs, Word Documents, and images, however they have to be converted to a Kindle readable format.  Currently the only way to convert a file is to e-mail it directly to the Kindle, or to your Kindle e-mail address.  Amazon charges $0.10 for each attachment sent directly to the Kindle, attachments sent to your Kindle e-mail address and transfered to the Kindle via USB are free.  This is another issue a Kindle desktop application could address.  The application could convert the file (just like iTunes rips CDs) and make transferring content to the Kindle easy.

Lastly, while I appreciate that there are no recurring service fees with the Kindle, you're basically just paying them upfront.  I think a lot of customers would happily pay less to forgo the wireless connectivity and just transfer books from their PCs and to the Kindle: Amazon should consider making a $200 Kindle that lacks wireless connectivity.  With devices like the $400 EEE PC out there, the Kindle seems rather pricey for an essentially single function device.

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