February 09, 2009

What's wrong with a book?

I don’t get the Amazon Kindle.

Someone basically saw the iPod and thought “Yeah, we’ll do that but with books”.

And that was probably as much thought as went into it.

The device – and it’s newly announced successor the Kindle2 – is jaw-droppingly expensive. $359, or £240. For something that replicates, albeit badly, the idea of a book.

Don’t forget that unless you’re going to commit to a life of nothing-but-Dickens, you’ll still have to pay another £5 for every book you want to read on it. And that’s before we get to the device’s USP, newspapers and blogs. They also cost money to read (up to £7 a month), even though they’re available online completely free.

Some of the technology is very clever – the so-called ‘e-ink’ is impressive and it does look more like reading a book than your typical computer screen. And yes, you can store billions of words all on one little chip.

But then some of it is awful. It’s got a wholly unnecessary keyboard. It has an operating system that takes up more than 600Mb (for a book!). And it tries really hard to make you hate it by banning RSS feeds.

The Kindle completely kills the idea of what a book is all about. Books can be shared, given pride of place on a bookshelf, passed down to future generations, and loved.

The iPod made music portable. The Kindle is just making books look like even better value.

- 3 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Emma

    I bet they’re gutted the name “i-book” has already been nabbed. How is anyone supposed to know (or remember) what an “Amazon Kindle” is?

    09 Feb 2009, 19:40

  2. Mike Willis

    I don’t get the Kindle either. A friend of mine recently got a Sony Reader, which seems to be the closest you can get to the Kindle n this country, and I don’t really get that either.

    Like the Kindle the Sony Reader costs a lot. £220 on Amazon right now plus a rather extortionate seeming £27 for a case, and you would want a case, or £40 if you want the case with a light in. My friend likes it because he reads a lot. A lot. He takes two or three books where ever he goes so that if he finishes one he can start on another right away. So with the Sony Reader he can carry around loads of books on something about the size of one. Which he likes. When I asked him about content he said that a lot of the authors he reads (don’t ask me to name any) were giving away digital copies of their stuff. He mentioned one author who was giving away the digital copies of all his books on a CD inside the hardcover version of his latest book. (There’s some sort of paradox or irony or something there perhaps.) Having a quick look on the Waterstone’s website it seems that if you actually buy ebooks they are more expensive that the physical paperback. (E.g eBook paper ) This seems entirely the wrong way around. A physical book needs to be printed, stored, moved around, stored again and that’s before it even gets in to the hands of a reader. The eBook they can take the electronic copy that they would have had to create the physical book, apply some minor formatting alterations and then upload it to a server. So why isn’t an eBook significantly cheaper than the physical variant. Probably for much the same reasons that digital music is not significantly cheaper than buy a CD, whatever the reasons for that are.

    Having had a bit of a play with the Sony Reader I can sort of see the attraction. The screen is very legible and you can adjust the size of the text. But it also seems a very… bland…antiseptic… way to read a book. I expect that at some point paper books will become expensive collectors items and digital distribution the norm. But by then technology will hopefully have advanced to the point where we can have something more like a book and less like a slab of plastic to hold whilst we read.

    At the current price points I don’t see that such devices make any sense at all for the vast majority of book consumers. I can’t help thinking that for same money you can buy a netbook. Sure netbooks don’t have the fancy e-ink display or the same battery life, (though upcoming chipset improvements should increase netbook batter life), but they do a hell of a lot more and you could read stuff on one if you wanted to.

    09 Feb 2009, 19:41

  3. Sue

    My sister bought her husband one for Christmas and he’s thrilled with it. I think it’s quite ecologically sound.

    09 Feb 2009, 22:21

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