Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why People Just Don't GET The Kindle

The Kindle 2 was launched yesterday to huge fanfares from Amazon and underwhelming responses from journalists. Why is it that some people just don't GET the Kindle, and similar eReader devices?

Of course, it all depends on your physical reading preferences. In our house, my wife (Lynne) and I are diametrically opposed in our views of eReaders. I like them a lot, she hates them and the horse they rode in on. She loves reading books - I think the physical handling and smell and feel of books has a lot to do with it, but she will also point to the fact that she finds computer (and eReader) screens hard to read for long periods of time (true) and the battery will always run out halfway through a gripping chapter (also true - and particularly inconvenient if your choses eReader device is also your mobile phone, as in my case).

Now me, I LOVE eReaders, and genuinely think they are the future, and that all forms of paper-based publications will eventually die a death. I don't have any difficulty in reading books even on my relatively small iPhone screen (I use the eReader app) and I love the fact I can pick up from where I left off with my latest novel while I am stuck in a doctor's waiting room.

But the biggest advantage of the electronic book to me is choice. When Lynne and I go on holiday, at least one suitcase is usually stuffed with books - a carefully chosen selection that has to see us through the entire holiday ('cos there are never any English language bookshops where we go!) However, half way through the holiday I will often have a hankering for some other reading material - a book which is still at home on the shelf. Or maybe I just want to look something up - a bit of quick research for an idea I just had.

This is where the eReader really scores. Loading 1500 books onto a single device is not useful from the point of view of providing 1500 books to read before the battery runs out, but it IS useful in providing choice. Today I can read a thriller, tomorrow sci-fi, the day after, comedy. And so on. I can select form my entire library at any point in time, depending on my mood. And, of course, with the Kindle, I could also browse newspaper and magazine subscriptions.

So for me, the Kindle is a no-brainer. I want one. At least I would if it weren't for a couple of minor obstacles:

1. Price - It is just way over-priced. Amazon needs to sell it dirt cheap and make money from the content. Given the way people will use a device like this, it has to be cheap enough (and easy enough to restore from scratch and re-populate with content) so that leaving it on a bus or train (or dropping it in the sea) is not a big deal. This means a $50 price point, not $360

2. No European release - here we are on the second major release of this device and you STILL cannot get one in Europe. What gives?

3. I would prefer WiFi over 3G (or give us both, at least) - clearly this is also the biggest stumbling block for a world-wide roll out, so why not add WiFi and make it a non-issue?

There is also talk about the Kindle content making it to the iPhone, which would be nice, since then you only have to buy once and can choose your reading platform and switch between the two as required - Kindle if I know I am going to be doing a lot of reading, or iPhone when I find myself stuck on the underground unexpectedly (how unexpected could THAT be?)


Chris said...

Try Stanza on your iPhone, better than eReader I reckon at least for free content.

Bob Walder said...

I use Stanza for the free stuff, but I find the store behind eReader to be much better for recent/readable content. Got some great Arthur Clarke stuff recently