Blog Post’s Kindle Book Reader: The Details And The Devil

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imageSo it is a bit ridiculous that (NSDQ: AMZN) has been trying to keep us from disclosing the details on its Kindle e-book device, while giving Newsweek a cover story two days before the launch. Then, pretty much decline our request for a 5-minute interview with Bezos at the press conference on Monday in NYC (I know, we’re not Newsweek…). Also, the business side of our company has been under an NDA with Amazon, as our news feeds are part of the news section in the reader…while we will still honor that NDA and not disclose any other details (we haven’t, even in the two previous stories we did on it), the Newsweek story pretty much has it all, and more. Reinventing the book: sure. Reinventing PR: oh well…

Anyway, the details from the story:
— It costs $399.
— Kindle is a 10.3 ounces device, with dimensions of a paperback, with a tapering of its width that emulates the bulge toward a book’s binding, the story says.Kindle’s six-inch screen uses the display technology from E-Ink, which mimes the clarity of a printed book.
— It can hold as many as 200 books on the device (with more on the memory card), gets as many as 30 hours of reading on a charge, and recharges in two hours.
— Also, it has wireless connectivity, via a system called Whispernet, which is based on the EVDO broadband service offered Sprint, (NYSE: S) allowing it to work anywhere, not just Wi-Fi hotspots.
— The device can function independent of the PC: you can use it to go to the store, browse for books, check out your personalized recommendations, and read reader reviews and post new ones, tapping out the words on a thumb-friendly keyboard, the story says.
— About 88,000 digital books will be on sale at the Kindle store on launch. The new books are priced generally around $9.99.
— Besides books, you can subscribe to newspapers (the Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, (NYSE: WPO) Le Monde) and magazines (The Atlantic). You can also subscribe to selected blogs, which cost either 99 cents or $1.99 a month per blog.
— It also allows you to look up things in Wikipedia, search via Google (NSDQ: GOOG) or follow links from blogs and other Web pages.
— Bezos: “This is the most important thing we’ve ever done..It’s so ambitious to take something as highly evolved as the book and improve on it. And maybe even change the way people read.”

21 Responses to “’s Kindle Book Reader: The Details And The Devil”

  1. Alan Carton.

    Just wondering what format the Kindle Books are? I have seen on the Sony E-Book Reader that it can read word / rtf / pdf / text / jpeg … etc, plus one or two DRM formats (all probably upgradable at a later date with a bios upgrade – but not certain) I would be happy to buy e-books from Amazon, as long as it was not just available for their reader only … would you just buy a DVD from panasonic that was only playable on a panasonic dvd player? Does anybody know what format the Kindle books are?

  2. felix.anthony

    Kindle is too expensive today. I am examining the price sensitivity of Kindle and will publish the results. An acceptable form will be more like 199 with 3 books of your choice as credits. Right now Amazon cannot meet the demand and has no incentive to increase demand..

  3. Mary K. Murphy

    I haven't learned to access all those books that are supposed to come with Kindle. Do I have to "Register" with Amazon first? Is there an additional charge to read the books on this device?
    License Agreement and terms of use, etc. are printed so small I have great difficulty reading all of that. I need more information on how to get started!

  4. $400.00 HAHAHA
    The books cost $10.00 each.

    So you have to buy the equivalent of 40 books for the reader and you still need to shell out another $10.00 to read your first book.

    Stupid is as stupid does…

  5. Erik Smith

    I can see this going two ways… either the Kindle is the savior of books and literature and reading, or it is the destroyer. Well, maybe there's a third way. It also might be a complete flop, and five years from now we'll never hear about it again. I suspect that if the Kindle is marketed as Amazon envisions, it will fail, which is a good thing, because if it succeeds literature will lose its permanence. But if there is room for a little flexibility in Jeff Bezos' vision, well, this could be an astonishing device.

    For this "revolution" to be one for the better, there need to be a few changes in the Kindle plan. Most important, the devices should not be locked into the proprietary Kindle format. There is so much other information available in competing formats — PDF, JPG, plain text, etc. — that a successful device should not be locked into a single format from a single provider. Why shouldn't we be able to read Project Gutenberg e-texts? Just because they don't generate money for Amazon? Sorry, that's not a rationale the market is going to buy for long. Make absolutely everything available — the entire breadth of world literature, every obscure journal published since the time of Gutenberg — well, that's exciting, and a damn good idea. Heck, the ongoing book-digitization projects are making this possible at this very moment.

    The devices should allow the easy transferrence of information from a PC to the reader. (It's not clear from the descriptions, but it sounds as though some sort of removable memory card can be used with the device, so perhaps this issue has been addressed.) I mean, there has to be a way to get this stuff from the Internet to your Kindle reader — you don't want to be locked into the Kindle wireless delivery system, which no doubt will provide only Kindle-approved Amazon-revenue-generating material.

    And finally, there must be a way for a reader, once finished with his "book" or "magazine," to store it in a personal library. This last point no doubt gives the publishers heebie-jeebies, because it means books might be as easily copied as CDs and now movies. But otherwise everything we produce in written form — literature, non-fiction, news — would not only be "disposable" in an artistic sense, it would be designed to be disposable. You would be expected to dispose of it. You buy a book, you pay your ten bucks, you read it, and then you delete it. Bleep. Gone. You can't give it to the Goodwill. You can't pass it to a friend. You can't save it and come back to it later. What's the chance that a hundred years from now, a teenager is going to come across a book from our time and read the darn thing, and remember who we were? Probably the computer files will still be out there in some electronic form in a hundred years, but they aren't going to be accessed the way we might "access" an old book we find in the basement.

    Nope, if the Kindle revolution works the way Bezos plans, it will change the meaning of literature, and much to the worse. Let's hope the natural competition of the market will produce a better device. Otherwise, this latest e-book reader may end up like all those other e-book readers that have come to market in the last ten years — can anyone remember their names? And heaven help us if it doesn't.

  6. ggElliott

    Where did they get the name. Sounds a little too close to "kindling" to me…as in fire-starter. Is it a tongue-in-cheek way to say that's where they want real books to some day end up?

  7. Nathaniel CJE Culver

    I've been waiting for a good e-ink based e-book reader ever since I first encountered e-ink technology nearly a decade ago, so I was greatly interested in Amazon's Kindle.

    While I understand the economic model Amazon is trying to create, I share Dane's concerns about vendor-lockin. Just yesterday, I downloaded Project Gutenberg's DVD with more than 19,000 public domain e-books. What a library! But I won't be able to read them on the Kindle; the only way to get content on the Kindle is to buy it from Amazon. Sure, from Amazon's point of view the Kindle is more a content-delivery service than a product. But that's just not a model I can afford, or am interested in.

    I also found Jennifer Cole's question interesting. I love used bookstores and would love to see a used e-book market. I just don't see either Amazon or publishers allowing it. Apparently, you can't even back up your Kindle ebooks to your own computer (Amazon stores them on its servers for re-downloading in the event of data loss); I highly doubt you'll be able to "loan" them them to friends, or transfer ownership in any way.You can thank DRM for that.

    Finally, the whole EV-DO/Sprint thing means the Kindle will only work in the U.S. Kinda leaves out the rest of us.

    So 1) proprietary content lock-in; 2) DRM shackles; and 3) US-only content delivery all mean I'm still waiting.

  8. Bill Chambers

    Have just watched an in depth interview on Charlie Rose. This device is not the
    complete answer many of us wanted but it appears to be great for now. Color
    would have been great and inclusion of publications like National Geographic
    would have been ideal, I've owned every Ipod since the first and have been willing
    to shell out the bucks with each new improved model without cursing apple. For
    me the greatest feature is the ability to increase the font size; my vision isn't what
    it use to be. I'll buy the kindle and if a better device comes out I'll upgrade. I'm
    certain I'll enjoy many, many hours of reading before that happens. It's my opinion
    that those who wait for the perfect answer (device) before buying loose out on a
    great deal of pleasure.

  9. I really want to know about the e-book aftermarket? Will there be one? If I buy an "ebook" is it mine and can I resell it? Will there be a "used" ebook store so I can get things cheaper? It seems to me, if we use the software licensing model, that when I am done using the ebook, I should be able to sell it to someone else (as I destroy my copy). I love books, but I don't want to keep them all!

  10. I think it's all about form factor, and the standard size and shape of the traditional book is pleasing. The book evolved to its present shape and form because it works well with the size of our hands, has a page width our brains comfortably scan, and a range of text size that suits our eyes when the book is comfortably readable in a resting-armed position, etc. On the other hand, books have some serious drawbacks that have always bothered me, ever since I was a kid. You have to wrestle them to keep them open, sometimes cramping your thumbs…or you have to practically break the binding of them to get them to lay fairly flat in your hands so you can read all the way to the inside of a page. They age, yellow, get musty, store poorly, take up amazing amounts of space if you have a lot of them, and weigh a ton if you have to tote them around. Their covers wear, their bindings fail, and their pages wrinkle. You can stop to scratch your nose, accidentally close your book, and lose your place. Some books are printed with squintingly-small text, which gets annoying as you hit your middle-ages. Books also have the unfortunate quality of being fairly linear and difficult to search. How many times have I read something in a book and later wanted to refer to it, or tell someone about it, and spent ages trying to find the passage again.

    I think the form factor and features of Kindle and some of the other book readers that have come out of late seems just about right. I can imagine snuggling up in a chair and reading from one, just like I would a book. It's the right physical dimensions and page size (I have difficulty picturing myself curling up with a nice PDA), can adjust its text to my eyesight, holds a whole library of books in a 10 ounce package, is just as clear to view outdoors on the patio as it is in the den, will undoubtedly remember what page I'm on if I get distracted, will let me mark my place without having to use a comb or whatever's within reach, and will let me skip around in it rapidly, leaping to chapters rather than flipping and thumbing a lot..

    While I haven't learned all the features of Kindle yet, I have to assume that if it can search Wikipedia, it may also be able to search its own contents, meaning the reader should be able to rapidly find something he/she read earlier. That's a real plus.

    To me, the larger question isn't whether this type of device is valuable; it is to me, definitely. I've wanted a paper book substitute for a long time. It's whether Kindle is the right one. Amazon is playing Apple here. It wants to lock readers into a format and force them to buy their books and publications through them. They're so protective of their book reading format that you can't even read a PDF unless you first submit it to them for proprietary conversion to Kindle format. If I'm going to spend that sort of money on an e-book reader, I want it to be universally useful. There's something a little insulting to be about being told, we're going to sell you this at a premium price, and then charge you for the privilege of only being able to get your content for it by purchasing it from us.

  11. It's not color, the article mentions:

    "But if all goes well for Amazon, several years from now we'll see revamped Kindles, equipped with color screens and other features, selling for much less. "

  12. I have not seen the Newsweek story. Can anyone confirm whether, as in the NW illustration, this thing supports color?

    As to the utility versus a PDA: Does anyone honestly believe that the average Joe would rather read an e-book on a lower-resolution, 2.8-inch screen (or 3.5-inch, if you have a whopper PDA) rather than something like this? My only concern would be if the device includes EVDO instead of, rather than in addition to, WiFi. I'm not subscribing to Sprint data access for the questionable convenience of downloading on the fly.

  13. Randall, ever tried to get 30 hours charge out of a PDA? Not bloody likely. I've been a big user of e-books for ten years, Microsoft Reader mostly, and the experience has a long way to go. A specific device which can sustain a decent charge (long enough for a trans-Pacific flight) for a few hundred bucks sounds pretty good to me.

  14. To Randall,
    Simply because reading text on small lcd screens isn't a pleasant experience, people who love reading books loathe reading them on such a clunky user interface.

    Just like how tv videogame consoles are so popular despite pc's giving the same features on top of its computer functions.

  15. I hope it'll read any type of open text format, reading any blogs as well as auto-downloading blogs, maybe even doing somekind of ringing noise when there is a new RSS item or email. And I hope one can read any email, not only Kindle emails, also Google Books, Google Blogs, Google News should work on this. Forums should be reformated to be read on this. USB host or bluetooth connection to a full sized foldable keyboard should be possible to input text at full speed setting this up on a table with a kickstand or a leather case that can hold it up.

  16. Randall Williams

    I still don't understand the need for thisor any of the neumerous "reader" projects I've been hearing about. For this money I can buy a nice PDA, which I can put microsoft reader or any other number of programs, get all the functionality listed in the article PLUS have word, outlook, excel, ect ect. Sorry, not even remotely interested in this. It's like having a car, and then someone trying to sell you a horse because "everyone has car's now" It may be unique, but other, less expensive devices already do all this does and more.

  17. I've been working with clients to get their content over to Amazon's kindle project for awhile now and I am really excited for this product. Sadly, it was so secret I didn't know any of the details of the product until now. Cursed NDA's.

    I hope they get it right, because I need something like this.

  18. Does this run the risk that the ESPN mobile phone ran, of being a device that is outside the general scope of Amazon's core success, selling books? Are they inventing a new division of their business here, digital book devices? Where do you think this will take Amazon?