Latest on e-books: Amazon's Kindle

So Amazon has announced a new e-book reader, the Kinble, to retail for US$400. As well as books, it will let users read blogs and newspapers. The most interesting feature is that the Kindle has wireless internet access, you can use it to browse Amazon and download your purchased books, pretty much instantly. You can also browse the web.

Reaction has been mixed: Techdirt describe e-books as a solution in search of a problem, and general consensus over on Metafilter is not greatly positive. Tom Boone at LibraryLaws is concerned about whether libraries will be able to lend e-books for the Kindle, and is concerned about formats (it doesn’t support PDF!). On the other hand, he likes the price-per-book, the ability to search full-text across multiple books, and the ability to annotate text. Tom Peters at ALA Techsource has a mixed review.

Tim Lee at Techdirt (again) is less impressed by the price ($2 for Bleak House (which is free at Gutenberg, of course), $14/month for the New York Times, even a subscription fee for blogs that are free online. Lee doesn’t like the $10 price for books, either (I agree; if you’re not paying for physical distribution and printing, then prices should be much lower).

Without (obviously) having seen the Kindle, I’m torn. It seems like a step in the right direction, with a few problems, mostly the fact that it’s to a large extent tied to Amazon. Not such a great model. I love my iPod, but I can add any sort of music to it – I want to rip a CD or download from eMusic or from iTunes, I can. With the Kindle, seems like I’m locked in to buying from Amazon. For $400, I’d like platform independence. But downloading wirelessly, without needing to plug into a PC? Yeah, that I like.

The next question is whether libraries will be able to lend e-books to Kindle users. I read about 70 books last year, and probably more this year. Of those, I bought about two, and another three or four were gifts. The rest came from my much-loved public library, and the academic library I work in. I’m not likely to shell out $400 if I have to then buy all the content I use on the device.

But that’s OK, maybe I’m not the target audience for this one. I probably prefer reading off paper anyway (it’s not the resolution, so much as being able to flick from page to page and to have several books open at once). In an ideal world, I’d have paper and e-books, one for actually reading, the other available so I can do full-text searching when needed…

About simonchamberlain

New Zealand librarian and music fan, living in London.
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2 Responses to Latest on e-books: Amazon's Kindle

  1. Pingback: Phil Bradley's weblog: Amazon's Kindle in the UK

  2. Peter says:

    Excellent round up of both positive and negative reactions to Kindle. I think I’m in the techdirt camp – a solution in search of a problem. As Seth Godin says, books don’t need a $399 reader to start with. I’m sure Amazon have done their market research – but I’m not buying the ‘ipod for books’ line. Ipods offered something worthwhile (thousands of tracks that you can store and flip between) – but most people only want to read one book at a time, and a single book is probably easier to carry than the Kindle.

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