Watching the Kindle

So response to the Kindle is heating up. I ordered one and discovered they’re back ordered, not promising to deliver before Christmas. I’ve seen a thoughtful post suggesting that Amazon will regret not making it a more open system. And reviews on Amazon are only lukewarm.

The delay is okay with me, it wasn’t a gift, I just want it. I rationalize that I’ll be able to blog about it, but that’s just MBA rationalization, I ordered it because I want it. I did that in June with the iPhone, paid the $600 to get it the first day, and I don’t regret it.

But you realize of course that I will have to tell you about it when I finally get it. I’m looking forward to it. In fact, I already didn’t order a hard copy book from Amazon today, because I see it’s available on the Kindle, and I want to wait for the Kindle version.

I’ve been an ebook fan long before the Amazon Kindle. I’m proud of that. I like the idea of an ebook reader. I bought the old Rocket ebook reader five years ago (or so) and I was glad I did. Before that I bought my first PDA — maybe seven years ago — for its ebook capabilities, and I actually read several full-length novels on it before I went on to something else.

In the interest of full disclosure, that Rocket ebook was a gift for a teenage daughter with a reading addiction, at the rate of two or three books a week. It was in part a defense against "Dad, can we go to Borders?"

"Download it dear, download it."

The reception of the Rocket ebook reader was underwhelming. I thought my daughter was possibly the only user, so I wasn’t surprised when the content stopped coming, but I just did a Web search and found somebody else who owned a Rocket ebook reader … and liked it:

I owned the first Rocket Reader(NuvoMedia) in Grad school and loved it, absolutely loved it. I found it versatile (I could also sink my own documents to it, as well as free ebooks I found at Project Gutenberg. I could add notes and bookmarks). I read my first Dan Brown book for under two dollars, Angels and Demons, before he was discovered by the world.

Rocket Ebook Reader

That seems odd because apparently the Rocket was not a success. They stayed away in droves. I thought my daughter was the only user, so I was glad to see Rebecca’s post, but that doesn’t make it mainstream (sorry, Rebecca, but then you do call your blog "the eclectic musings of an oddball").

And yet, times change, technology marches on, and here comes Amazon with a new thing. The big gimmick is that you’re not tied to the computer, you can download the books from anywhere that has a cell connection.

Meanwhile, David Weinberger suggests the new Amazon Kindle may be "a textbook example of how the strengths of closed platforms can quickly turn into a weakness." 

One thing Amazon has going for it is that Kindle ebooks are cheaper than real bound paper books. Just a bit cheaper, unfortunately. They certainly aren’t taking Seth Godin’s recommendation for really disruptive marketing, which he titled You Won’t Find Me on Amazon’s New Book Reader.  He makes a good point, but actually, I think I will find him there.

Meanwhile, on the Harvard Business Online site, David Weinberger says Kindle is going to fail because it’s a closed system.

Amazon’s Kindle e-book may turn out to be a textbook. A textbook example, that is, of how the strengths of closed platforms can quickly turn into a weakness. From a product perspective, Kindle addresses every key weakness of its predecessors …

But Kindle operates in a closed universe, and that’s why it probably won’t succeed in the long term as currently constructed.

Interesting coincidence, he finishes that piece by asking "How about iTunes? Where do you see openness encroaching next?" Meanwhile, I’ve just this week switched my music buying patterns from iTunes, which annoys me by controlling how many computers I listen to purchased music on, to Amazon, which doesn’t. That’s right, Amazon is the open system vendor that switched me from iTunes. So it goes full circle.

2 thoughts on “Watching the Kindle

  1. The Kindle is a great device for reading newspapers (the two best selling items so far are monthly subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, respectively). It beams today's edition directly to your hand with no big mess of paper.

    However, when it comes to reading an actual book, there's nothing like, well, reading an actual book. I understand the desire to save money ($10 a book, dependent upon the book, may be a bargain…though an initial $400 certainly is not), which is why I subscribe to BookSwim – http://www.BookSwim.com – (it's like Netflix, but with books). I'm on the 5-at-a-time plan (they have anywhere from 2 to 11), so I'm reading at my own pace (no due dates or late fees) and saving money hand over fist (my monthly subscription costs about as much as one hardcover new release).

    And on the topic of compactness…come on; have you seen the size of the Kindle? iPod-small it is not. There's little else in the world as compact as a book (especially considering how much is in it).

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