Thursday, January 24, 2008

Kindle: The Update

So yesterday I made a fool of myself, but so did most of the other people in the room, so I feel justified.

I attended an AAR panel, similar to the one in November, except this one was from non-traditional publishers and other technology companies. Google Books was there (not all of it, just a guy), playwright company was there, some people in audio books, and a representative of for the Kindle devision of Amazon.

Now keep in mind that most people have not seen the Kindle. It's only available online, and Amazon doesn't have stores to host demos. I had not seen it, nor had most of the agents in the room, so of course we all swarmed this guy with questions about it as we made an all-out mob trying to get a chance to hold it in our hands while the cash bar was still open.

The big seller of eBooks (versus my cheaper tablet PC) is their eInk technology. It uses a different screen than an LCD screen. It has no back light and it's much easier on the eyes. I asked the Amazon representative if eInk could be ported to a normal computer, and he said it was hardware, not software - hence, the pricetag, because you need to buy the device (or another e-Reader like the Sony or the iLiad) to have the technology.

I was wrong about a few things. Technically, you do have unlimited storage, if you buy memory cards. He gave the example of a customer who'd already bought 500 books on his Kindle. He did not address customer concerns (like out-of-range wireless issues, or the cost of Kindle books, though I admit I think their prices are not outrageous compared to what they could be). Nonetheless, like any piece of technology, we wanted to hold it, play with it, see how it worked. Our collective inner-geek emerged.

Five minutes later, I calmed down and my opinion on the advise is only slightly raised. It's still too expensive and too reliant on wireless. No, it will not replace books (he didn't think that, either). Does the eInk technology have potential? Yes. Could I see myself buying one if the price were much lower and the technology a bit more advanced? Yes. But for that moment, I wanted one.

This is why I don't go to tech demos very often.


Joel said...

On storage - I have the sony eReader and about 150 books for it. (114 were purchased for an earlier device, but I can put them on the eReader.) The average book is 1 to 4 meg in size. The 16 dollar upgrade card I bought for it is 4 gigabits. Thus, I can fit between 4,000 and 1000 books on the device at the same time. You are correct; other cards would hold other collections of 4,000 books. But is that really an issue?

eInk won't work for computer monitors because it refreshes relatively slowly. It takes around a quarter second to change the image on an eInk display. That's faster then turning a page, but far slower then the 60 to 120 times every second the image on your computer screen refreshes. You need those high refresh rates to fool the eye into thinking its seeing things move around smoothly.

Anonymous said...

Can you put Kindle books on other readers?

writtenwyrdd said...

Thanks for the first-hand impressions. I'm still not interested in the Kindle. Every time I cave and buy a piece of technology (with the sole exception of the laptop) I've regretted it as a huge money sink. I'll take a paperback, thanks.

Stephen said...


You can't put Kindle format books on any other reader (blame amazon for that.) The Kindle format is a special DRM version of the Mobipocket format. So the Kindle can't read normal DRM Mobipocket books, the Kindle ones can't be read on any other reader.

However, you can read no-drm Mobipocket books on the Kindle, which are available in some places (or you can make your own). You have to load them differently.

They are correct that the Kindle (or any e-reader) is not a good replacement for a book. However, for me it might be a good replacement for a stack of books (ebooks are much cheaper here than paper books, let alone HC, even at Kindle prices).

Kraplan University said...

We all have our moments. I make a fool out of myself everyday.

pussreboots said...

The memory card is a plus. I'm still not jumping up and down to get one but it's nice it takes memory cards.

Kristin said...

Kindle is a good replacement for a book, if that book were only an e-book. And that is true of many online publishers...only in electronic format.

So for many readers who read a lot of e-books, the Kindle may be just what they are looking for.

Also, I am a person who doesn't hold on to books forever. I read them and then pass them on to someone else. So I don't think I would need to keep vast quantities of ebooks on my reader. I'd probably just store the file somewhere else when done computer...and just upload the ones I haven't yet read.

I am very curious to see this e-ink technology. Sounds very cool.

BuffySquirrel said...

Or, the fact that it takes memory cards is a marketing decision to create a separate revenue stream.

Travis Erwin said...

Thanks for sharing you take on this.