Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Amazon's Kindle

Call me cynical, but I’ve never really seen the appeal of the Amazon Kindle. With such a high price point, it’s a wonder that they’ve been able to sell as many as they have. The Kindle of course is an e-book reader, but doesn’t work as a phone nor does it allow much access to the internet. Essentially, it is a device with limited uses that is expensive; one lays out a big expenditure to Amazon for the privilege of buying all additional content from Amazon too.

With such a clunky appearance, the Kindle doesn’t have any aesthetic appeal for me either. But perhaps I could be persuaded to give it some real consideration; after all, I am young, read a lot, and have quite a bit of discretionary income. They ability to buy new bestsellers for only ten bucks is quite enticing. But unlike just abo
ut every other electronic device I might want to own, I can’t just run down to Best Buy and play with the interface to see how I like it.

Of course, I can and have done that with the iPhone, which unlike the Kindle is primarily a phone and internet device. Now with a new application called Stanza, owners of the iPhone can read books with the free pro
gram. So for the same price point, one can get all the features of the iPhone and read books as well. Why would anyone get a Kindle?

The one thing Amazon has going for it is the vast list of titles available, around 180,000. Stanza currently only offers books in the public domain—titles you could probably get for a buck at a used book store. But if/when they or a similar company starts signing deals with publishers to make that material available, I would imagine that we’ll see a shift away from the Kindle’s limited options.

All this said, I haven’t been a fan of e-books thus far. Perhaps it is because I have been stuck in front of a computer to read them rather than equipped with a portable device, or maybe I’m just old school enough to prefer a paperback. But I read the newspaper online everyday, so I can definitely see how I might really use such a device.

The Kindle is a good idea, and I applaud Jeff Bezos for wanting to put every book ever written ‘back into print’ by making it available for download. I know that my research would be greatly simplified if I could download all editions of a book into an electronic device that weighs a pound or two. But the constrictions inherent in Amazon’s business strategy make me think some serious reorganization will have to emerge soon or the Kindle is going to left on the sidelines.

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