Is Kindle the Wave of the Future?

What is a “Kindle?” It’s an e-book reader being heavily promoted by Amazon.com. Big companies like Microsoft and Adobe have taken shots at producing an e-book reader that people would love enough to give up books printed on paper, but they failed. Now, Amazon.com has released Kindle 2.

Most of us have a heavy reliance on the Adobe Acrobat Reader, though it is a general purpose reader, and does not lend itself to novels and non-fiction. It’s better for business-related documents, though many people use it to distribute books.

There are readability issues with Adobe Acrobat. You just don’t have the book experience with one. Often people format pages to 8-1/2 x 11 rather than the more readable 6 x 9, and you must scroll through pages rather than turning them.

Enter Kindle. It was specifically designed by the people at Amazon.com to overcome the flaws of the past. It measures 8″ x 5.3″ x 0.36″ thick and weighs only 10.2 ounces, so you can take it anywhere. Amazon.com says that Kindle 2 has 16 shades of gray for clear text and even crisper images, and it can easily be read in daylight. You press a button and pages appear to turn on the screen rather needing to scroll up and down.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEa_8nUJkYY&w=500&h=281] CNET review of the Kindle 2.

Perhaps the most revolutionary thing about the Kindle is the fact that it is automatically hooked up to Amazon.com by free wireless. That means you can instantly download books from Amazon.com from almost anywhere. The device stores up to 1,500 books, and about 245,000 books are available, plus selected newspapers and blogs.

Prices for “Kindlized” books are not always cheap. For example, a print version of The Shack retails for $14.99 but is sold on Amazon.com for $8.24, the same price as the Kindle version. On the other hand, a mainstream bestseller like Handle with Care by Jodi Picot is a hardback that retails for $27.95, is offered at $16.77 by Amazon.com, but the price is slashed to only $9.99 for their Kindle edition.

So, what’s not to like about the Kindle? The obscene $359 price Amazon.com is charging for it. A cover to protect the device goes for an additional $29-$39. Even if you read 52 books a year,you’re going to pay a $6.90 premium on top of the price of each book you purchase just for the privilege of using the Amazon.com technology. When you consider that, you’re paying more for the Kindle edition of Handle with Care than if you had bought the hardback. And you can’t lend the Kindle edition to a friend or donate it to your local library after you’ve finished reading it.

The over-priced Kindle serves Amazon.com since it gives them a proprietary delivery platform , but does not serve readers or the publishing industry as well. If Amazon.com wanted to sell a lot more books on behalf of publishers they would make the Kindle available for $99.Everyone would have them at that price, and we’d all be buying more books to read on the cool Kindle device.

Posted Sept 18, 2009

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