Tuesday, November 20, 2007

So Close, and Yet So Far Away

As you've probably already heard, unless this is the first blog you've read today, Amazon has released its new e-book reader, called Kindle. And it's very, very nice. But still not quite there....

The good:

  • E-ink.

  • Built-in "free" EVDO.

  • The battery life rocks: it goes up to a week without recharges.

  • It handles newspapers, magazines, and blogs as well as books.

  • It has a keyboard and the ability to write margin notes, bookmark pages, etc., etc.

  • Adjustable text size.

The bad:

  • The EVDO is limited. It's free to browse Amazon's Kindle e-book store and to have books, magazines, and blogs delivered to your Kindle, but you can't just browse the Internet (except, bizarrely, Wikipedia) on it, and you have to subscribe to and pay for blogs.

  • The newspaper subscription prices are a little ridiculous, considering that you can get the entire content of most (and once the Wall Street Journal goes free, I think all) of these newspapers online for free.

  • It supports Word documents and pictures, but not PDFs. (Although, according to the comments on Amazon, you can get around this by converting PDFs to Mobi files.)

  • $400. Considering that I have my eye on an entire laptop that costs $400, boots in 15-20 seconds, and does a whole lot more, I can't see spending $400 on something just to read e-books. My goal in buying new gadgets nowadays is to cut down on the number of things I'm carrying with me, not add a new one that won't replace any of the old ones to the pile.

If it was less than $400 I might still be tempted. I really would like an e-ink device with long battery life for reading PDFs on the go. Even once I get a job and can justify buying one of those Asus Eees, it still only has about 3 hours of battery life. (Although I will be amazed if Asus doesn't eventually put an e-ink display in one of the Eee models, which should help on that front quite a bit.) But it's going to have to be a lot less than $400. Like, $50 if I can only use it to read e-books. Maybe up to $200 if I could use it to browse the Web or if it could replace my PDA and/or laptop in some circumstances.

Of course, if the Kindle bombs maybe I'll be able to pick one up on Ebay in a couple of months for $50.... Hmm.... Should I root against the Kindle so I can get one cheap, or should I root for it so e-books will take off and there will be more competition between vendors to improve their e-book interfaces and offer more/better/cheaper e-books? Dilemmas, dilemmas.

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