The word Kindle makes me think of burning books

All branding aside, the oncoming launch of Amazon’s e-paper device essentially begins the practical discussion about e-paper in earnest.

Books are a neat trick, but I’m pretty exclusively thinking in terms of the future of newspapers here.

Things to pay attention to:

  1. EVDO: This device has ubiquitous Internet access when in cell range. That’s good. Obviously, any cell phone with a data plan has the same thing, although I’d argue the iPhone handles the user interface for news better than many other devices at the moment.
  2. DRM: The e-books (which users will be able to by at $10 a pop from Amazon) will be in a proprietary format, not based on an open standard. Start thinking now about what newspapers will do as devices like the Kindle improve enough (read as: get lighter, less expensive and better-looking) to get a solid adoption rate going. Will your paper (or company) charge users for a Kindle subscription and encode the pages so they can only be read on a set number of devices? (Think iTunes-style DRM.)
  3. Price: $400 isn’t that bad. I usually see sub-$200 as a spot where mass adoption becomes possible, but $400 is halfway there. Remember when DVD players cost $400? Me neither, because it wasn’t that way for long.
  4. The wider Web: It’s not clear from what I’ve read so far if the Kindle has a browser built in, but it clearly has some sort of Web access. That’s smart, and necessary. There’s something weird going on involving paying to subscribe to blogs in a feed reader, but the question for news organizations will be whether to make it easy or hard for users of future e-paper devices to get off their reservation and out to the Web.
  5. Hackability: Given the recent history of the PSP and iPhone, I’m going to take a wild guess that the Kindle will be hackable, and that users will do interesting and unexpected things with it. That’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.

And a red herring to ignore:

It’s ugly. Seriously. Instead of looking at it directly, try to imagine a device with similar funcationality, but thinner, with a flexible screen, and fewer buttons. That’s what it will look like in, let’s say, four years.

3 Replies to “The word Kindle makes me think of burning books”

  1. Iono man, the Kindle is still too clunky and massive.

    Plus RCA and Sony have already introduced, tried and then abandoned the idea of eBooks.

    Sure it’s got the backing of the Amazon brand behind it, but do you really think that’s going to change people’s attitudes?

    Plus you can’t compare it to DVD players, that’s a massive mainstream consumer product, this is not.

    And on the point of hack-ability, if you can hack your PSP and iPhone, why not just load on the books to those devices? Maybe a PDF reader or something, or even straight jpegs.

    Personally I think it’d make a lot more sense for schools to adopt this product as as an option for textbooks, that will at least get us some quick feedback on if people will embrace it or not.

    I do think that ePaper is coming, but this isn’t it. This is like what the Newton was to the Palm.

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