oh, look: it’s still proprietary.

So the Kindle 2 is out, and available for pre-order at the low, low price of $359.

Once my reflexive gadget lust had subsided, I found myself thinking the same thoughts I had when I was considering the Kindle 1.0 a few months back.  $359 can buy a lot of paperbacks…and even if I drop the $359 on the thing, I a.) need to spend some more just to fill it up with books, and b.) won’t be able to transfer my existing paper and eBook libraries onto that shiny device.  The $359 effectively get me a meal tray without any food on it (except the Public Domain classics they graciously put onto the device so it’s not totally barren when you turn it on), and my expense then locks me into one particular restaurant.

(And no, it’s not “just like Apple/an iPod”, because I can feed .mp3 files from any source into iTunes, and I’m not locked into the iTunes store to buy new content for the iPod.)

What am I missing here?  (Or what is the Kindle missing, depending on your perspective?)


22 thoughts on “oh, look: it’s still proprietary.

  1. MarkHB says:

    I just don’t get it, either the Kindle or the Sony offering. Aside from the convenience (largely allayed by both devices being large ‘n’ snappable), the point of eBooks is being able to read ’til 3 in the morning without keeping the Significant Other awake. These unilluminated ePaper screens require an external light source, meaning you could only use it where you could use a real book anyway.

    Might as well enjoy the tactile pleasures of reading, then.

    As for format lock-in? Baen showed years ago that the correct way to deliver eBooks is in every single gh0dsbedamned format available. Why Amazon have missed this, I simply do not know. Perhaps they have idiot shareholders who insist that plaintext would lead to mass piracy and the destruction of the print industry. Just the same way that DRM-free MP3s and OGG files have destroyed the recording industry, right?


  2. Phil says:

    I’ve seen a Kindle in action. It’s a neat device.

    However, I see only two benefits from having it:
    1) You can have a rather large library in a rather small space.
    2) You can obtain more books for it without having to go anywhere.

    However, the entry cost for those two benefits is rather high. Usually, a couple mass market paperbacks to keep the brain busy on an airplane can be packed quite easily. A trip to the bookstore isn’t all that terribly much trouble either.

    Neat technology, but I still think it’s the answer to a question most people just aren’t asking.

  3. MarkHB says:

    Ah-ha! Turns out we’re wrong, Marko. It will parse all the general text formats; it’s just getting books one’s bought from the Kindle-store off that’s an issue. That makes it a lot more interesting, if they’d add a frelling backlight instead of Battery Life is King, to hell with usability being the order of the day.

  4. George says:

    The Kindle is kind of cool…you can load all kinds of things on there. That works for me…you can load up whitepapers and things.

    The thing that was missing, IMHO, was the ability to read blogs. They had a small subset that you could read (HuffPo, etc.) If they would let you read any RSS feed, or better yet, any webpage, I’d be all over it.

  5. Caleb says:


    The called the Kindle “a wireless reading device” the other day on the radio. My response was “WTF, I have a whole shelf full of wireless reading devices, they’re called fucking books.”

  6. PhillipC says:

    I’m a bit of a geek, so my response to the Kindle was to do something a little different. There’s these wonderful thing called Tablet computers that allow you to swivel the screen and lay it flat, then use a pen to navigate. They usually come with the Microsoft Reader software, and you can download Adobe Acrobat… it’s a regular Windows XP computer aside from the tablet functions. They sell used on eBay for about $350, and you have a laptop computer when you’re tired of reading.

  7. avenger29 says:

    No way in hell I’d buy a Kindle, but the Sony thing has some aviation stuff for it that was recently introduced…approach plates.

    (updating that big ol’ Jepps binder is a pain in the ass)

    But it needs backlighting for it to be viable from my point of view. The best time to fly is at night, anyway!

  8. MarkHB says:

    Damn straight. Give me the backlight, make it my choice to use it.

    As stated, only time I eRead is when I can’t have strong directional or ambient anyway.

  9. og says:

    I like paper. I like binding. I like the smell of a new book. The weight of a glossy reference book. The ink on the onionskin pages of a technical manual

    Books are not permanent, nor are they perpetual. The idea of keeping the words safe electronically appeals to me a good deal- but to be enjoyed they need to be on the page, for me.

    The movie that plays in my head when I read- it’s as if the line of type is a tape and my eyes the reader. To be reread, if needed, or paused and savored, or even just passed through. The paper contributes to that process. IN ten years, the book will still be on my shelf, beckoning me to reread it, and the Kindle will be in a landfill.

    Just my .02

  10. Mark Alger says:

    A book is a mature technology. It serves its purpose admirably well. A mass-market paperback is just about the best package for information there is. It is portable, requires no significant energy input, and has no moving parts. Well, except for the pages, but they don’t do much work, so they don’t count.

    Kindle appears to me to be answering a question that hasn’t been asked. If one were to invent the ideal technology to replace a book (qv: Frank Herbert’s descriptions of Paul Atreides’ Orange Catholic Bible in Dune), it would look an awful lot like a book.

    Yes, there is an attraction to being able to carry an entire library in one package. But having to change the batteries when you’re reading on the john will still be a royal pain in the ass.


  11. Chris Byrne says:

    They’ve announced that a kindle content client will be released for smartphones, including the iPhone.

    I think I’ll wait.

  12. Tony says:

    “…the point of eBooks is being able to read ’til 3 in the morning without keeping the Significant Other awake.”

    Um, no, no it isn’t. The point of electronic books is the ability to have a large library available without having to hump it in your pack. And for this reason, eBooks are fucking brilliant.

    However, I think I’ll rather keep my PalmPilot in my backpack than switch to this thing. The Palm can be used for taking down notes, it has a calendar, a bunch of stuff that a dedicated e-book reader lacks. (I even found a freeware ballistic calculator in the Internet, created for older PalmPilots. 🙂 ) And it has a backlight, too! 🙂

  13. LittleRed1 says:

    Let me take notes in the margins, and have access to all the out-of-print histories, as well as a way to tap into my university’s journal subscriptions and read articles. Then we might have a deal.
    Until then, nope. Give me the dead tree version that I can slip into my flight bag, or backpack, and scribble on if needed.

    “My name is Red, and I’m a compulsive annotator.”
    “Hello Red. Welcome to Academics Anonymous.”

  14. Jeff says:

    I own a Kindle and you can have it when you pry it from my cold dead hands. I’ve had it since Christmas and have read a couple dozen books on it so far. most of which cost me less than a buck and this isn’t even including the 15,000 or so books in the public domain I’ve got.

    The eInk screen is easy to read in almost any light and if the light is bad you can increase the type size to compensate. I use it a lot and only charge it about once a week, try that with a back lit device.

    It’s also cool to be able to download new books from just about anywhere there is cell phone coverage.

  15. Mark D says:

    Been using a Kindle 1.0 for a couple months now and love it. I bought a two-CD set with 400 books (formatted for Kindle) of classics of the Western Canon. Yes, they’re public domain, I could have gotten them for free, but $30 saved me a TON of downloading.

    It’s the first e-book reader I’ve seen that’s both kind to my (no longer young) eyes AND displays enough text that I’m not paging every three seconds.

    You can attach a clip-on book light if you want to read in the dark.

    You can make notes on the text, highlight text, and set bookmarks.

    I’m not convinced that the 2.0 is THAT much of an improvement, largely because it doesn’t seem to accept SD cards like the 1.0 does. This is related to my one real beef with the device, you can’t create folders in the memory to keep similar books together, so while the 2.0 may hold about 1,500 books you’ll have a heck of a time finding the one you want. SD cards are cheap, I can have a handful of them with different genres and plug in the one I want when I want it.

    I also don’t seem to have the problems other Kindle owners report, of the device falling out of the cover (happened maybe twice when I pulled it in the wrong direction, the same direction you’d pull it if you wanted to remove it) or the back cover coming off (I think that happened once, and I suspect I didn’t put it on properly in the first place after installing an SD card).

  16. emdfl says:

    What happens when it’s dropped on the ground from a few feet up – several times over. Or knowed off the car seat ? Or ooops driven over by the car? Or dropped into a bit of dampness – as in a bloody F*****G puddle that would swallow my SUV if I chanced it?

    I thought so.

  17. avenger29 says:

    “What happens when it’s dropped on the ground from a few feet up – several times over. Or knowed off the car seat ? Or ooops driven over by the car? Or dropped into a bit of dampness – as in a bloody F*****G puddle that would swallow my SUV if I chanced it”

    Then again…not much in the way of consumer electronics seems to be hardened against these occurances…they should, but they aren’t.

    Hell, my cellphone that I just got (LG Chocolate 3) just cracked the front screen because it was in my pocket. I didn’t slam up against anything, either. Weak.

  18. emdfl says:

    My point exactly. If I drop my paperback, I’m out $8.00 or so. When this piece of technology does the same thing I’m out $350.00. No thanks.

  19. MarkHB says:

    You know, I don’t think I’ve ever destroyed a single PDA by violence, and I’ve been using ’em since the Palm III (in fact, the solitary one that did get dinged when some twat tried to steal it, my IIIc, is still in a bits box, still works fine). Tech is fairly fragile, but not actually made of glass – even the ones with large amount of glass. My iPhone survived falling off a toilet cistern onto tile flooring, and the Palm series are just plain bouncy, they can take a lot of punishment.

    I imagine the Kindle would react to being dropped by clattering, and possibly shedding a port cover. *shrugs* If you drive over it or drop it in a puddle, then I’m sure you’ll be out $350, but if a klutz like me can take care of his shinies, then I honestly don’t think anyone else has much of an excuse.

    Anyhoooooo, now it transpires that one can stick HTML or RTF or whatever onto one, my only objection is the lack of a backlight. Light it up, and I’ll buy one when I have the money. It’s not like I’m *not* already lugging a backpack full of chargers with me everywhere, anyway.

  20. MarkHB says:

    Heh. In fact, Amazon have a slow-mo video of a drop-test of the Kindle.


  21. Lissa says:

    I’ll add my voice as a Kindle-lover (Mike is drooling over his Kindle 2, which is supposed to ship February 24). I adore always having a hundred books with me. I love the fact that when an almost-remembered quote is niggling at me, I can search my whole library and pull the exact wording, along with who wrote it where. (Useful for bloggers, most definitely!) It is such a wonderful, comforting feeling to never be without a book. (I have always used “Can it fit a book?” as a primary purse-selection criterion.) It’s fabulous not having to worry about whether I should pack one more book, or two or three; I’ve got them all! (I’ve been on one cruise and thought that I brought enough books to last the week. I finished them in four days and had to resort to the boat library — Nicholas Sparks is Teh Devil Who Can’t Write.) Finally, I love that I can read a huge, heavy book while drying my hair or eating with my other hand — when’s the last time you tried to read a hardcover of Michener’s Hawaii, one-handed?

    Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s really expensive. Yes, you have to be careful with it. I completely understand those who prefer real, papery, ink-smelling books. I’m just saying that it’s my very, VERY favorite-ist toy.

  22. Cat says:

    When I last moved, I went from a 1400 square foot space to a 900 square foot one. After purging every fiction book from my collection that gets read less than once a year, I still had no space left for new books.
    If I wanted to be sensible, I would solve this problem at the local library. I wanted to be extravagant, so I got a kindle.
    Also, when I travel, I am no longer at the mercy of airport bookstores if I misjudge how much reading material to carry. I only fly about 6-8 times a year, but it’s still worth it to me.

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