Buy Amazon - Kindle is the iPod of books

Posted by: Aaron Pressman on November 19, 2007

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A simple message today: Amazon’s (Symbol: AMZN) new electronic book reader, dubbed the Kindle, looks like a hit that will bring in several new revenue streams. But the digerati don’t get it and don’t like it and that creates a compelling investment opportunity to buy Amazon shares now. The stock market doesn’t appreciate this game changer. Kindle will be the iPod of books — you read it here first.

Back on October 23, 2001 Steve Jobs introduced the iPod. There were already lots of digital music players at the time and the digerati pooh-poohed the iPod. Three hundred and ninety-nine dollars for a music player? Too expensive, they said. Lacking features like an FM radio or a microphone, they said. Existing “good enough” products prove there’s no big market here, they said. Turned out they were wrong on all counts. Apple shares (AAPL) stood at $9.51 (adjusted for a split) the day before the launch. I don’t need to tell you where they are today. Ok, I will: $166.

So enough of the dusty history lesson. Here are five reasons why the Kindle is the next must-have gadget akin to the iPod.

1. Solves real “problems” for consumers and readers

I have no need to carry around 80 hard cover books with me at a time, let alone 1,000. Sony’s dud e-book reader’s main benefit: carry around 80 hard cover books at once. I just want to read one book at a time. But sometimes I finish my book and I wish I had one more. Maybe I’m in the mood for something different than what I just finished. Or maybe it was so good I want something else by the same author. Kindle is the first ebook reader with its own cellular wireless connection to let you get new books anytime, almost anywhere when the mood strikes. It’s not wifi, you don’t need to find hot spots — it’s like a cell phone. What about periodicals? I want to get my newspapers and magazines quick. Wake up in the morning, grab some coffee and the paper. Kindle’s wireless connection puts them there before I wake up.

2. Moves the value equation in favor of consumers

Want to buy a digital book from Sony? It’s about the same price as in the book store — or MORE. Want to read Clive Cussler’s new thriller “The Chase” in hardcover? It costs $16.17 at Amazon.com or $21.56 at Sony’s ebook store. Ouch. What the heck? No paper or printing or shipping costs and it’s still more? Kindle books top out mostly top out at $9.99 and many are less. Oh, but the cellular wireless connection must cost a fortune. Nope - included in the price of the device and the downloads. And Amazon’s Kindle store already has 88,000 volumes versus Sony’s 20,000. What about periodicals? Also big savings. A year of the Wall Street Journal in print is $249 versus $9.99 a month ($120 a year) via Kindle (sure there are web sites, but this is more like the offline, full package, take it to the bathroom version).

One feature that has bloggers up in arms, however, are limitations and fees for getting blogs onto Kindle. Not ideal, I’ll agree. You can only subscribe to blogs that Amazon has included in its store and there is a monthly charge of 99 cents to $1.99 each for wireless delivery. I’ll concede that’s not very bloggy but sounds like the iPod complaints that adding an FM radio receiver cost extra. It’s not the core use. And it could always be improved down the line. Getting your own documents onto the Kindle can be done via email but also includes an extra charge, just 10 cents though. The email service supports several formats of open-source books as well as Microsoft Word but not PDFs and text-based, but not image-based PDFs (as colleague and reviewer Steve Wildstrom pointed out to me). That’s again a hole but not a disaster.

3. Smart design changes the existing product landscape

I’ve already noted how the free wireless cell connection changes the game completely. And Kindle is filled with a bunch of smaller smart design features, like a real keyboard to let you search in a book or document or page turning buttons on both sides of the screen (lefties like my wife say thank you). But another major decision will also help Kindle take off. It’s not hanging off your computer. You don’t need to sync it with a computer. Purchases are backed up online by Amazon so you can delete and recover any book you bought.

As important as what’s included is what’s not included. Sony’s ebook reader plays music files. Why? (As one commenter notes, Kindle can play music but only as background music in random order — it’s not meant as a music player) Sony’s ebook reader lets you load PDFs from your computer into so they can appear as nearly unreadable scrunched text files. Why?

4. Bezos has an established track record as a visionary

Jeff Bezos packed it all up and moved to Seattle last decade to build his online superstore, beating out zillions of more (and less) established competitors. Amazon.com got many things right, including the important focus on reader reviews, cheap shipping and giant selection. Sure, not everything Bezos has ever conceived has been a hit. I’d say that puts him in Steve Jobs’ camp.

5. It’s cool

If you still don’t believe me, go and watch the video on Amazon’s site. This is a nifty gizmo that elegantly solves real problems for consumers.

As a final note, there is one big difference between Apple in October 2001 and Amazon today. Apple was trading at a depressed valuation and the stock was in the dumps six years ago. Amazon is trading at a premium valuation (its price-to-earnings ratio is listed over 90 on Yahoo Finance right now). That ups the risk a bit, no question. Nonetheless, Kindle as a hardware product plus digital services is going to bring in two high margin revenue streams versus Amazon’s current lighter margins on physical goods. It will improve over time and manufacturing costs will drop. It’s the new iPod — really.

UPDATE: There’s one particularly misleading notion floating around in the blogosphere that the Kindle is closed to free content or that you can only read what you buy from Amazon. Totally wrong. You can load any file you want in a couple of formats including plain text and HTML. You can email those to your Kindle for a dime or load them free using a USB cable or SD memory card. Check out the gazillions of free offerings at Project Gutenberg, for example. They’re available as plain text or HTML. Available book formats varies over at Archive.org but there is always plain text. And anything you write yourself or get from friends can go right on the Kindle. It’s open for reading.

UPDATE2: Getting lots of comments about the supposed closedness of the Kindle. It’s open just like the iPod. Purchased content with Kindle/iPod DRM only plays on Kindle/iPod. Purchased content with competing DRMs won’t play on Kindle/iPod. A variety of formats of content with no DRM will play fine. And, using free software from Mobipocket (MobiPocket Creator 4.2 Publisher’s edition) you can convert unprotected PDF files into unprotected Mobi files that Kindle can read. It’s no more burdensome than ripping a CD in iTunes. And unlike the iPod, you don’t need any special software to get content on and off the Kindle. Plug it in and it shows up as another drive.

Reader Comments

Tom

November 19, 2007 6:19 PM

I will stick my 2c into each point:
1. I use my pocket pc and mobipocket reader for this, and I can choose 3g or wi-fi or usb to my pc - I can call my friend and read hime some nice passage from the book, too
2. free blog, internet, phone, camera, map with gps, stock quotes, u name it, and book reader on top of that
3. smart design? my htc is smaller and packed to the hilt with smart options
4. Bezos is cool guy I agree - he owns mobipocket too :)
5. my combo is cool either
Two questions for investors imho:
1. will amazon put all effort into new gadget and force other guys out?
2. will people abandon paperbacks and hardcovers to gizmo tool without feeleng real paper?
I will stick to my mobireader for a while, even if I see some titles are cheaper on kindle indeed.
And, probably, I will buy it :) But, mind, I am gadget freak ....

James Lewin

November 19, 2007 6:48 PM

It doesn't support open book standards.

It doesn't support the most popular proprietary ebook standard, PDF.

Amazon books are DRM'd, and won't work on anything except the Kindle.

If you want to put your own files on it, you have to pay Amazon 10 cents a pop, or jump through some crazy file-conversion hoops.

If you want to use it to "take the Internet with you", it only supports a tiny number of sites, and it costs $1 per blog per month.

It's a closed system.

The Kindle looks like the Zune of ebooks

Lee Gee

November 19, 2007 7:30 PM

I just downloaded a book with a number of illustrations from Project Gutenberg. I wonder if that file would load - with the pictures - into Kindle. Hmmmmmm.

Anyone know or want to venture a guess?

Aaron Pressman

November 19, 2007 7:48 PM

@Tom - You have a Pocket PC with free Internet? Outside your house? I think one under-appreciated benefit of Kindle is the free mobile Internet access.

@James Lewin - The most telling comment you made is that Kindle is closed like Zune. Remember that Microsoft started its MP3 quest trying to be more open to many content vendors (not totally open, however) but was smushed by the far more closed Apple iPod environment. Songs you buy with Apple's FairPlay DRM won't play on 99% of other MP3 players. I'd say Kindle is closed like iPods. As I mentioned, it does support some PDFs. It also lets you surf the web for free in black and white, which should be adequate for visiting any blog.

@Lee - Is it an HMTL file? It should convert pretty well even with illustrations (though only in black & white). Complex PDFs aren't going to look very good. No one has yet devised a good system for reformatting PDF files made with one display size in mind for a smaller display.

Thanks for the comments!
-Aaron

Bob DuCharme

November 19, 2007 8:08 PM

I'd say that Kindle is even more closed than iPods--I can hook up an iPod up to a computer, move some music onto it, and listen to the music.

If Apple had charged people to take each song off of the CDs that they owned (or each recording that they had made of their own band), and put it on their own iPod before listening to it, then your Kindle/iPod analogy would work a lot better.

Nick

November 19, 2007 9:03 PM

The Sony Reader and Amazon Kindle are relatively comparable on most levels. The Reader is cheaper and it doesn't charge you for RSS feeds, but some people can just pay for stuff like that.

http://comparati.com/1125-Amazon-Kindle-vs-Sony-Reader

The major differentiators are (and these are very big deals):

1) The Kindle has EV-DO internet.

2) The Kindle has 4x the titles to choose from.

You just can't argue with those two facts. That's why the Sony Reader was a dud and the Kindle will pave the way for success in this market.

Kontra

November 19, 2007 9:08 PM

While “the iPod of …” has become a cliché to describe any product with a semblance of distilled design sensibilities emanating from Cupertino, there is one fundamental strategic reason why Kindle won’t be like the iPod: content. The iPod had it, Kindle doesn't. Read why here:

"Why is the new Kindle eBook reader from Amazon and not Apple?"
http://counternotions.com/2007/11/19/kindle-vs-iphone/

Dan

November 19, 2007 10:29 PM

There is a big target market difference between the iPod and the Kindle. Everyone likes music, regardless of their IQ or education. Kids at Harvard and kids at XYZ community college are plugged into ipods. Not everyone likes books. With the dumming down of America, the target market for the Kindle is limited to the more educated and motivated in our society.

Bob

November 19, 2007 11:09 PM

Where is the profit for Amazon when
they are selling books for prices lower
than at which they are buying them?

Will they sell so many copies that publishers will be convinced to lower
the prices at which they sell e-books?

Cody

November 19, 2007 11:48 PM

This product has a lot of potential. What I am most afraid of is that we live in such an anti-intellectual culture that the people who might download books with it are the same people who fear technology. The success of kindle depends on whether people with the resources to buy such a tool can find a sustainable use for it. People can take hundreds of songs around with them and listen to music anytime with an ipod. People like music. Hey, people also like action movies. Ipod video was a great idea. But will people really care about toting around a library? Few can read more than one book at a time anyway.

Easy Reader

November 20, 2007 1:21 AM

All of the virtues and advantages Mr. Pressman describes sounds right on paper (no pun intended), yet somehow the thought of curling up in bed with a good Kindle leaves me a little cold. I think I'll stick with my dog-eared paperbacks.

Sebastian Lewis

November 20, 2007 12:03 PM

Aaron,

You claim the iPod is closed? Tracks bought from iTunes will not play on ~30% of the market but on absolutely none of Apple's competition in the digital audio player market. (This isn't taking into account iTunes Plus which uses the same open standard and file format AAC as the files wrapped in DRM, just without DRM, and it doesn't take into account that you can burn and then rip the DRMed files, although that's rather an inconvenience)

If you don't like these terms this is where the iPod IS open and claiming that it is closed is nonsense: you can load any MP3, AIFF, WAV, AAC, or Apple Lossless file from CDs you rip or from competing online stores that use a non DRMed file format that will either play as is or you can convert to one of those formats like Amazon or eMusic.

What the Kindle does wrong is that it doesn't let you add PDFs (submitted to the ISO to be an open standard, not sure of it's progress though, but anybody can still use it if they wish) that you own, and your closed like the iPod comparison would only work if the iPod didn't let you load tracks from alternative sources. There is no such thing as an Open DRM standard, Microsoft still owns Janus (most recently known as PlaysForSure) and you probably missed this: the Zune can't play files sold by Microsoft's PlaysForSure partners and vice versa, though it can play AAC and MP3 tracks and other open formats (not sure what the exact list is actually).

I'd love to buy a Kindle, but I already own a few eBooks and my Home folder is filled with PDFs and several TXT and RTF I could easily export to PDF if I wanted to read them on a Kindle.

Sebastian

Dan Cobbledick

November 20, 2007 12:04 PM

"the dumming down of America"
AHAHAHHAHHAHAHAHHA
hehe (snif)
Thanks for that one.

Matthew Marshall

November 20, 2007 12:08 PM

This article doesn't make sense.

If "the digerati" doesn't "get it" -- who will? The digerati is the only group that runs out and buys this stuff. They're the target group.

If they aren't buying it, nobody will.

Matthew Marshall

Craig

November 20, 2007 12:20 PM

In the iPhone-enlightened world, I am disappointed to see a fixed keyboard on a device who's primary mission is to *read* books. Seriously, why have a fixed keyboard that is not needed for the primary purpose. At least 99% of the time that keyboard is just going to be taking up space and looking stupid.

Matt Kern

November 20, 2007 12:42 PM

The Kindle gets so much right but the stuff it gets wrong is a deal breaker. I just hope it is around long enough to get it right the second time around.
www.mattkern.com

Matt

November 20, 2007 12:44 PM

The problem with the arguments put forward in this article is that they are all essentially technology based, and in particular comparing the Kindle with Sony's offering. The real question is whether the Kindle is better than a book. The iPod didn't become popular because the 'digerati' believed it was better than any other MP3 player. It succeeded because it convinced people who had never owned an MP3 player before that this was a must-have product.

For the Kindle to be the iPod of books, it has to convince people it is a better proposition than an actual book. The only advantage I see put forward in the article is that I don't need to carry two books, I can order a new one wirelessly. Whereas paper-based books have many advantages:

They don't stop working when the battery dies
They don't break if you roll them up to put in a pocket
They show pictures, in color
They don't object if you give them to someone else
You don't have to pay $400 for a new book if you leave the old one on the subway
Or drop it in the bath
etc...

Oh yeah, and you can't rip a book to a Kindle. The average iPod has something like 5% of its content bought from iTunes.

Alex

November 20, 2007 12:45 PM

There is no free internet. Every bit of data entering the Kindle has to pay toll. You have to pay for books, newspapers, blogs and even your own files. The wi-fi on the Kindle is paid for every time you get content for it. I rather be able to browse anywhere, anytime and load my own content while paying a monthly access fee than pay too much for DRM files that are locked to the Kindle and pay to read a limited number of blogs.

The Kindle is not the iPod of books, not even close. Its user interface and industrial design is not as polished and it can't use free content as easily as an iPod. It is a good first try but the Kindle is not going to revolutionize books. Maybe version 2.0 but not this Kindle.

punkassjim

November 20, 2007 1:33 PM

I simply cannot fathom buying a $400 device, onto which I cannot transfer my own content, nor content borrowed from others, for free. As others have said, your comparison to the iPod is simply not valid.

jbella

November 20, 2007 2:00 PM

The technorati don't get the kindle. The technorati didn't get the iPod, therefore the Kindle is going to be as successful as the iPod? I doubt it.
I think Kindle will be a flop just like all other ebook readers for the simple reason that it doesn't actually solve a problem that too many people have.
$399 for a sexy looking device that will store all of my music collection and fit in my pocket. That is something that I can sell. $399 for an ugly gadget that lets me wirelessy buy books? Books that I can't loan to anyone? Books that lack any sort of real typography? The quality is much like a paperback book, except instead of paying $6 for it, the book costs $10. I hated having to lug around all my cds when I went anywhere. The iPod solved that problem well. I have never been anywhere thinking, "If only I had the latest harry potter book, right NOW.. I would pay double the price for for less than half the quality."

It's silly.

Todd Sieling

November 20, 2007 2:01 PM

I cannot imagine an uglier or more awkwardly spec'd product. I need EDGE for e-books because... I can't sync at home and take enough content on the road with me?

> The Kindle looks like the Zune of ebooks

+1, though even the Zune has a nicer design and more thought put into it than this non-starter. Credit to Amazon for constantly trying new things, but this is a belly flop in slow motion, and just as painful to watch.

Justin

November 20, 2007 2:10 PM

"No one has yet devised a good system for reformatting PDF files made with one display size in mind for a smaller display."

Are you crazy? PDFs scale perfectly and look just fine on any sized screen. Higher resolution is obviously better, but the Kindle has this, so there's no reason why it wouldn't make a great PDF reader.

Well, except for the fact that the Kindle is quite a bit more locked down and proprietary that the iPod ever has been, way too expensive and possibly the ugliest eBook reader I've ever seen. (Did Amazon invent a time machine so they could hire an industrial designer straight out of 1981?)

Kindle will be a huge flop - you read it here... third or fourth maybe. Besides being ugly, it also makes a fatal mistake: it tries to box in the web. Many devices have tried this before, running scared from all the free content. It never works.

If eBooks become popular, it'll be because you can read them on many devices including your computer or a specialized reader. If a eBook reader is successful it'll be much more like an iPhone than a Kindle. Why put a real keyboard on a device meant primarily for reading? It's a waste of space. Why not a virtual keyboard like the iPhone of many UMPCs?

If there's potential in this market I expect Apple to dominate with their own simple and actually small device that won't shut out the web.

Mike K.

November 20, 2007 2:25 PM

You're missing the point when it comes to Kindle's DRM versus iTunes' DRM. You state:

"And, using free software from Mobipocket (MobiPocket Creator 4.2 Publisher’s edition) you can convert unprotected PDF files into unprotected Mobi files that Kindle can read. It’s no more burdensome than ripping a CD in iTunes."

Except those PDFs you speak about converting were unprotected in the first place and didn't come from the Amazon bookstore. *ALL* ebooks you purchase from Amazon are DRM encrypted and you have no way of unlocking them to view on another device.

Compare to iTunes: yes, the iTunes tracks also have DRM (unless you splurge for the iTunes Plus tracks) - but you can easily burn these to a CD and then do with them what you will.

I think ebooks are great, but 5 years from now I don't want to discover that I have to re-buy all my Amazon books because they've gone and changed the DRM.

Mike K.

November 20, 2007 2:29 PM

Justin:

"Are you crazy? PDFs scale perfectly and look just fine on any sized screen. Higher resolution is obviously better, but the Kindle has this, so there's no reason why it wouldn't make a great PDF reader."

Before you call somebody crazy, you should do a little research on the problems of displaying PDFs on eBook devices with screen sizes smaller than a standard piece of paper.

Yes, it's true that PDFs do scale. However, a quick browse of the forums at http://www.mobileread.com would show you that numerous people are having difficulty viewing PDFs meant for 8.5" x 11" paper on a device with a 6" diagonal screen. The PDF scales quite well ... unfortunately even with high resolution displays the text is almost unreadable at normal zoom levels.

Of course you can zoom in on these devices, but then you are left panning around your document. It's like cupping your hand into a "telescope" shape and then trying to read the newspaper through it. Not very enjoyable at all.

trex67

November 20, 2007 3:36 PM

Aaron,
I have to disagree. As others have stated, one of the primary reasons for the iPod's popularity is the fact that I can load my entire CD and video collection and take it anywhere. Can Kindle load my entire book collection? I'll never have to repurchase what I've already paid for? No?

No thanks. I'll pass.

Dave Caolo

November 20, 2007 4:27 PM

Mike K. wrote:

"...unless you splurge for the iTunes Plus tracks..."

Actually, DRM-free tracks in iTunes are now $0.99US, just like their protected counterparts. No splurging needed.

Alex

November 20, 2007 5:23 PM

The fact that the Kindle cannot handle rendering and displaying pdf files well, reveals a design flaw. For one thing, the screen is too small, partially because of the permanent keyboard. An elegant solution would have been to allow the user to rotate the Kindle and view the pdf in landscape mode. This lack of foresight indicates that not enough though was given to the design and operation of this device.

bear

November 20, 2007 5:26 PM

how is it better than sony

Sippog

November 20, 2007 8:11 PM

"For one thing, the screen is too small"
Finally. Someone said it. This is the number one reason why this ebook reader is not THE ONE - not yet anyway . . .

Harvard Irving

November 20, 2007 11:35 PM

The framing of this article is all over the place. Firstly, the "digerati" did in fact like the iPod. Assuming you mean "people who are intelligent and informed about technology" when you say "digerati."

The people who dissed the iPod and didn't understand it were nothing but Apple-bashing troglodyte trolls - and their opinion has never counted for anything.

If you look at the situation today, it's reversed. The true digerati are pointing out the flaws of the Kindle, and it only has troglodytes to defend it.

Charbax

November 20, 2007 11:58 PM

Amazon should simply provide an ebook DRM converter, so protected mobipocket or whatever other ebook DRM formats out there should be converted to Kindle DRM so those books can be read.

Or simply a software that checks the MD5 hash of the DRM protected ebooks, checks it with a database and that would unlock access to the Kindle format.

Also, providing rights with book providers are in order, Amazon should provide instant Kindle access to the Kindle version of all the books that an Amazon account has published, as long as that Amazon account is the same one tied to the Kindle.

Amazon should also explain to people that PDF and DOC is supported but simply have to be converted to .mobi using the Mobipocket software. Basically that is like having to use iTunes to synch ones library on the iPhone, basically people have to use the Mobipocket software to synch their existing library of unprotected PDF and DOC files.

And Amazon should say if they plan to or not to provide a Mobipocket DRM and PDF DRM converter solution. Or somehow allow access to competing online ebook stores over the EVDO, which could be for a charge to the competitor or a charge to the user since EVDO bandwidth has got to be paid for.

Reza

November 21, 2007 7:08 AM

A cover story and a slogan featuring Apple (yes AAPL) icon in title. Does McGrew-Hill (MHP) has any financial affairs with Amazon (AMZN)? What about the fact that listening to music needs an electronic (agreed?) DEVICE?

Jens Alfke

November 21, 2007 12:22 PM

@ Charbax: Sorry, but most of your ideas just won't work.

Amazon couldn't make a DRM converter because DRM content is, by definition, encrypted. The DRM is there specifically to *prevent* the content from being read by software other than its proprietary player.

The MD5-hash idea is technically feasible, but how exactly does Amazon get paid for the Kindle-formatted book they just sent you for free? Because the publisher isn't going to let Amazon send it to you for free: they get paid for every copy.

Similarly with giving you free e-books for every physical book you've bought. The publishers aren't going to let Amazon do that for free -- it's them, not Amazon, you'd have to convince. And they're going to say "how do we know you still own that book?" Which is a good question: I have probably sold or given away at least half the books I've bought from Amazon, so I no longer have the right to read them. (You might as well try to convince the movie studios to send you free Blu-Ray upgrades of all the DVDs you've bought from them. Good luck.)

Face it: It's an intrinsic property of DRM that it's tied to a particular device (or operating system). That creates terrible chicken-and-egg dilemmas between the devices and the content. Remember that the iPod came out at least a year before the DRM'd music at the iTunes store: its success was built on open content, and the proposition that you could (and of course still can) freely transfer your existing music library to it.

Newt Barrett

November 21, 2007 6:32 PM

You might become a Kindle fanatic if:
-You are an avid reader who consumes 3-4 books a week.
-You travel frequently.
-You are used to lugging at least 4 paperbacks for a one week trip.
-You often run out of books to read when B&N is closed or far away.
-You often wake up at 4am and hate the book you had been reading when you went to bed.
-You want to have reference books with you at all times.
-You care less about cool design than functionality.
-You are willing to forgive V.1.0 flaws as long as your ebook reader offers an experience comparable to a dead tree version.
I think that might describe me–and my wife is going to kill me when I order the thing.

Don MacAskill

November 21, 2007 7:57 PM

Great review, but a couple of mistakes:

- There are plenty of titles over $9.99. Take this $100.80 one, for example, which was the sole result while searching on my Kindle for Jim Collins' excellent Good to Great: http://www.amazon.com/Human-Dignity-Common-Good-Contributions/dp/B000W0V1KG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195692683&sr=8-2

- The Kindle does play music (MP3), just like the Reader. That's why there are volume controls on the bottom, and a headphone jack. There's something that even looks like a speaker on the back - but I don't know if I'm ever going to put any MP3s on mine. It also supports Audible books.

I've got my own review up, too, which isn't quite as thorough as yours: http://blogs.smugmug.com/don/2007/11/20/kindle-review/

[Both your points are true and I corrected my posting but neither diminishes the points I made at all. Virtually all Kindle ebooks are $9.99 or less and more expensive ones, like the one you cite, are based on more expensive print books. Kindle offers a better consumer value proposition than other ebook readers. On music, the Sony ebook reader includes an MP3 player type feature. Kindle simply plays MP3 files in random order as background music without any user control over the order of play. Kindle does, as you note, also support audio books -- a feature I hadn't discussed. -Aaron]

Harvard Irving

November 21, 2007 11:43 PM

Responding to your update:

"you can convert unprotected PDF files into unprotected Mobi files that Kindle can read. It’s no more burdensome than ripping a CD in iTunes."

Sorry, but it is. When you rip a CD in iTunes, you get a file that sounds almost exactly like the original song. When you "rip" a PDF to Mobi format - you get something that barely resembles the original. It loses all its fonts, layout and structure.

I don't see how you can compare this to ripping a song. Depending on the PDF, you might end up with a converted file that is almost unusable. Other commenters have mentioned things like equations not converting properly.

The bottom line - without true PDF support, this thing is dead in the water. PDF is absolutely critical, and you can't just brush it off like this with a lame "conversion." It needs to be natively supported - fonts, diagrams, equations and all.

The font thing is a really big issue, too. The Kindle only offers one font. To stretch the iPod analogy, this is as if every song you rip gets converted to only one key or harmonic scheme.

Typography is very important to the "timbre" and feel of a piece of writing. Viewing something in the wrong font can really detract from the writing, while the right font and typography can enhance it.

Jim Hillhouse

November 23, 2007 2:13 AM

I'll bet you its current retail price that the Kindle will not be the hit this Christmas buying season that the first Windows compatible iPod was in...what, 2002 or 2003. Personally, I doubt they sell as many Kindles this Christmas as Apple sold iPods during Christmas 2001, or whatever year this great device was released.

Also, as many have mentioned, the Digiratti were very important to the initial success of the iPod. It was the regular press that didn't get the potential that little device held.


Lastly, Apple, or one one the soon-to-be iPhone developers, will kill this thing with an iPhone app. Amazon has zero business being in the hardware/software space.

[I can't take the bet but I don't see how it's comparable to compare the second-year holiday sales of the second generation of the iPod to the introductory holiday sales of the 1st generation Kindle. In any event, Apple didn't disclose unit sales of the iPod in its financial filings for the last quarter of 2002. Only 125,000 iPods sold in the first holiday period.]

Nikhil Sharma

November 23, 2007 9:38 AM

Apart from issues like
1. book reading population being def less than music listening population on the go (no study to cite this but how compare the ppl on the subway reading a book or listenin to music , btw you can read a book on ipod too)
2. DRM issues which ppl have mentioned
3. No PDF support
4. My own document viewing costs me 10 cents each time i send it.

I like to refute a factual strength which you mentioned , getting periodicals wirelessly seems a good idea for sure.. but i think the numbers you mentioned are wrong. An annual WSJ subscription (online and print) costs 99 bucks (https://services.wsj.com/Gryphon/jsp/retentionController.jsp?page=11247 )
paying 120 for just online content on kindle doesnt make sense ?

[WSJ price you cite is a limited time special that doesn't apply to current subscribers. As to you otehr points, you can convert PDF files easily for Kindle and you can get your own documents on without paying Amazon or anyone else, including by using free conversion software on your own computer. -Aaron]

KenJr

November 24, 2007 1:19 AM

Gee, all this negativity.

I currently wait for best sellers to come out in paperback. I'd love to read them when they first hit the market but I'm a fixed income retiree. I'll definitely buy one of these. No more waiting for the paperback. And every time I read a new best seller I'll be saving maybe $15 over the hardcover price. It will pay for itself. Also, as I age I find that larger font size is much appreciated. Font is adjustable on these. And downloading books or periodicals without having to link up with my PC is, to me, a Godsend. Oh, and now I'll be able to do as others in the Gym do, I'll be able to read a book while traipsing on the treadmill. I'll have the needed larger font .. and .. turning pages won't be a hassle (I see agitation when I see others trying to do this). And there are those other features like easy note taking and bookmarks and getting to read the first chapter of each book while attempting to find the next good read. I can know right off the top what the current best sellers are, read the reviews right there, find what I want, and then have it in my grubby little hands inside two minutes.

By the way, Jeff Bezos stated that they're working on the PDF issue. Downloadable firmware changes are in the works.

It's funny .. Comments from those who haven't used the Kindle at all or for any length of time are the comments that keep discussing what the Kindle is NOT .. and .. What isn't liked about about the Kindle. But read the comments from Beta testers and attitude takes on a whole different tone. The great majority of their comments are VERY positive.

As for blogging, I'd rather sit down and do that on my iMac. I want the Kindle for reading books, newspapers, and periodicals without the discomfort of computer screen glare. But .. I do appreciate the fact that other PC/internet oriented features are on the Kindle to be taken advantage of if a PC isn't readily available.

I want one. I'm trying to discipline myself to wait for an iPhone like price change or maybe for other colors to be made available (I'd prefer slate colored). But I doubt I’ll be able to wait very long (I the lack self discipline that I’m sure most of you folks have in nurtured within yourselves).

Ken

November 24, 2007 9:48 AM

Here are some reasons why I think it just might take off (there are a lot of people who are very much like me):

I currently wait for best sellers to come out in paperback. I'd love to read them when they first hit the market but I'm a fixed income retiree. I'll definitely buy one of these. No more waiting for the paperback. And every time I read a new best seller I'll be saving maybe $15 over the hardcover price. It will pay for itself. Also, as I age I find that larger font size is much appreciated. Font is adjustable on these. And downloading books or periodicals without having to link up with my PC is, to me, a Godsend. Oh, and now I'll be able to do as others in the Gym do, I'll be able to read a book while traipsing on the treadmill. I'll have the needed larger font .. and .. turning pages won't be a hassle (I see agitation when I see others trying to do this). And there are those other features at your fingertips like Being able to look up words in dictionary or Wikipedia, like easy note taking and bookmarks and getting to read the first chapter of each book while attempting to find the next good read. I can know right off the top what the current best sellers are, read the reviews right there, find what I want, and then have it in my grubby little hands inside two minutes.

Leo Klein

November 28, 2007 1:07 PM

"Gee, all this negativity."

Ugh, so loaded a term. I've heard the this from a lot of Kindle defenders. It's what they're falling back on now that the reaction from ordinary readers (as opposed to tech glamor writers) is thumbs down.

I've heard elsewhere that people shouldn't rush to judgment! Then on the other hand, we have articles like the above literally glorifying the piece.

The truth is, we don't need the things in our hands. We make judgments based on spec all the time.

Just to take one example, we don't need to have the Kindle in front of us to know that a B&W screen is totally unsuitable for all color images from newspapers and other media.

As to the article above, I found it through another article that linked to it as an illustration of all the "hype" surrounding the Kindle.

All is can say is, hats off to the author for yet another (yawn) iPod comparison.

The truth is, the iPod had a number of things going for it: innovative interface and the ability to play your own your Mp3s with no conversion and no questions asked.

The supposed iPod "killers" at the time, particularly those put out by Sony, played footsie with open-formats.

They claimed you could indeed play your Mp3s but in reality you had to first convert them (in Sony's case) to ATRAC.

Sound familiar?

nick chan

November 29, 2007 1:56 AM

so many negative reviews

here's what i think is positive

1) marketing side, it will sell well, because of its free internet

2) its white in color

3) its from amazon. consumer confidence

4) read in the dark without needing flash light or table lamp.

comparing this to HTC or pocket pc is plain STUPID. e-ink is great. i wish programmers like me can have e-ink for coding.

technical people can brag all they want about DRM. but people will still buy. maybe bad technical decision, but who cares? it has been sold out.

sure i wont buy. but if i have the extra money and im a spoilt kid, sure why not get an extra gadget for reading. I like zooming text. idiots will buy, fortunately for amazon, there are many idiots.

so, bravo amazon, for achieving profitability.

George

November 30, 2007 12:25 PM

I just received the Kindle I got for my wife for Christmas, and cannot comment on its pro's and con's other than what I read, including that it is very expensive at $399.But I have I a couple of economic points:

1) Most Kindle books available at Amazon are $9.99 vs., say, $20-plus; thus, once my wife reads about 30-40 books, it's paid for itself (granted, that's more books than I've read in 44 years).

2) There are currently 3 for sale on ebay...the first one on their is now up to over $800. The other two are in the $500-600 range, with a lot of time to go. They, too, have paid for themselves...

3. I've spent over 20 years in the pulp & paper industry--one that is struggling to survive in North America. This kind of product is something we have dreaded for a long time. If someone comes up with etoiletpaper, we're finished.

Randy

December 3, 2007 2:01 PM

The key element I haven't seen mentioned in any of these comments is the fact that most readers are women and girls. That fellas is the deal breaker (for now). Do we know who has bought all these Kindles? A safe bet would be that it just the geeks who buy all the latest gadgets anyway. Another bet is that girls will still prefer to curl up with a good book (on paper) than stare in another white screen for their reading.

Regardless, I'm still putting my book on the critter. You just never know with women...

Ken

December 4, 2007 1:09 PM

There will be no iPod of books. Most people listen to a variety of tracks while carrying their MP3 player around, which makes the ability to carry one's entire music collection so attractive. This is not the case with books. Unless one has severe ADD, he will not have the need to read a few paragraphs from several of his books in a typical journey. One book is all most people can read at one time. Additionally, for the same price, one can purchase the Asus EEE PC (a much more capable device than the Kindle)...from Amazon! Which is the more reasonable purchase?

Amalthia

December 7, 2007 5:14 PM

What makes me sad is I'd totally buy ebooks from the amazon bookstore but I don't want to buy the kindle! Why don't they open up their book format so anyone can buy their ebooks to read on any reader?

Stephen Windwalker

December 17, 2007 1:22 PM

Although there has not been a great deal of attention paid to the power of the Kindle to transform the experience that authors have of the publishing industry, I believe this will be huge. The device is terrific not only for books but for short-form publishing as well, and non-fiction writers especially will love the way it empowers them to publish articles and book excerpts at $2.99 or whatever price and market-test book projects, connect with audience, etc.
Windwalker
indiekindle.blogspot.com

minimalmark

December 18, 2007 9:45 AM

If Amazon could get together with Plastic Logic (http://www.plasticlogic.com) then version 2 might really fly off the shelves - it would weigh grams not ounces. If Plastic Logic could also find a way to fold their flexible screens (preferably without a fold "memory") paper devices might disappear as quicky as slide-rules did.

EJ

December 22, 2007 10:15 AM

@Ken

- I'm also taking the negative evaluations by people who haven't touched one with a grain of salt. I have an iPhone, and it's funny how skeptics with a litany of features they think the iPhone is missing just smile and coo like babies when I let them hold mine. It's ironic that there's such a focus on feature lists and ideology when it comes to technology, when it's patently obvious that dead simple (short feature list!) technology that's easy enough for grandma to use is what ends up catching fire. The Kindle meets that criterion for me, although I'm not sure that the price is quite justified - you can get a supercomputer-powerful, Blu-Ray playing Playstaytion 3 for the price of the neat-but-not-awe-inspiring Kindle.

mike

January 1, 2008 12:03 PM

What I have found that converting normal or easy text, word doc or pdf file to kindle is quite easy but if the pdf file consists of lot of images and tables the conversion process does not work properly and the whole layout of the ebook gets change.

Kindle is still in experimental stage in converting the complicated pdf file to kindle format, but very recently I came across one website which provide ebook conversion service along with kindle ebook conversion at very affordable rates, mostly for the PDF ebook which consists of tables and images which are quite tough to convert them to ebook format such as mobipocket, kindle or MS reader, but I have found that the above ebook conversion company converts these type of ebooks in more profession and efficient way at very reasonable rate.

http://www.itglobalsolution.com/mobipocket/amazon-kindle-ebook-conversion.htm

MJL

January 13, 2008 3:55 PM

Get over yourselves people.

The item is sold out on Amazon. Go on ebay and look up COMPLETED LISTINGS. Almost EVERY completed listing sold at prices from $300 to $800.

The money has already been made. It is already successful.

The major concerns will be that the free wifi/cell service remains free & available and that the item will be well supported long enough to recover the investment.

Why does every piece of technology have to do everything? We already have laptops. Most paperbacks I have ever read don't have pictures.

Digerati, compatibility, PDFs, yada yad yada - the people that are going to buy and use this item want to READ BOOKS. You can't do that very well on a laptop.

It sounds like this unit does ONE THING very well - provide the best digital platform/device so far to READ BOOKS. The real reviews are from the people that OWN the unit. I haven't seen many complaints in comparison to the approvals. It sounds like it does what it is supposed to do.

I want one.
Is it too late for Amazon stock?

DBAGuy

January 20, 2008 6:01 PM

Always surprises me to see the number of people that will provide opinions (based on FACTS!!!) without ever having touched the device.

I own one, and:

- most books from Amazon are less than $9.99, some are over. Newly released hardbacks are usually $9.99, older books are typically less, down to $0.25 or so.
- you can't read it in the dark unless you have a book light. The screen is intentionally not back-lit, to make it easier on the eyes, easier to read in bright sunlight and to reduce power needs.
- e-ink only uses power to set the screen image, not to keep it, so battery is smaller but lasts long.
- compared to reading on an HTC or other device? larger screen, longer battery life, easier on eyes (at least for me), easier to read outdoors.
- thousands of books easily available from FeedBooks.com for free. Authors as recent as Andre Norton and Cory Doctorow as well as numerous classics (Austen, H. Rider Haggard, etc.)
- PDF format was designed to be mult-platform, and scrolled. Since the Kindle doesn't scroll (it pages), pdf files are problematic, but they're working on it.
- It is a book reader...even though some pundits and manufacturers keep trying to force convergence on us, I would rather have something that excels at being an e-book reader (Kindle) along with something that excels at media (iPod) instead of something that does both at a mediocre level.

Scully

February 14, 2008 7:37 PM

I own a Kindle and unlike what one poster put up I am not an idiot but i am a geek. I own well over 200 hundred buts, paperback and hardcover and am slightly dissappointed at the Kindle limited sci-fi fantasy as it stands right now. On the other hand the books i do have (6) on the Kindle, in the 4 days I have owned it I have thus far read 2 of the and can barely remember that I'm not reading a normal book. When the thing sits in your hand it feels just like a book with less hand movement involved. For those of you who curl up with a book everynight have to use 2 hands while Kindle users can use a thumb. That stuff about un cunvetable PDF files.. Who Cares!

The thing is readers who like to READ everywhere will greatly enjoy this device because when a new book comes out that you want to read and just can't wait for it to come out in paperback a yea after the initial publishing date you can download in a minute and start reading where ever you are.

I know this might be more disjointed the most of you have writen but thats because I want to finish this so I can get back to reading on my Kindle

SMV

February 16, 2008 1:35 AM

I've just had my Kindle a few days, and I love it. I've converted a bunch of pdf files (mostly journal articles I have to read for grad school) for FREE with no hassle by sending it to my kindle email address. I have a combo of books/periodicals purchased from Amazon (LOVE getting the Wall St Journal every morning) and free books from Gutenberg. I like the e-ink screen (very similar to a 'real' book) and reading it is comfortable and not too 'electronic' feeling. Only thing I don't like is the keyboard - it's a little big.
So overall, once you get past the misinformation on the internet, it's actually really functional and versatile. I think it's a great product!

Judi Griggs

February 16, 2008 8:32 AM

This product now past the what will it do phase. We have had two in our household for the last two months. Other than some limits on authors not releasing to Kindle- it's been great. It's easy to use. Easy on eyes. A smooth, uncomplicated reader experience. The "closed system" protects writers' rights. My concern is whether Amazon will stay with the brand and build it. Was very surprised on a recent cross country trip when air attendants asked about Kindle in my hands- I would have thought they would have seen plenty by now.

SMV

February 16, 2008 12:43 PM

I've just had my Kindle a few days, and I love it. I've converted a bunch of pdf files (mostly journal articles I have to read for grad school) for FREE with no hassle by sending it to my kindle email address. I have a combo of books/periodicals purchased from Amazon (LOVE getting the Wall St Journal every morning) and free books from Gutenberg. I like the e-ink screen (very similar to a 'real' book) and reading it is comfortable and not too 'electronic' feeling. Only thing I don't like is the keyboard - it's a little big.
So overall, once you get past the misinformation on the internet, it's actually really functional and versatile. I think it's a great product!

Raju Kane

June 22, 2008 4:59 PM

I think all you guys are missing the point, because -- probably -- all of you are based in the US. But the web, and Amazon is not about the US.

I have got a Kindle as a gift, because I spend a godzillion amount of money buying books every month. Considering that most Kindle e-books are at $9.99 or less, Kindle seems like a great idea.

But guess what, I will not be able to buy a single e-book on Kindle, because it requires a US shipping and billing address for my credit card. And since I live in India, that just doesn't work. By the way, all my cards are international and are valid in most countries including the US.

Until and unless, Amazon is able to take out this basic and stupid restriction, the Kindle, so loving gifted to me, will be gathering dust.

Raju Kane

Andrys Basten

August 26, 2008 9:02 PM

I can see that most writing against it (mostly non-Kindle users) don't know about the Kindle's 24/7 wireless access - Sprint EV-DO (fast) using a very basic browser that is not time- or access-charged to the user. It can be used anywhere you cellphone works. Even in a car. That's a reason for the $360 cost at the moment. As has been mentioned, new books are, for the most part, $10 and downloadable within a minute. Once through with them you can delete them but Amazon keeps them in a storage place unless you want re-download them (no cost) at any time, with your highlights and annotations still in place.

BBC News and MSNBC News online are accessible in Kindle format for free (bookmarked on the Kindle by Amazon and ready to go). Text-focused websites are all accessible for free, and javascript is recognized when you want.

I also choose to quickly-autodownload NYTimes Latest News (99c/month) which comes once or twice a day. It's specially formatted for the Kindle, with article lists etc.

I most like the ability to search your entire library for a keyword, and the default Oxford American dictionary to look up a name on the current line w/o losing one's place is very useful.

I also chose to subscribe to Slate which gives me daily summaries of prime news from all the large newspapers and magazines while linking me to the detailed stories on the web, which I can then access pretty quickly if the page is mainly text and I want to know more, because of its cell-phone style wireless (except that it's very fast).

But if you like to read, outside the house, it's great to have a full library with you which you can read according to mood, and it remembers which page you were last on.

Re the new textbook-related interest this week, you can highlight passages and make e-notes with the current Kindle. Ask to see these, and they're shown to you in sequence and you can click on the one you want.

And has been mentioned, you can send pdfs and non-protected mobipocket format books to your Kindle address to read them on the Kindle. 10c a document of any length or free if sent to your computer and then USB'd over. With all the free e-books available this way, it's estimated a million books are at your fingertips. Why wouldn't the Kindle be popular? I have a 60-gig iPod but hardly ever use it. I use the Kindle a few times a day...

Greg

January 17, 2009 11:09 PM

I am a technophile and early adopter, but never bought a kindle. Partly because I saw the price/value equation out of whack and also because of the long backorder, I own my second iPhone (3g 16g) but still no kindle.

Today, however, I spent an hour playing with my wife's new kindle and have to largely agree this thing is the reader's iPod. To the skeptics (those who are really readers anyway - not bloggy yahoos or magazine ad browsers, but honest to god flashlight under the covers readers), I say get your hands on one before you judge it.

I can board a three-hour flight with any and as many books as I want, read them comfortably (try that on my iPhone - not!), spend a week in a hotel reading at night, and fly home without battery problems (my 3G iPhone lasts maybe 5 hours max), and still get free content like Drudge Report and all my local papers with the kindle.

If you want a flashy sexy toy, the iPod/iphone can't be beat. I write this comment on my iPhone now. But for serious READING the kindle is awesome. It has its flaws but what doesn't? I have had four iPhone warranty exchanges and mobile Safari crashes daily. But trade my iPhone for a boring Blackberry? Never! So I will buy myself a kindle, wait my six weeks, and I'll be the guy in 16a reading a wildly eclectic variety of classic literature, cheap horror, and dimestore mystery novels.

Tom

February 18, 2009 5:10 PM

If you think Kindle and Kindle-like devices don't have a great future, you probably would have said in 1909: "Those cars are really dangerous. I'm just going to stick to my buggy." LOL.

eric

July 13, 2009 4:29 AM

nice

Ashley

November 3, 2009 2:14 PM

One big difference I see between the Kindle and iPod is this: with my iPod I could still listen to all my CDs by transferring them over into iTunes. I could have the best of both - all my previous library on one device and all my new music also on it. That is a huge plus. Now, with the Kindle I don't see how that is possible. My problem would be that yes, for the future it would eliminate my need for paper books but it would not do anything about the books that I already have. Simply put, you cannot transfer your already existing library onto it. To me, the Kindle would be a huge help and I would love to own one. I read a lot and travel quite a bit. The luxury of not carrying around several books at once would be amazing. But, as an avid reader I already have tons of print books. There should be a way of getting access to your print books for a reduced rate at least so you could have a digital copy. That would make the Kindle a must have for me.

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Bloomberg Businessweek’s Ben Steverman focuses on the latest moves in financial markets and emerging trends in stocks, bonds, and funds, always with an eye toward giving readers a better understanding of the sometimes confusing and often chaotic world of money. Standard & Poor’s senior index analyst Howard Silverblatt will also provide his take on companies’ finances and the markets. Voted one of the “Top 100 Finance Blogs” in 2007.

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