Monday, November 19, 2007

A Kindle in the Wind

Amazon today announced its widely anticipated book reader, the Kindle.

The book reader supports a technology called Electronic Paper - an LCD display that resembles a printed page, to a degree that would allow extended reading without discomfort.

The device can display PDF, Word, HTML, JPEG and various other document and image formats. It can play Audible audio books and MP3 files. It has a rechargeable, replaceable battery. Instead of the rumored WiFi access, it has a mobile network access through Sprint (US only). The rest of the world will have to sync through a computer.

It's smaller in size than a hardcover book and weighs like a paperback, yet can contain more than 200 books in it (so you'll never run out of reading material on the road).

Amazon intends to sell e-books for $10 a pop, newspaper subscriptions, and blog access (sadly, paid access - would you pay several cents a month to read my blog offline?). The price includes the mobile access fees, as you can download books over the air. A nice feature would allow for several Kindles to subscribe to one account (so all people in your household can share books - if they each have a Kindle).

The Kindle costs $399 and you can buy it here.

To me, the price point is too high. If the whole idea is to save (paper, storage place), why not price the books at $4.99 and compete with the $5.99 price point of a paperback. I also don't get the mobile access angle. WiFi access would have allowed free access to free content. As it is, people can read this blog for free on their computer or smart phone. Why would they pay $1/month to get it on another device?

The competitor, the Sony Book Reader costs $299 and offers the same functionality sans remote access (you have to sync it), or Amazon content. I've recently had a chance to try the SBR and it's highly readable and very intuitive. And it has an added feature: the screen does not consume battery. Battery power is only used when you move to the next page, but once the screen stabilizes, it can stay on that page forever, without consuming power - allowing for a long use time between recharges.

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