Amazon officially announced the Kindle, a wireless reading device that’s doomed to fail. The Kindle brings several innovations to the e-book reader table, but there are too many flaws for it to succeed in its current state.
In a video on Amazon.com, Bezos and his colleagues point out the advantages of the Kindle versus books, but the real competition is the thousands of notebooks, tablets and mobile devices already on the market.
The Kindle has its merits and it will have it’s fans, but it won’t generate enough sales to satisfy Jeff Bezos and company. Future versions might make a big impact, but version 1.0 is dead on arrival.
1) The Kindle is Ugly
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. People like pretty, shiny gadgets and generally judge books by their covers. The kindle has a horridly ugly case and the colorful Amazon logo is obnoxiously placed right in the middle of the device. It looks like it was designed 10 years ago, and is shaped kinda like the Palm III I bought back in college.
2) Black and White Display
People like color. TVs, PDAs, mobile phones and computers all have displays capable of displaying millions of colors. Most books are black and white of course, but browsing Wikipedia and reading RSS feeds in black and white will feel downright archaic.
3) The Kindle Costs $400
$400 is a lot of dough for the average guy and there are just too many other gadgets that cost the same or less. For $400 you can buy an iPhone, a new Zune, an entry-level laptop or a small flat panel TV. If you’re not into gadgets you can buy a couple of dozen books from Amazon.com for the same price. Yes, wireless book shopping/downloading is cool, but the $$$ the EVDO connection adds is not. pic via Flickr/Slice
4) You Pay for Everything
The Kindle doesn’t come with any free content- you have to buy books for $9.99 apiece. Newspapers will cost $13.99 each per month, or 75 cents per issue on the Kindle. Want to read your favorite blog? Get ready to pay a $.99 subscription fee. Want to email a document or image to your Kindle? Amazon will charge you 10 cents for each file transfer. The Kindle will eat your nickels and dimes the more you use it. pic via flickr/William Hartz
5) Limited Web Browsing/Compatibility
Amazon’s succeeding in making the first EVDO-equiped device that won’t let users browse the web in a meaningful way. WhisperNet, which runs on Sprint’s EVDO network, can only be used to browse paid-for content and a ‘limited ‘ web browser. According to early reports, the Kindle can’t read many common document formats.
6) Amazon Doesn’t Do Hardware
Amazon is the king of online retail- I buy everything from digital cameras and hard drives, to macaroni and toilet paper on Amazon.com. But this is the company’s first hardware product and I’m not going to bet $400 it. I’d rather buy a yet-to-be proven technology from a hardwar manufacturer that have successfully built and sold products, like Sony.
7) The Kindle is the Wrong Size
The Kindle’s too big to fit in your pocket. The screen is tiny (6-inches) compared to both books and laptops, which means lots of virtual page turning. I don’t know what the ‘right size’ is to help an e-book reader succeed, but this sure isn’t it. You can carry around a full functioning notebook that’s about the same size.
8)People Like Books
People see value in physical books, which they can give as gifts and share with their friends and families.
Judging by the promo videos, Amazon is primarily targeting the 50-year old plus crowd, the demographic that reads the most books. Maybe Amazon should target people who read the least books and are looking for alternatives- like college students who despise carrying around bulky books.
I met Jeff Bezos at a lecture a couple of years ago and he talked a lot about how a huge percentage of books Amazon sells go unread. Many of these unread books are gifts or books that people plan on reading ‘someday.’
The Kindle isn’t the first nor last e-book reader. Sony’s been selling one for some time and HP’s developing it’s own. Apple’s in a good position to distribute ebooks through iTunes. Apple customers could read books on their notebooks when they have them powered up, and on their iPhones or iPods when they’re stuck on a train.
10) I’ve Already Got One
Well, not an e-book reader perse, but most everyone has a laptop, iPod, Tablet PC and/or Blackberry. Do people really want/need a third or forth device to display digital text? Yes, e-Paper is superior to LCDs and LEDs for reading black and white text, but not enough people will be willing to pay $400 for another device.
These are just my initial thoughts and Maybe I’m missing something. I just ordered one from Amazon.com so and will share my thoughts about it once I get a chance to play with it.