Amazon Kindle: Milestone Or Speedbump?

Nov 18th, 2007 | By | Category: General

KindleEver wonder why a small handful of mainstream publications get early access to the latest gear from Apple and other tech companies?

If so, look no further than Steven Levy’s fluffer-style Newsweek piece on the Kindle, Amazon’s take on the eBook reader. Levy writes:

“The Kindle represents a milestone in a time of transition, when a challenged publishing industry is competing with television, Guitar Hero and time burned on the BlackBerry; literary critics are bemoaning a possible demise of print culture, and Norman Mailer’s recent death underlined the dearth of novelists who cast giant shadows. On the other hand, there are vibrant pockets of book lovers on the Internet who are waiting for a chance to refurbish the dusty halls of literacy.”

While Newsweek may think the Kindle is a milestone in a time of transition, it looks to us like a $400 closed system:

  • While it can hold 200 ebooks, at $9.99 a pop it would take about $2,000 to load this baby up. That’s a lot of e-cash to be throwing in your backpack.
  • It will let you subscribe to popular newspapers, but they papers that are already freely available on the Internet.
  • It will also let you subscribe to a small selection of blogs, but it will cost you another buck or two, per blog, per month.

Apple has found with the iPod that people don’t fill their iPods with songs purchased from the iTunes store. Instead, people spend about $20 on iTunes purchases and fill the rest of their iPod space with things like songs ripped from CDs and free audio and video podcasts.

If the iPod is a precedent for the Kindle, people aren’t likely to want to spend much on ebooks. People might be interested, though, in a reader that could increase the value that they get from the Internet, a reader that would let you take online content and read it offline, away from your computer, in a comfortable environment or in places where you don’t have access to the Internet.

In order to be anything more than a speedbump on the road to the future of written media, the Amazon Kindle needs to be open to the rapidly expanding world of user-generated content. With 88,000 ebook titles, the Kindle is a expensive, boring gadget. With open support for Internet content, it could be a contender for the next new thing.

Update: Kindle will offer about 300 blogs at a buck/month. Anybody know what cut the blogs are getting? If you want to send yourself documents to work around the closed nature of the Kindle, it costs ten cents a pop.

“Each Kindle has a unique and customizable e-mail address. This allows you and your contacts to e-mail Word documents and pictures wirelessly to your Kindle for only $.10. Kindle supports wireless delivery of unprotected Microsoft Word, HTML, TXT, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, PRC.”

Update 2: It looks like not even paying bloggers to hype the Kindle is enough to generate positive buzz for the Amazon Kindle. “I can’t really recommend this,” writes Robert Scoble. “Whoever designed this should be fired and the team should start over.”

No Responses to “Amazon Kindle: Milestone Or Speedbump?”

  1. dave says:

    Great. A device that supports a new, unknown, private format with an unknown DRM system. The future is looking brighter and brighter every day!

  2. You did notice the bit that said, “And if you or a friend sends a word document or PDF file to your private Kindle e-mail address, it appears in your Kindle library, just as a book does,” right? That was the big question, could you read non-DRM’d files. It appears so.

    In my most optimistic mode, I’m guessing that the wireless functions are going to be free rather than subscription, and the reason things will cost money to download is to cover those costs. Still, it’s not like it would be hard to make a gateway from things you want to read to your private email address. Not as convenient, though.

  3. info says:


    The big question is whether or not Amazon will keep this an expensive gateway to proprietary content or try to turn it into a platform.

    I haven’t seen anything to suggest that the Kindle is really a platform for user generated content.

    It would be a lot more interesting device if someone like Scott Sigler, who did one of the first, if not the first, original podcast novels, could release free books for the device and try to figure out new ways of monetizing books.

    And at $400, it’s going against Wal-Mart laptops, which are a lot more capable.

  4. If they don’t close the email address option, then it’s easy. You charge whatever you want, and then email the books to the address when they are ready to be read.

    It occurs to me that it’s also not all that difficult to get a regular book listed on Amazon, so presumably you could sell your e-books that way as well.

    However, I don’t think they’re going to make it easy for free services and services that do not pay amazon to put content on the device using the built-in browsing and shopping, unless they charge a monthly fee of probably $20 in order to cover bandwidth / EVDO charges.

    With the laptop comparison, are the laptops that small, with the contrast of the e-ink, with battery life of up to 30 hours? If so, then it’s a competing machine. If not, then I think it’s a different market.

    Mind you, I would love it if it were completely open. That would be a great and glorious future that would give unlimited book purchasing options the way I want them, all available on my paid-for ebook reader. I just haven’t heard a way to pay for the always-on internet access if that happens.

  5. info says:

    Putting your own content onto the Kindle costs ten cents a pop. Doesn’t sound like much – but that makes the device a closed system that most people won’t develop for. Big missed opportunity for Amazon.

  6. JasonX says:

    Ooops – it sucks!

    Why the hell didn’t they make it open so you could put whatever blogs you want on the thing?

  7. dave says:

    Kiss your purchases goodbye if you lose your Kindle, as it’s the only device authorized to view your purchased ebooks. Hell, your computer isn’t even authorized to read them! Hell, you can’t even print them out if you want.

  8. dave says:

    Ouch. You need to pay them to put your own content onto your own device. No thanks.

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  10. Scott Rouse says:

    Charging for blogs? These guys should be giving away as many e-books and blogs as they possibly could. Charging for ANYTHING before the first 5 years of solid sales is suicide. Wow, come on into the 2000’s, Amazon, the water is fine.

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