The Amazon Kindle, Amazon’s foray into hand held ebook reading devices, was released in November. The reader splashed onto the scene with a cover photo on Newsweek and Amazon hoped the Kindle would do for digital-reading-on-the-go what the ipod did for digital music. That is, make it a viable concept and business, replete with enthusiastic users.
However, there’s not a whole lot of evangelizing going on around the Kindle.
Some people appreciate the palm-sized smallness of the Kindle, while others deride its small keyboard and awkwardly designed casing. The opinions are mixed and there are plenty of them.
Once you have the Kindle, you can visit Amazon.com’s ebook store, where you can purchase brand new books for $9.99, which is a discount from what new hardcovers generally cost. Even though in this proposition you don’t end up owning a tangible tree-made book, you get to enjoy the reading of it. But that brings up a principal issue for ebook readers.
Do people want to read books the same way they read blogs and news stories, via a computer screen. A lot of the issues that people have had with the Kindle–that’s it’s ugly, that the black and white screen isn’t up to par, that the keyboard and scroll wheel aren’t that well designed, and that it’s too expensive–may stem from the fact that reading books on the Kindle ebook reader is not the same as reading a paper-bound book. The experience is not the same.
You get the information, but part of the joy is stripped from the experience. Another issue is that we expect a lot out of our hand held devices these days. The iphone has set a new standard–and that’s a phone.
An ebook reader should have a high degree of interactivity with other Kindle owners that are friends. It should look as advanced and appealing as an iphone. It should be able to do most of what a high-tech cell phone can do in addition to the ebook reading functionality. It seems like it does too little if you can’t use it to access maps, the yellow pages, and search engines. For $399, it should do some of these things. At the very least, you should be able to do internet searches.
Computers have become so intertwined in our work and personal lives, that it seems logical that an ebook reader would be the next step. And maybe it is. But it shouldn’t just be an ebook reader. It should be an ebook reader and a cellphone. I think the Kindle’s designers misread the psychology of an “ebook reader.”
It’s not bibliophiles who will be using this thing. It’s the geek who wants his hand-held device to do more for him than he expects, and that he can wow his friends who don’t have one.
Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, the Amazon Kindle is sold out. Or at least that’s what it says on Amazon.com.
The Kindle makes sense on paper. But that’s the problem.