Kindle: nice reader, shame about the business model

Staff Writer
20 Nov 2007
00:00

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ITEM: Amazon.com has launched a new wireless $399 electronic book reader called Kindle that allows users to download books, newspapers and blogs to read whilst on the move. Unlike similar devices like Sony's e-book reader, the Kindle has wireless access (specifically, Amazon's own Whispernet, which uses Sprint's EV-DO network) to download content direct to the device.

As both a gadget nerd and an avid book reader, I can't help thinking the Kindle is ultimately made of Fail. I don't mind carrying another device with me (since I always have a book in my bag anyway), and I don't mind swapping dead trees for digital files. On the other hand, I can already do that now with a smartphone.

Granted, book readers on most handsets (at least the ones I've tried) are a pain, so any new innovation is welcome. Tech-wise, from what I can see the Kindle looks promising. But the real problem I have with Kindle is the business model that comes with it.

Apparently, you can only download books from Amazon.com, and you have to pay subscriptions to things like newspaper feeds and even blogs like

BoingBoing

. In other words, you have to pay to access content that you could be looking at on your Web-enabled mobile phone for free (well, you're paying for data charges, but it's the principle of the thing).

Paying for books is fine, although $10 for an e-book seems steep. I can download books for free at Manybooks.net, or view them on my phone via my Wattpad reader. Either way, didn't Apple's iTunes show us the dangers of tying devices to digital content services‾ What if I want to download something from Borders or YesAsia

Not that it matters - Kindle looks like a US-only proposition for the time being. And given how well e-books are doing in markets like Japan and Korea with plain old mobile phones, it'll probably stay that way.

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