back to article Kindle ain't no e-book reader

Amazon's Kindle has been widely derided as a below-par e-book reader which compares badly with the competition and ignores a history of failed attempts to produce an electronic book. But Kindle isn't really an e-book reader at all, rather the physical embodiment of the Web 2.0 ethic. The giveaway is the use of a 3G telephony …


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  1. Haku

    From the publishing houses of Ursa Minor?

    All it needs now are the words 'DON'T PANIC' in large friendly letters on the cover.

  2. Andrew Heenan

    Interesting article, but ...

    ... the device won't pass the "Heenan Test", and so will fail.

    The "Heenan Test"?

    First proposed in 1998, it goes like this - "No device will replace the paperback book until it is not only easily updateable and rechargeable, but is also capable of being read in the bath.

    This looks good, and two out of three ain't bad. But it still don't cut it.

  3. john doe

    ...advert can appear... (just like this article)

    hah! you gotta be kidding! ever heard of AdBlock Plus?

  4. Silas Humphreys

    My reaction to every e-book "solution" that's going to replace paperbacks...

    is "What, again?"

    E-books: the paperless office of the noughties. Hopefully it won't take 20 years to realise they're bogus the way it did with the paperless office...

  5. Steve again

    Nearly, but not quite

    Actually, I think Amazon are onto something here. The idea of being able to load up half a dozen books just before I board the plane and not have to lug several kilos on board does have a lot of appeal to me. From what I can see from the - no doubt, completely unbiased - videos on Amazon's site, the Kindle seems to have all the e-book reader features I want and the instant connectivity to back it up.

    But I won't be rushing out to get one. Even if I lived in range of the Sprint EVDO network which - like 100% of all non-US residents - I don't, the price, both for the reader and for books / magazines - is too high. I'm guessing that Amazon didn't know quite what to charge so aimed high to get the early adopters and, like the iPhone, we'll see the price drop in January and version 2.0 of the Kindle sold next Christmas for about half the current price.

  6. Turbojerry
    Paris Hilton

    Heenan Test

    You could try an OtterBox -

    Or alternatively you could save water and gain some GreenCred(TM) and just take a shower...

    Paris Icon as she has a bath video doing the rounds on the Net

  7. Greg
    Thumb Up

    I like the idea of e-books

    No, really, I do. If you had seen the number of books, manuals etc I've got around here, you'd know why.

    I also like the idea of subscribing to a book so that it can be updated in the future. Computing books go out of date quicker than milk, so that would be seriously handy in the nerd arena.

    Being able to read all my technical books from a single, small device would be great, and would save a lot of physical space too. And being able to flip to a bit of Weis and Hickman when bored would also be nice.

    However, I don't like the idea of it connecting behind my back - I never like that. If I want updates, it should be my option to get them. Nor do I like the idea of inline advertising - if I've paid for the book, I've also bought the right not to be intruded upon or pestered while I read it.

    This isn't the answer to my prayers. Give it 5-10 years, when the "do-everything" devices start to appear (I mean ones that actually work). Once you have a device that is small, with a front that's 95% screen, that can hold gobs of data, connect to anything, not hurt your eyes and still have a good battery life - and let's be honest, they will come eventually* - then a common-format application running on one would do this job nicely.

    It's a nice concept, but the tech just isn't up to what's expected of it yet. You want higher res than that, you want colour, you want all these things before it'll replace books. I've tried reading books off my Ameo, and the software just isn't good enough.

    Roll on the future.

    *No, fanboys, the iPhone certainly does not count. You wouldn't be able to install the software on it, for one. :-p

  8. Jocke Selin

    I ain't payin' for no blogs

    I think the 'service part' might work, but for me to use that I'll rather pay a low monthly subscription than some pennies per 'blog'. I think it's good that they try to innovate, but this is just another tie-in like the iPhone, XBox<-->Media Center etc.

    Funnily someone is going to judge Kindle as some other eBook reader and when it doesn't take off, they're going to say; eBooks aren't what customers want, eBooks are doomed to fail. Well, they're not, the silly concepts, prices and pricings are.

    I'd love to carry around all my reference material, plus the latest news, but I'm not going to pay per blog-entry. No way. Where's the OpenSource version??

    (Btw, I'm typing this on a Nokia N800, through my WLAN, at no cost. YAY freedom!)

  9. J


    "Authors could update their books while you're reading them; responding to reader feedback, litigation, or even whim."

    That's what bothers me most, I think. If I wanted a mobile blog reader, I... why would I ever want that!?

    If this kind of thing drops to $100 max, then I will start considering getting one.

  10. Graham Lockley

    Half the Price ?

    Still too much at half the price, £50-60 max with the ability to let me plunder Project Gutenberg and similar for the free texts and I would get one today. If this were to happen then I can see a future for the device but sadly I doubt it will.

  11. John Stag

    Will it be allowed on aircraft?

    "The idea of being able to load up half a dozen books just before I board the plane "

    Will the kindle be allowed on aircraft? It uses the same type of radio as a mobile phone.

  12. Brian


    the Cyberbooks quote is quite cool. I've not heard that one before, definitely has me interested :-)

    The Kindle though, for Web2.0... now that is clever! The notion of readers becoming authors too... that would both exceptionally cool and exceptionally crap all at the same time.

    Not every user could be an author...

    but on one side... you could see books coming out in the same was as the Half Life series is progressing on with...

    In theory a quicker turnaround for chapters and such.

    If I can get my daily+weekly dose of web comics on the thing (at a decent resolution), then I'll be close to opening my wallet too, but not at $400.

  13. Aubry Thonon

    No effing way!

    Reading this article almost made me sick; not a comment on the author, but rather on the subject... prose re-written to suit the general consensus? To avoid litigation or, heaven forbid, controversy?

    I can see where this sort of device is perfect for manuals, magazines and (dare we say it) newspapers and sites such as elReg. But books? No <bleep>ing way! Keep your hands of my celulose material. I work with computers all day, I have tech stuff runnning rampant through my hourse (by choice), I am a propellor-head (not a big one, but one nonetheless). But when I want to relax, give me the nice weight and feel of a paperback or a hard-cover edition, with all its imperfections and controversies.

    And if I *really* need to load up for a long trip on an airplane (to use an exmaple from above), I have a mobile (not an iPhone) with an MP3 player, a movie player and a document reader (text, adobe, rtf, etc) with a 2Gb micro-SD card.

    Keep your paws of my print!

  14. Shadow Systems

    Save yourself some money...

    Amazon wants $9.99 per book?

    Visit Project Gutenberg and download anything you want, for free.

    Baen, McAffrey, Rice, King, Koontz, and any of the thousands of authors across thousands of sites dedicated to giving away e-texts.

    There is absolutely NO reason to blow $10 on an electronic copy of something you can buy from a brick-&-mortar used-book-store for $2, or Amazon's used book section for a *dollar*.

  15. Bemi Faison
    Thumb Down

    More devices trying to leapfrog PC evolution

    Just how the iPhone made it clear that a computer can serve as a phone, better than a phone trying to be a computer, the Kindle is simply what the next generation ultra-mobile PC will become.

    The Kindle seems simply a proprietary internet protocol, delivering much of what we can get today via the web. In other words, it won't have major adoption and will be outdated once PC manufacturers catch-up to the Kindle's form/ease (assuming either are worth replicating).

    Put simply, the Kindle is an example for content distribution. I predict other innovators will "get it", perfect the group/wiki/subscription model, and somehow, then, the Kindle will quickly lose it's value.

  16. George Johnson


    Just another piece of plastic junk that will end up in cupboards, and eBay, by mid 2008. Another "must have" item in time for Xmas 07, for the gadget-grabbing ipod generation. Maybe I'm wrong, but taking the mobby market for example, people seem to want devices with lots of knobs and flashing lights that do more than one thing, the old Unix ideal "one thing, but do it well", I don't feel applies to gadgets, even the ipod can be coxed into playing games. I have an old hacked PSP, it does perfectly well for ebooks and tech manuals with the advantage of flipping over to games, mp3 player and WiFI web browser at the flick of switch.

  17. Andy Dent

    Free Wikipedia

    Read about the device before slanging off based on this author's somewhat biased article!

    One of the most significant things about the Kindle is the free access to Wikipedia. No connection charges, no volume charges...

    What's to stop Project Gutenberg amalgamating and putting its content on Wikipedia?

    BTW Baen books aren't free. Yes they have a sizeable free library but they also sell a lot of books ebooks. Thanks to them using Mobipocket format, these will be readable on the device.

    When it comes to reading books on phones, laptops etc. - anything without e-ink is a non-starter for outdoor reading in brighter climates. The best device I have for outdoor reading currently is an old LCD Palm IIIxe.

  18. Nicolas Charbonnier

    Android on an eink ebook? Are you smoking?

    You really need to learn about E-Ink. That screen has got nothing to do with LCD and touch-screen LCD interfaces. You cannot load the same kind of OS on an E-Ink ebook device.

    You think E-Ink is ugly? I think you need to see it for yourself, cause it's not ugly. Maybe black and white screen looks ugly on FCC pictures, but check it out for real, E-Ink is one of the most amazingly beautifull technologies out there. Certainly the most readable screen technology available today.

  19. Charles

    400 dollars?

    How many people spent $400 on books this year? How many people will buy enough ebooks to justify the price of a Kindle before it is obsoleted?

  20. Geoff Johnson


    So, with this gizmo, Big Brother can easily change what appeared in print yesterday to fit in with their current thinking. Only 23 years late.

    There's also the problem of what happens to an industry when it's output changes to an electronic form. The music industry wasn't ready, the film industry wasn't ready. Will the book industry be ready for the potential sales explosion or will it leave it to the torrent sites?

    Why the Noddy subject line?...

    2 books sprang to mind that have had major edits made, The Bible and Noddy.

    I went for the more important one.

  21. A J Stiles
    Paris Hilton

    Kindle ?

    Kindle, as in set on fire -- which this thing is hardly going to do to the world.

    A digital photo frame with upgraded firmware (so it could read HTML, PDF and plain text files) would do a much better job, have the advantages of being both DRM-free and not alterable remotely, and at a price point where ordinary people might actually want one.

  22. Keith T
    Paris Hilton

    Books are real objects . . .

    . . .and are used to having a corner folded over and shoved in a pocket.

    They are chucked around and bunged in the bottom of bags then, with apparently no damage, pulled out and read or given to someone else.

    It's not as if you can relax in a hot, steamy bath with an electronic book - or easily dry it out if it falls in the water.

    Also, if they are forgotten about it's not much of a cost to buy another one - nor do the batteries run down or the screen get scratched.

    Oh, and they don't need a network connection either, they work well in rugged conditions and will survive being lobbed out of a window.

    Audio books may still be better but would one prefer the dulcet tones of Stephen Fry reading to you or your book capable of displaying pictures of Paris H instead of text?

  23. breakfast Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I'm with Greg on this one

    I don't see it replacing my personal bookcase any time soon, books are just too good in too many respects, but I can see it as a really useful replacement for all the programming books that I have lying on the floor around my desk when I'm programming- they're always massive, rapidly out of date, and I end up flitting back and forth between the index and various pages so something with a search functionality would be really useful there.

    Of course, I could do all that on my PC, but I do develop for Windows a lot of the time and one advantage of paper books is that I can be consulting them while I wait for my computer to restart.

  24. Adam White

    Superuser: The Lead Wolf of a Creative Pack

    My God, they're combining Fiction and Fan Fiction into one easily digestable morsel. The horror....

    PS - is Zero Wing making a comeback? It seems about time.

  25. Eddie Johnson
    Thumb Down

    Dumbest idea ever

    The last thing I want is a book that can change. I already hate the dynamic web because I pretty much know if I ever go back to find anything it will be gone, either because the site is gone, they rearranged the furniture, or they decided to lock up the content under some new business model.

    Now you want to apply that model to a book I purchased? Oh, wait, sorry. I guess I don't purchase it either - I license it, giving the content-controller (not the author, think like the RIAA for music) the authority to modify, delete, revoke, negate, or obfuscate the content at any time.

    Just look what a success Wiki's have been, Wiki-fiddlin's become a commercial industry, with politicos hiring people to rewrite history for them.

    When Web2.0 comes to a book near me my reading days will be over.

  26. Eddie Johnson
    Dead Vulture

    @Andrew Heenan

    I hope in the case you described they meant the hardware was updateable not the content. Because why the hell does someone need to be revising 1984?

    > s/Big Brother/Microshaft/g

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm with Aubry

    Not literally you understand ....

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