Feeds

Amazon's $399 folly book reader

Just a lot of Kindling

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Reading has never been cheaper, and for most of us, requires no additional machinery - only the source material itself. So why do we need to pay the online retailer Amazon.com $399 to read books?

That's the cost of the company's Kindle, a gadget with an 800 x 600 E Ink screen. Apparently the company has been working on the device since 2004. It's priced at $100 more than Sony's E Ink-based reader, which has received rave reviews, and, like every electronic book-reading predecessor, has failed to set the world alight. Kindle, however, has a built-in Wi-Fi 3G connection - just what you always wanted from a book.

Amazon.com Kindle

Kindling

The Kindle weighs 284g (10oz) and Amazon claims the battery lasts 30 hours per charge.

Why Amazon embarked on this folly isn't clear from a hagiographic feature by Newsweek's Steven "Collective Intelligence" Levy - whose brain must have fallen out in the course of his genuflecting before Amazon boss and amateur spaceman Jeff Bezos.

Levy doesn't mention the long history of ebook failures - Gemstar/Rocket, anyone? - nor does he give any justification for the title: "Reinventing the book". Levy raves about the "killer user interface" - does it kill humans? Or flies? - without explaining why. In addition to delivering digital books, Amazon also hopes to drive print subscriptions from the major publishers: Time Warner and the New York Times are partners for the launch, just as they've been partners for every e-book reader launch we can remember.

Optimistic estimates put the current e-book market at around $25m a year. That's a rounding error for the publishing industry. And just to give you some perspective, ringtones - another digitally-delivered good - gross as much revenue as e-books do in a year... in 33 minutes.

"I'm rooting for Jeff and the Kindle," said Tim 2.0'Reilly, even more predictably.

Yet it's doubtful whether Amazon, or anyone else, could make a success of an e-book reader even if it gave them away for free.

You simply have to imagine history in reverse. If a new technology called PTech were invented today, and promised vastly improved flexibility, durability, convenience, and richness of browsing and reading - as well as ridding books from DRM - it would destroy the Digital Book market overnight. We have PTech today, of course - it's called paper, and it's simply a superior technology.

So an extra $399 for something you don't need - and that's more cumbersome and inconvenient than before? Arise, Sir Jeff.

Amazon has made some interesting technology bets recently, its S3 service being the most radical. This isn't one of them - and it's Bezos' lack of imagination (something he shares with his fellow "digital visionaries") that strikes one here. Their view of the world is so narrow, and so single-mindedly digital, that when they look into the future - that all they can see is their reflections. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Bladerunner sequel might actually be good. Harrison Ford is in it
Go ahead, you're all clear, kid... Sorry, wrong film
Musicians sue UK.gov over 'zero pay' copyright fix
Everyone else in Europe compensates us - why can't you?
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Euro Parliament VOTES to BREAK UP GOOGLE. Er, OK then
It CANNA do it, captain.They DON'T have the POWER!
Megaupload overlord Kim Dotcom: The US HAS RADICALISED ME!
Now my lawyers have bailed 'cos I'm 'OFFICIALLY' BROKE
Forget Hillary, HP's ex CARLY FIORINA 'wants to be next US Prez'
Former CEO has political ambitions again, according to Washington DC sources
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.