If you pay much attention to the technology industry or consumer electronics, you may be aware of a new “e-book” reader from Amazon.com, called the Amazon Kindle. An ebook reader is an electronic device that can display the text of books or magazines onscreen, more crisply than a standard computer, and with the benefit of being able to “fit” more books into one package. That is, an ebook reader can store hundreds of books in a form factor similar to (or smaller than) a single hardback book.
The Amazon Kindle has a bunch of innovative features that are new in an ebook device, the two most important being an always-on wireless connection to the Internet, and the services provided by the (always connected) Amazon Kindle Store. You can learn more about the device’s specific features at the Kindle Store.
There has been a wide range of opinions expressed about the Kindle, from violent dislike to sighs of bliss. Probably the two best, most reasoned opinions come from Andy Ihnatko at the Chicago Sun-Times, who likes the Kindle a lot, and John Gruber of Daring Fireball, who hopes and believes it will fail. (And here are two more that also bring intelligent perspectives.)
Since I don’t own and haven’t even held a Kindle, I hesitate to express an opinion about it. On the one hand, looking at the features list, the device gets a lot of things right. But having a feature is not the same as doing it well; just look at the iPod vs. its competition. The devil’s in the details, and without using one, I can’t say if the feature list is a bunch of checked off boxes, or capabilities that are a delight to use (these reviews make me think the former). And there are also some small-but-serious omissions; for me the number one issue is no backlight, which means I can’t use it in bed without turning on a reading light, which wakes Rochelle up if she’s sleeping — a big no-no.
So I think it’s too early to tell. I would predict success for it, if it was not so relentlessly unstylish, trapped in a case designed for the 1980s. It’s not that style is the most important thing, but it is important.
In the end, the only reason I’m bothering to post about the Kindle at all is because among its many features, it can play audiobooks from Audible.com. As I wrote above, I have no idea if this feature is well-implemented, and I have a hard time imagining it as a good fit for audiobooks in a car while commuting (the form factor is all wrong). But if you’re the sort of person who “goes both ways” with their books (print and audio), you might find the Kindle very interesting.
Disclosure: If you buy a Kindle through the links above, I’ll get a kickback from Amazon. I’m not particularly recommending you do that, but just so you know.