Kindle DX thoughts

My initial thoughts about the Kindle DX:

The price seems surprisingly reasonable. The iRex with an A4 size screen was over $800.

I’m not convinced that textbooks are workable on an e-book reader. You don’t read textbooks linearly. (Or at least, I never did.) The ability to flip around between marked locations is limited on the Kindle 2, and I’m guessing it will be on the DX as well.

On the other hand, the size and weight benefits are hard to deny. However, I never used to carry multiple textbooks around with me. Maybe American students’ habits are different?

It wouldn’t work for me as a general purpose device for reading novels as well as PDFs, because it won’t fit into a shoulder bag or reasonable size backpack. With a screen that big, it’ll be scarily easy to break by banging your bag against the corner of a table, unless you get some kind of metal hardcase.

Newspapers? Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see the ability to display text in multiple columns as that big of a win. Consider that most people under the age of about 50 get their written news from the web, where a single column for the stories is the rule. We went through all the madness of trying to make electronic pages look like newspaper pages ten years ago; it didn’t work as well as a simple clickable table of contents. I bet the newspaper guys think going back to multiple columns is a great idea, though. As for diagrams, the existing Kindle can display those fairly adequately, it’s mainly being held back by the content producers failing to include them.

What about magazines, which generally require color? If I’m going to be spending a big chunk of cash on something with an A4 screen, I want to be able to read Scientific American on it without compromises.

Overall, I’m more skeptical about this than I was about the original Kindle. I think I’d advise waiting to see what Pixel Qi come up with, not to mention the CrunchPad.

Kindle

Dear Amazon,

You’re so almost there with your new Kindle e-book. There are just a few minor details you need to fix to get me on board.

First of all, you need Mac support, and preferably Linux support as well, both for content creation and for reading books. There’s really no excuse for not having reader support, as you have a working Mobipocket reader in Java that will run on Mac and Linux, you just haven’t taken the time to package it up properly. The creation tools ought to be a pretty simple task to port too; a command line version would be fine. I don’t even care if it can’t apply DRM; I just want a way to be able to package up free text.

Secondly, you need to either drop the DRM, or drop the price of the books. Let’s consider a real example here. I’m about to start reading Charlie Stross’s The Atrocity Archives.

Let’s get one thing straight here: because there’s DRM, I can’t sell the book when I’m done with it, which breaks the first sale doctrine. Therefore, you’re not actually selling e-books, you’re renting them to me for an indefinite period of time, a bit like Netflix does with DVDs. I’d respect you more if you admitted that.

Anyhow, If I go the Kindle route, it’s $9.99 for the book.

Suppose I go the paper route instead. I can pick up a new copy on amazon.com marketplace for $12 plus $4 shipping = $16. When I’m done reading it, I can sell it for $9 second hand. Total cost to me = $7.

So the Kindle is more expensive, and I can’t actually buy the books. That to me is a poor deal.

Oh, sure, Kindle prices include network bandwidth… but with paper books, I had to include the cost of physically shipping dead tree across the country, and I still came out ahead. If you can’t beat the paper book price-per-reading, you’re doing something seriously wrong.

We’ve all watched the music industry flail around overcharging for DRM-burdened files and get nowhere. Learn from their mistakes. Drop the DRM, or drop the book prices to $5 or so (comparable to a DVD or video game rental, plus some markup to cover network costs) and I’ll order my Kindle tomorrow.

Update: Of course, if you gave me the Kindle for free, I’d use it to buy books from you, and look on the extra cost as a convenience fee.

iPhoney (updated)

I was kinda enthusiastic about the iPhone…then I found out from Macintouch that it’s a closed, locked down unit.

Forget about installing software to use it as an e-book reader, or reading Word documents or PDFs. You’re not going to be using it to give business presentations. Forget about downloading music via the WiFi connection. Forget about writing your own neat applications and running them. There’s no Xcode iPhone developer kit, and Apple apparently has no plans to produce one for public use.

So basically, it’s a phone that does exactly the same stuff my current phone does, but with a much prettier interface. I’m sure Apple will sell a boatload of them to the same people who bought the Motorola RAZR because it looked cool. But to me, it’s not that interesting unless it’s open.

The fact that you need to sign a 2 year contract with Cingular makes it even less attractive. Cingular’s SMS is flaky to the point of near uselessness, and their Internet connectivity is expensive compared to any other carrier. I’m sure their iPhone contract will require a monthly reaming that will make my current unpleasant cellphone bill look like a bargain.

If you like the idea of what the iPhone could have been, though, there are a couple of upcoming alternatives worth considering.

OpenMoko is a Linux-based phone with an iPhone-like touch interface. It’ll be about half the price of the iPhone, and not locked to Cingular. It’s also going to be open to developers.

The Greenphone is a more traditional phone design (i.e. one with buttons). Again, it runs Linux and is open to third party developers.

Also, since it seems it isn’t common knowledge: Apple didn’t invent the multitouch technology as Steve Jobs claimed. It was actually developed by a company called Fingerworks. Said company mysteriously shut down, and the owners refused to say who had purchased their operation, citing confidentiality agreements. However, one of the founders of the company was subsequently confirmed to be working for Apple.