The Kindle — Amazon.com’s e-book reader and fledgling entry into the consumer electronics market — seems like a good concept. It certainly looks good, and there appears to be some interesting technology under the hood. But there are some puzzling choices being made by Amazon here as well. I’m not buying one, and I think I’m not alone.
What I could see myself — and by extension, other academics and college students — using a device like this for would be to read and annotate documents on the go without the physical burden (and relatively poor battery life) of my Macbook. And when I say “documents”, I mean PDF’s. The PDF is the hydrogen atom of the electronic document world — the most commonly occurring element and appearing in all different platforms. I have mountains of e-documents I have to read and take notes on in all areas of my profession, and they are almost all PDF’s. If I had an electronic device that was light, small, didn’t get hot when I used it (like the Macbook still does), has a nice display, allows me to read and annotate PDF’s easily, and was priced around $150, I’d snap it up in a minute.
The Kindle gets all of these right except the last two, and these are deal-breakers for the academic market. A $400 price tag for a “document reader” that won’t let me read the format which 90% of my documents are in? It makes me wonder if Amazon truly understands the concept of the “electronic document” if they think the Kindle is marketable to all but the have-everything early adopters in its current state. (And yes, I’m aware that there are third-party workarounds for the PDF issue, but really, this is like saying that it’s OK if a car only runs on kerosene and not gasoline because there are third-party solutions to convert one to the other.)
Update: Scobleizer unloads on the Kindle. There’s video. I think he makes too much of the lack of social networking capabilities, but his UI criticisms are hard to deny.