Still not Kindled


kindle2So Amazon.com has released the Kindle 2, to mostly positive reviews. But I think Amazon missed several opportunities to make the Kindle 2 a must-have device for people who work with text content. I outlined these opportunities back in November 2007 in this blog post. Let’s check them off: 

  • Native PDF support: No. By “native support” I mean that if I have a document that I want to put on my Kindle and view, I ought to be able to do so easily and free of charge, and it ought to look on my Kindle as it would if I had printed it. But this is not the case for the Kindle 2. To get a PDF or other kind of document onto your Kindle, you have to email it as an attachment and have Amazon do it — for a price of $0.10 per document. And even then, according to Amazon’s specs, you may get a PDF whose formatting is completely out of whack if the PDF is “complex”, which for mathematical documents it probably is. (Although I would like to hear from Kindle 2 owners who successfully get a typical mathematics article to display on their devices, properly formatted.) I can understand that PDF’s are difficult to work with display-wise and perhaps Adobe is the right group to complain to about this. But my main objection is the cost involved. I shouldn’t have to pay any amount, no matter how small, to take a document that I created or possess and put it onto a device that I own
  • Touch screen and/or handwriting recognition: No. I just can’t figure out why they can’t put a touch screen on this thing. Does it screw up the display resolution? It can’t be because touch screens are expensive; as I pointed out in the earlier article, Palm Pilots had touch screens back in the late 90’s and it didn’t jack their prices up inaccessibly. 
  • Improvements to UI and buttons: It looks like yes. It certainly doesn’t look cheap, as the Kindle 1 did. So sexiness is one thing Amazon did right here. 
  • Free access to any RSS feed: No. You still can only subscribe to the RSS feeds that Amazon provides (although there are a lot more of these now than there used to be), and it still costs money. Slashdot, for example, is $2 per month. That’s not much, but why should I have to be paying for this when I can get RSS feeds for free on a computer or an iPhone? And if I want to subscribe to 100 RSS feeds, as I do, then am I going to be ponying up $100/month for these? That’s too much. 
  • WiFi as a paid option: No. Here’s another one I don’t get. I can appreciate the flexibility of 3G connectivity (especially after owning an iPod touch for a few months and striking out on wifi coverage in various places). But why not make a “Kindle Deluxe” for $100 more that includes WiFi connectivity in addition to 3G? People would buy this. Why not make it? 
  • Price drop: Forget about it. The Kindle 2 retails for $359. That’s about the price I paid for my iPod touch. Even if you agree that $359 is a fair price for the Kindle 2 — and this is a highly debatable point — the fact is that this is only the beginning of the expense of owning and using it. You have to pay to have your own documents put on it; you have to pay to access RSS feeds and then only the ones Amazon provides; and of course there’s the cost of the books themselves. Kindle books are, to be sure, significantly discounted over their print versions. But how many books would I need to purchase in order to recoup the loss of purchasing the Kindle in the first place, paying to transport my own documents, and paying to access my RSS feeds? I could do the math, but it’s probably more than I’d want to pay. 

Devices like the Kindle really show a lot of promise, especially in education. It’s exciting to think that something like the Kindle could be used to provide students with cheaper textbooks which they could carry, annotate, and share with others. And I like the idea of being able to carry around PDF’s of articles and books, sharing and annotating as well. So it’s disappointing that Amazon gets us this close to having a killer text content managing device, but stops right at the doorway. 

Still, if Amazon or someone wanted to send me one of these as a gift, I’d take it.

10 Comments

Filed under Technology, Textbooks

10 responses to “Still not Kindled

  1. Jeff Sykes

    Surely this is one of those things that Apple could figure out. Done right, this could completely revolutionize the college textbook industry, which means a load of cash for whoever comes up with a good implementation…

    • And Apple’s already got iTunes U to go along with it. I agree, and I hope that those long-running rumors about the Apple tablet computer turn out to be something other than vaporware one of these days. My iPod touch is already a pretty decent PDF reader (and I don’t have to pay to put stuff on it) — just make an iPod touch that’s 5×8″ and you’re there.

  2. I think we still are waiting for the next generation product.
    Moreover, there are no many companies has similar products in the market.

  3. I think the Kindle is too expensive for what it does. Maybe when the price comes down and it has more features like you suggested I’ll consider one.

    Also, happy Square Root Day. I have a Smartboard in my classroom and I gave my 7th grade science class some problems working with radicals, roots and squares. I was observing who might be a good candidate for next year’s MathCounts team. We had a 2hr snow delay here so classes were only about 22 minutes – just enough time for some math fun.

  4. Robert,

    I see that Amazon just released Kindle for the iPhone/iPod Touch.

    http://www.macworld.com/article/139182/2009/03/kindle_iphone.html

    Dave

  5. I pumped about the Ipod App. That’s probably going to keep me from buying the Kindle now for good.

  6. virusdoc

    The Kindle will never take off among academics because there is something fundamental about sitting down with a printed manuscript and a pen and scrawling notes on the paper. No digital interface can ever come close to this rudimentary interaction between the reader and the document. This interaction is as ancient as written language itself. I will never feel like I’ve read a document if I can’t scrawl comments and questions all over it at will.

    Site style note: the “comments” link should always be at the BOTTOM of a post. Once I’m done reading a post, and I want to comment, I shouldn’t have to scroll to the top of the page to click on that link.

  7. Will Farris

    Well, I put off the K1 until the gen2 arrived. I hated to spend the bucks but I am a gadget and book addict in serious need of rehab. So when I go into rehab I will take my K2 with me. The device is growing on me because being able to download books in seconds, even esoteric titles like Reinventing Gravity, How to Prove It, Set Theory and Its Philosophy, and Lightness of Being, as well as the free ESV Bible, all in this little package IS JUST SO COOL. There is a huge gratification factor going on here. I love being able to take a couple of boxloads of books with me to the lake house, the beach, the park bench, or wherever. My iPhone is way too tiny to enjoy protracted reading and way too slow for web surfing and I HATE TOUCH SCREENS. How do people stand it??? Blackberry keyboard and email just rocks. But I digress. When eBook readers converge, go to color and open format, include standard PDA functionality, bigger screens (maybe even a dual page version like real books), and a million public domain titles get converted, we will have arrived. So right now perhaps it is like paying a tax for early adoption to fund better stuff later (it makes me feel a little better to say that) and there will be amazing things coming to a venue near you. Oh yeah, what I seem to be describing is a Tablet PC: color, big screen, open standards, touch screen, but alas bad battery life and too much else going on. We need color organic e-Ink touch – I have faith it will be here. At the price of a netbook more than likely.

    So all that being said the K2 really is a useful device in the field, especially when one book your are reading refers to another that you just have to have now.

  8. Thats Too nice, when it comes in india hope it can make a Rocking place for youngster.. hope that come true.

  9. virusdoc

    Kindled now? You got your native pdf support. I have to say, once this thing has a low-power color touch screen that supports scrawled notes, it could spell the end of the printed textbook and journal.