Amazon’s Kindle & Ebooks - New Publishing/Reading Horizon

When Amazon sent me an email proudly announcing their new Kindle reader, I didn’t pay much attention. They heralded it as a revolutionary product and I thought, “everyone I know hates to read stuff on a computer screen, who is going to want to read off a smaller screen?” Apparently about a half a million people so far, that’s who.

So I looked today at the Amazon Kindle, both as a prospective buyer and as a publisher. A quick check of Amazon reader reviews of the Amazon Kindles, show the following pro’s and con’s for buying an Amazon Kindle.

Pro: It is extremely lightweight. 10.3 ounces. In contrast, the paperback version of John Grisham’s The Testament with 480 pages weighs 11.2 ounces.

Con: There are a lot of books, even VERY popular books, which are not available, John Grisham’s The Testament for example.

Pro: Includes wireless ability AND free wireless service which works (in theory) where most cell phones work, this gives you the ability to download both books and magazines almost anywhere.

Note: Montana and other locations, which do not have Sprint cell phone service, are not included in this almost anywhere, according to one irate Montana purchaser .   However, in such places, you can still purchase Kindle books and magazines on your computer and download them via the USB cable, according to one happy South Dakota purchaser, though she added wistfully this does not include the free sample chapters.

Con: It’s ugly. Amazon needs to hire some of the product designers from Apple. Do you care? Maybe not, but some people who like the download-almost-anywhere hate the fact that Amazon’s Kindle looks like a nerd device, and has been compared to a Texas Instrument’s calculator in appearance.

Pro: Holds over 200 titles

Con: Customers complain they cannot effectively organize what is on the Kindle.

Pro: Free book samples. Download and read first chapters for free before you decide to buy.

Con: Downloaded books cost almost as much as paperback books, despite the lack of paper and printing expense AND one cannot resell the used copy of a Kindle book on Amazon, as you can a paper version.

Pro: Transfer your own documents to read on the Kindle either by using the included USB cable or by setting up an email address which you simply email documents to and have them magically appear on YOUR Kindle reader. 

Con:  There is a ten-cent fee for each document emailed.  Many customers find this “nickel and diming” attitude from Amazon irritating (thought technically, sounds like they are diming and diming). 

Con:  You can’t download a PDF file.  Dear Amazon, got a grudge against Adobe??  Or perhaps it was the other way around?  In any case, it’s clear something went amiss here.

Pro:  Customers report it is extremely easy to setup and begin using.  “I was reading within 20 minutes of receiving the package,” said one happy buyer.

Con: Expect a long wait if you happen to have a problem and need Customer Service.  Several reader reviews report giving up and returning their Amazon Kindle.

Pro:  Amazon dropped the price from it’s initial $399 to $359.

Con: Price and Availability - It does cost $359 and is currently backordered.
Updated 2/11/2008 — Following the announcement of Amazon Kindle 2.0 Reader, Amazon has dropped it’s price on the original Kindle to $259. Quite a deal if you ask me. 
So if you are psyched up and go to order, you’ll have an approximately 6 week wait at the time that I’m writing this.
Conclusion: As a reader, who reads (or listens) to more audiobooks, than books each year AND who doesn’t travel and therefore need to carry books a lot, Amazon’s Kindle doesn’t appeal to me that much.

As a publisher though, Amazon Kindle offers a new platform and an audience of a half-million (and growing) people who clearly want more titles available on the Kindle. Both ebooks and regular books can be converted to Kindle. I’ve had one friend tell me it is easy to do. But I also saw a quote from a publisher, that it is Amazon that is the gating factor in making more books available in Kindle format, NOT the publishers. So… I’m going to look into this. Look for a future post on publishing on the Amazon kindle.

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