Amazon Kindle and Electronic Books

4 minute read

image One of the gifts I was given for Christmas was an Amazon Kindle, which finally arrived yesterday. I’m not 100% sold yet on reading books on a device – I already have enough things that I have to plug in at night 🙂

But my first impression is that this is a pretty nice device.

The good (so far)

  • Easily Portable – I travel a lot and I also read a lot. When I went to Spain for Tech-Ed Europe I brought 5 books with me on the trip (and yes I finished all five). I have books that I read about business related topics and books that I just read for fun. Carrying that many books, and I would carry more if possible, is not easy. The Kindle is tiny and weighs practically nothing. I love the idea that I could take as many books as I want when I travel.
  • Lots of books available – I’ve lost count but Amazon has an amazing number of books in the eBook format as well as several magazines and newspapers. Side note, one of the books I’m reading now: Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged isn’t available on the Kindle (disappointing).
  • No Computer Required – Amazon cut a deal with Sprint for built-in EVDO service so there is no monthly cost for the Kindle’s WAN support. You can browse the web and (of course) browse and purchase books from the Amazon store. Buying books is a breeze too. Last night I bought Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds and from the time I hit the order button to the time it was delivered to the device was about ~5 seconds. I hope we see more devices in the future that take this same approach.
  • Readability – Wow! I really didn’t think there would be anyway that I would compare reading on a screen to reading paper. The Kindle’s screen uses a display technology called electronic paper and I can honestly say it’s the most readable electronic screen I’ve used. There is no back light for the screen, there is also no anti-aliasing – the text is clear and looks just like ink.

The not so good

There is a lot to like about the Kindle, but here is what I don’t like:

  • Cost of books – Buying a book is easy. The problem is the books cost the same as a paperback! I would have expected the books to be a lot less considering that a lot of the COGS is removed: printing, shipping, inventory, etc. I am sure the margin’s for each book sold is through the roof. Hopefully the price of books will come down over time.
  • DRM – I’m not a DRM fan. When I purchase something (music, video, books) it becomes content that I have rights to use and I want to be able to use it anywhere I want. Amazon’s books use their own DRM to ensure that their eBooks can only be used on the device that purchased it. So sharing books with friends is essentially broken.
  • Airplane I have to find something new to do when traveling and hear the ominous “turn off all electronic devices until we’re in the air/on the ground“. That’s prime reading time, but not with an eBook. Ugh.

I don’t think the Kindle is ready to replace traditional books just yet. There are some kinks that need to be worked out still in how the market works for eBooks. However, I’m going to start using it as my primary way to read books and most definitely for any business book. For example, even though I already own a hardcover of Good to Great I’ll probably buy it for the Kindle too (when it is available) — just because I can search and annotate it any time.

Tips & Hacks

Below are some tips & hacks that I’ve found already — my first Google search this morning was “Hacking the Kindle” 🙂

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