Jan 4, 2008

[Gadgets] Amazon Kindle

Flickr: strfireblue - Amazon Kindle
Amazon Kindle
by strfireblue.

It's not very often that I get personal requests for reviews and features despite my constantly inviting users to do so. However I have committed to answering all calls and so allow me to finally address this request - a look into the Amazon Kindle e-book reader. As much as we all love squinting while reading e-books via our mobile phones or our PDAs, there appears to be a growing market for specialized e-book readers that display texts a few pixel sizes bigger.

The Amazon Kindle (currently retailing for $399 but is sold out at this time) is Amazon's answer to the e-book market. Sure, they may be the world's larget online retailer for books (and a heck of a lot of other stuff to boo) and it's only natural they try to address this particular market of readers who have moved away from paper and ink texts. It displays texts on its 600x800 grayscale display so it feels like a book. The edge of course is that you can store quite a number of e-books on the device using it's 256MB internal memory or you can also expand your storage via the available SD slot.

The supposed claim-to-fame for the Kindle is the Amazon Kindle Store, which is pretty much Amazon's book version of Apple's iTunes for music. From here you can download books, subscribe to magazines or even to specially formatted blogs since the Kindle does not default as web browser. It access the Kindle Store via what's being called the Amazon Whispernet (run on Sprint's EVDO network), which makes this feature only practical in the US.

Oh wait, is it really practical? With books retailing for up to $10 a title, magazines up to $15 a month and even blogs for a minimum of $0.99, it makes you kind of wonder just a bit. While you're not prevented from viewing your current e-books in popular formats like unprotected Mobipocket files, it's ironically not very well-suited for books in PDF format, which has been a long-running favorite format.

And remember it's not a web-browser (at least not officially) so you can't just subscribe to your favorite RSS feeds unless they are available via the Amazon Kindle store. For it's price tag, it's a pretty expense specialty gadget that best works with Amazon's own DRM-format - AZW.

For people in the US, the main issue will be the price of downloading books and acquiring content. It's still a lot to shell out for books you still can't really hold, which is a long-running issue for avid bibliophiles. For those outside of the US, technically you can't buy the Kindle and without the Whispernet option, getting new titles will not be ideal since books from outside the Kindle Store will not be in the AZW format. Conversion options are popping up here and there but they're not perfect at this point.

You might be better of investing in a more versatile device like the iPod Touch, which is cheaper (even for the 16 GB model), has web browsing capability and is generally cooler and in color to boot. It might be a while before the Kindle catches on (and manages to restock) so it's way too early to fully explore this device in our outside of the US.


  1. Thanks Rocky! You.. uh, ROCK! Hahaha!!! Happy New Year! I really appreciate the review.

    I don't really like the itouch though. My aunt owns one, and I guess it's pretty nifty, but it's too *alien technology* for me. Too gadgetty. I guess I'll stick to books until the Kindle, or something similar, becomes more accessible in the third world.

  2. You're more than welcome, Ina! Feel free to send in any other geeky questions you might have in the future.

    The iPod Touch, like many other modern gadgets, have a bit of a learning curve, but it's definitely hard to deny the cool factor attached to these devices.

    But yes, nothing replaces a good book, hehe.