Is Kindle the next iPod?

I have been listening, watching and reading lots of good things about the new Amazon Kindle.  The sources are quite broad across the tech, business and news sectors of both “traditional” and “non-traditional” media.  For those who don’t know what a Kindle is, here’s some background.

Kindle is defined as follows:

  1. Noun – a term for a group of kittens.  i.e. a kindle of kittens.
  2. Verb – to light (a fire, or torch).
  3. Verb – to arouse or inspire. 

So that’s what the name means.  But what is it?  The kindle is an electronic book (e-book) reader from Amazon.  The 1st kindle came out in 2007.  The Kindle 2 is the latest version.  It boasts many improvements over the original in such areas as speed, display, user interface etc…  It can hold hundreds of titles, which are downloaded from Amazon over a proprietary, free, cellular data network.  Users can even subscribe to magazines and newspapers which are downloaded automatically.  Amazon controls the format of these e-book data files, but many many titles are available.  The Kindle is NOT back-lit, it uses a technology called digital ink, which offers, as some of it’s advantages, low power usage, clean b/w images, and excellent outdoor viewing.  However, if you want to read in bed, just like with a paper book, you need a reading lamp.  Other features include text-to-voice, different font sizes and a dedicated Wikipedia browser.  So what is the advantage over paper?

There seems to be several advantages to using e-books over paper.  

  • It has to be cheaper to generate content.  No paper, one copy downloaded to many users.  In these times, many traditional print sources (newspapers and magazines) are moving out of print in favor of electronic versions.
  • Instead of hauling several books, newspapers and magazines around, all you need is this thing.  The Kindle is small and light with good battery life (rechargeable).
  • You are not tied to a computer (laptop or desktop) to get the content onto the device.  It uses a free cellular data network so it doesn’t need a Wi-Fi connection to the Internet.

The real issue, as I see it, is how to get these things into the hands of the consumers.  Presently, a Kindle will set you back about $359.  That’s a bit steep…  

The best path for this, in my opinion, would be the Universities and Schools.  Imagine little Johnny going off to school with only his Kindle in his backpack instead of 4 heavy textbooks.  His big brother or sister, in college, could not only get textbooks, but lecture notes, school newspaper, and other titles all on one device.  I, personally have never seen one “in the wild”, but they do have definite functionality, and a coolness factor.  Perhaps I’ll see one in DC when I’m riding the metro for a week.

In the mean time, I’ll just listen to my podcasts on my iPod touch.  The podcasts are free, and I can play games, search the web, and even read an e-book!

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