The eBook is nothing new, and nor are hardware-based eBook readers — I’ve even read a number of eBooks over the years on various Palm devices, for example. However, later today Amazon is set to unveil the latest stab at an dedicated eBook device and accompanying service called the “Kindle”.
Richard MacManus, editor of our sister blog Read/WriteWeb, has the details:
This week, wrote Steve Levy in a rapturous article in Newsweek, Amazon will release the Kindle – an e-reader that uses E Ink and will have Internet connectivity. The latter point is what will differentiate the Kindle from its chief competitor currently, the Sony eReader that was launched in 2006.
Levy wrote in Newsweek that the Kindle ” will change the way readers read, writers write and publishers publish.” He unleashes other doozies of hyperbole too: “the iPod of reading” and “the first ‘always-on’ book”.
The Kindle will cost USD399, which is $100 more than the Sony eReader. But the wireless Internet connectivity easily makes the increased price worth it. The wireless is via a system called Whispernet – which according to Newsweek is based on the EVDO broadband service offered by cell-phone carriers, allowing it to work anywhere and not just Wi-Fi hotspots.
The Kindle will be able to hold 200 books, with new releases being offered for just $9.99. Also, apparently blogs will be part of the service – at a cost of either 99 cents or $1.99 a month per blog.
There are quite a few issues that might hold back adoption of the Kindle, namely the tricky balancing act that is DRM and eBook formats, the user experience of the device itself, and the age-old question of whether people really want to read books — most of which aren’t time sensitive — electronically.
I also have a feeling there maybe another issue at stake.
Despite Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos telling Newsweek: “This isn’t a device, it’s a service”, eBooks are still purchased individually, and that’s after shelling out $399 for “entering the shop”. Perhaps, instead, the subscription-based blogging model that the Kindle is reportedly going to adopt (though why anybody would pay for blog access when they can consume the content for free elsewhere is beyond me) points to how eBooks might be sold. Why not charge far less for the device along with various monthly subscription plans, enabling a set number of books to be downloaded each month. Who wants to “own” an eBook? You can’t lend it to anyone (thanks to DRM) and it doesn’t have the aesthetic feel of a physical book. Instead, charge me access to a virtual bookshelf that lives in the clouds. After all, cloud computing and storage is something Amazon already does quite well.