Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Portable devices -- the Kindle book reader

Over the years a number of vendors have marketed portable devices for reading books, magazines and other material, but none have caught on. The latest attempt is Amazon's Kindle. Kindle is both hardware -- the portable reader -- and a service. The service includes an online store with 90,000 books, magazine and blog subscription and free downloading using Sprint's cellular network. It also includes a backup copy of everything you buy or transfer to your Kindle in case it is lost or damaged. That is the good news.

The bad news is that the Kindle service is a "walled garden." It is like having a cell phone that can only call one number -- the Amazon book store. Furthermore, the cost of downloading and backup must be covered, so a subscription to a blog which is free on the Internet might cost $1 per month, and you must pay to put your own Word files or other documents on your Kindle. The charges cover the backup and downloading service.

Would you be willing to have a specialized book reader or would insist upon a portable device capable of other functions like listening to music, Web browsing and email? Would you want a portable device that was tied to a single vendor, Amazon?