February 15, 2008

Amazon Launches Kindle

The last bastion of analogue started to crumble today with the launch of Amazons much-anticipated e-Book reader called Kindle (US$399). The Kindle device, in development for three years weighs just under 300 grams and introduces what Amazon are classifying as a 'convenient, portable reading device with the ability to wirelessly download books, blogs, magazines and newspapers.'

The Kindle isn't the first mass e-Reader product on the market. That credit goes to the Sony PRS-500 Portable Reader System. Both devices use technology called Electronic Paper Display (EPD), which according to eInk 'possess a paper-like high contrast appearance, ultra-low power consumption, and a thin, light form, giving viewers the experience of reading from paper, while having the power of up-datable information.

According to Amazon, Kindle has been designed to operate without a computer. Instead, Kindle relies on the Sprint Evdo network to gain access to the Web, and importantly Amazon.com where you'll buy most of the content for your Kindle. And that's where Amazon have added plenty of value, where Sony couldn't. Amazon have partnered with most major publishers and have over 88,000 books available, including 100 of the current 112 New York Times bestsellers. Amazon have also partnered with top international newspapers and magazines like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Time and Forbes, and have also made 250 top blogs available under a subscription model as well.

Content for the Kindle is reasonably priced with bestsellers and new releases starting at $9.99, while other books can be more or less expensive. Books that are purchased come with proprietary Amazon DRM and can't be shared between Kindle users (unless the Kindle's share an Amazon account) or printed. The files can however be backed up. All Kindle users are assigned an email address, where for a small fee they can transfer their own files (Word and picture files) to their Kindle, and the Kindle can hold approximately 200 titles internally with SD card support for expansion.

The Kindle is already being touted as the 'iPod' of books however that metaphor doesn't quite hold. True, the only place to get DRM'd music for your iPod is iTunes, however iPod's also play non-DRM music that is freely importable through iTunes. According to Gizmodo, the Kindle only supports books in its '.azw' format, and the only files you can transfer on without getting 'taxed' (Amazon charge 10c per email attachment) are image files.

Sadly, I can't see Kindle coming to our shores anytime soon. So, for more information, and to find out what we are missing check out the Amazon.com information page. What do you think? Will Kindle be a hit or is paper still king?