Update: This entire post was written before looking at the pay-as-you-read RSS pricing structure. Click down to the end to see how Amazon's pricing has changed my point of view.
The Story: So Amazon launched Kindle, the first major US release of an ebook reader. Sony has had e-readers for some time now with little US success. However, given Amazon's US and global market positioning, they will probably gain far more traction than Sony from day one. Amazon is our digital portal to reading. Kindle is the digital solution to digital reading on-the-go.
The e-Reader Innovation: For those who may be unfamiliar with the technology, e-readers are digital displays with a basic amount of memory (equivalent to what you would find on an SD card) and a fairly low-end processor slapped on. The real innovation in e-readers typically lies in their screens, which utilize a technology called e-ink. E-ink is not a traditional "on or off" pixelated display, rather it is a set display where elements or "ink" can be reconstituted to display other content utilizing of a small shot of electricity. Once the image is displayed, the screen is essentially "off" until new content needs to be displayed. So rather than being a display that is always on when in use (such as the screen you are mostly likely reading this on), e-ink displays are always off - even while displaying information! They only turn "on" to flip a page.
The Amazon Innovation: While seamless integration with the Amazon store is certainly welcome, the innovation here lies in the distribution platform. Amazon has baked in connectivity with Sprint's EVDO network to provide "live" push updates of content - certainly a welcome and unexpected addition. This device essentially removes the need for a computer and dedicated internet connection from the equation. Bravo!
But I won't be buying one of these toys anytime soon, and here's why: there is no responsive RSS reader functionality. Sure I read the NY Times daily - and am a paperback novel-phile - and a serial magazine reader (I read over 2 dozen a month) - and an addicted RSS feed reader, all of which Kindle has. But in order to serve as a true digital text-on-the-go solution, I need a true RSS interaction solution on the go, one that downloads my content so that it can be read and interacted with/socialized when not connected - such as on the NYC subway system. I need a reader that can save my del.icio.us tags, marked as read reads, emailed articles and more - and then complete these tasks when synced with a data connection. I need to be able to interact with my content much as I would online, on the go, from wherever I am. This should be nothing more than a firmware upgrade, and once it hits, I'm in.
Once this hits, I'll be all over this bad boy. And most of the world won't be... and here's why: there is a wonderful tactile interaction with books and magazines that most users value. Magazines aren't going away anytime soon.
I don't want to read a Kindle on the couch after a long day,
I want my beautifully printed analog issue of Sports Illustrated.
I don't want a Kindle in my bathroom for family or guests -
I want a Readers Digest.
I don't want a Kindle at my Sunday Morning breakfast table,
I want the Sunday paper, complete with comics, circulars and sales.
There is a place in our culture for the tactile, for the real, for the analog. And it's not going away any time soon.
The Kindle features amazing capabilities. It can bring the digital market to places we have never been before. The server side DRM solution is brilliant. Users actually own a re-downloadable license, not a single download license! The distribution deal with Sprint is brilliant, and this is a direction I would like to see other mobile device companies mirror (Zune 3?).
As for me? I'm going to wait for a digital text device that works seamlessly with my digital text media lifestyle. Until then, I hope you all enjoy!
Update: I just did a bit more reading and realized there is a service/subscription fee for reading blogs. AND you can ONLY read blogs that are registered with Amazon's system.
This changes everything! Why would I pay for free content? (I know, I know, you're paying for access - but the whole principle of payment for RSS KILLS this device as an RSS reader and therefor as a viable e-text device - at least for me.) So Amazon, come up with a better RSS solution, (like free WiFi syncing ala Zune2 AND integration with Google Reader via Google Gadgets) and I then I would go all out for this unit.
Until then, the pricing structure doesn't deliver sufficient value to make this a worthwhile purchase.