When Amazon dropped the price of the basic Kindle, I bought one in a moment of weakness. I should, of course, known better-a price drop almost always serves as a sign that something newer in better is just around the corner. As such, I was hardly surprised when I saw that Amazon was releasing two new Kindles. Well, at least I got to enjoy my “good price” for a while.
Before I got my Kindle, I received an iPod Touch for Christmas. Not surprisingly, I really like the Touch and quickly filled it with apps (mostly games and books). However, I found that it was not ideal for reading and the battery life was not that great. So, as I mentioned above, I bought a Kindle.
When I first tried the Kindle, it was not a pleasant experience. Compared to my iPod it seemed awkward and a step back to crude, menu driven interfaces. Out of habit, I tried using the screen like a touch screen and found using the buttons rather cumbersome. When I tried to download books, I found the process to also be cumbersome and slow. When I went to the Amazon site, I ran into error after error that made it seem like the Kindle was some new product put out by a company that did not know quite what it was doing. At that point, I thought I had made a terrible mistake.
Fortunately, I am not quick to judge (or perhaps I am just cheap) and I gave the Kindle a chance. I found that I grew accustomed to the interface and was able to find numerous free books that I wanted to read. Eventually, the device won me over and I found it rather great for reading. It does support PDF in a rather awkward way and it tries to provide a web browser in the same way the McDonalds tries to provide gourmet dining.
I do not have an iPad, so I cannot compare it to that device, beyond saying that the iPad is far more versatile but also more expensive. Since there is an iPad Kindle app, I suspect that when I upgrade again I will probably get either an iPad or, more likely, a PC tablet. Then again, a dedicated reading device does appeal to me in some ways. After all, I am willing to have a couple devices that do what they do very well rather than having one device that does several things just okay.
Rather critical for me (since I am thrifty) is the fact that the Kindle is $189. That hits my comfort zone for what I am willing to put at risk by carrying it around regularly. The iPad is at the very upper end of this zone, yet does not do quite enough to justify is higher cost.
As far as the future of eBook readers, I suspect that what we will see is three classes of machines for quite some time. The first is and will be the smartphone sized devices that provide a rather limited sort of reading experience in addition to their actual smartphone functions. The iPhone is an excellent example of this.
The second is and will be an actual tablet computer that has excellent eBook capabilities, such as the iPad. I believe these two (smartphone and tablet) will remain distinct because the ideal size for a smartphone is considerably smaller than the ideal size for a reader device.
The third will be the dedicated reader, like the Kindle. I think that there is enough of a niche for people who just want a simple device for reading without the need for a broad range of functions. This, I suspect, will be an ever decreasing niche as battery life improves and the older folks who are less comfortable with the complexity of the multi functional devices die off.
Then again, there is a lot to be said for a device that does not require constant updates, anti-malware software and regular maintenance. One reason I really like my Kindle is that it just works and I do not have to put in the sort of time and energy that I need to keep my PCs going properly. I suspect that this factor will really help the eBook niche alive.