Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Kindle to Kill the Irex?

We have been waiting to see what Amazon’s new Kindle reader would look like. Now its for sale. It turns out it is made in China, but I believe it uses the same e-ink technology developed in Holland by Irex technologies, a start-up offshoot from Philips. The Kindle is a wireless digital book with an e-ink display and in the US it has a $399 price tag. That's 2/3rd the price of what Irex itself is offering with its Iliad reader. So will Kindle kill Irex? Having seen both devices now, I don't think Kindle is a threat to Irex. The Irex Iliad is better made device. That said, I don't think we have yet entered an era where e-ink is ready for prime-time. All these readers (especially Sony' attempt) seem to lack clever search functionality and the kind of user navigation you can now already enjoy on the iPhone or iPod Touch.

So far on the Amazon Kindle, 8 newspapers are available for digital subscription ranging from $5.99 to $14.99 a month. You can also subscribe to magazines like TIME and Fortune. Over 300 blogs are available, too — you need to pay a ludicrous 0.99 a month for each you read. The e-ink technology is GREAT for reading books. It is truly terrible for surfing the web (MUCH TOOOOO SLOW) or showing video - remember it is black and white. The browser on the Kindle takes about 50 seconds to load - so that immediately means it is not a serious device for surfing. In fact it is better to think of e-ink as a printer, not a video screen technology.

Full acknowledgement needed here to Engadget who broke the story last year and had access to photos which turn out to be pretty near what the commercial model looks like. For the money, I think the device has a very cheap look and feel to me....not in the "i-Reader" line of products. Not much expense has been spared on the design.

Seth Godin posted some relevant comments today which I totally agree with. The Amazon business model here is flawed. If they offered a Kindle with free access to all the electronic versions of paper booked you have purchased through Amazon in the past, that might be a useful enticement to travellers. Paper is very heavy and I, for one, would prefer to read from e-ink if the navigation were better. The Irex has the best screen for me so far, but I still think the product is a huge work in progress. Books look fine. PDF documents are VERY diffucult to navigate.
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