November 21, 2007

Amazon launches the Kindle – a portable eBook reader

Filed under: amazon, brand, product design, technology, user experience, Wi-Fi — Warren Hutchinson @ 10:18 am

Amazon’s new eBook device the ‘Kindle’ was released this week.

I find this an interesting one.

It was very well covered yesterday on lots and lots of blogs with pretty much everyone saying it’s rubbish. The 400 or so reviews on the Amazon page are largely negative too, this is an interesting point in itself for Amazon.

Here is a video of the out-of-box experience as captured by Robert Scobble:

The packaging looks okay, quite cute for it to come in a ‘book’.

Here is a video of using it and experiencing some issues

I was watching the Amazon demo thinking things like ‘Wouldn’t it be good if you could look-up words as you read. Oh, it does’, ‘Wouldn’t it be good if it wasn’t based on wi-fi hotspots. Oh, it isn’t.’ And so on…

Featurewise, it’s quite nice. It ticks a few boxes and for this reason Amazon will shift a few I’m sure.

Then I thought about the product design and decided that it’s a lame dog. It has some weird, flimsy, asymmetrical form that looks a little like James Bond’s underwater Lotus Esprit.. A little 80s.


Lotus Esprit

The interaction looks far too complicated and it smacks of ‘get it to market quick’. It could have been soooooo much better, so much more desirable, so much easier to use. Also it seems that the interaction itself is awkward, scrolling up and down aligning a little cursor with menu commands rather than selecting them.

However I am a fan of the electronic paper screen, it’s just a shame it couldn’t be tough screen, but then that would defeat the point right?

But this isn’t the problem I se with this device.

My main reasons this won’t be the ‘next big thing’

  • People love books. A bookshelf says a million things about its owner and people love the tactility of paper, the romance of curling up under a reading lamp in a comfy chair and losing themselves.

    The books we read represent us in some way, they have ‘self-expressive benefits’ to quote ‘Aaker’. To have read, own and display works by Shakespeare, Brontë and Dickens says something about the individual. The collection of books one has says something about the owner. Why else would we all have bookshelves? Okay, so they are practical, but they could easily be hidden.

    The same goes for newspapers. It brands an individual to be seen reading the FT, The Independent, The Guardian, The Sun, The Daily Mirror.

  • It has DRM and apparently spies on you . Has Amazon learned nothing? You can’t ‘lend’ books. PEOPLE LOVE LENDING BOOKS!
  • The product design sucks and the interaction is a little fussy. Before iPod, listening to music, changing track, albums and artists etc was a little less-than-slick. iPod made it slick. The Kindle flashes as you do things. HOW ANNOYING! This is not slick. It’s slow.

    You have to pay for blogs if you download them but can browse them in the web browser for free. Weird.

  • People don’t consume books like they do music. With music you flit between things. The Kindle can’t ‘do an iPod’ which changed the way we listened to music. It broke the CD model. The Kindle has nothing to break, no stranglehold to release.
  • People don’t want another device in their bag. “Keys check, wallet check, phone check, blackberry check, laptop check, kindle…? Sod it I have my phone/blackberry/laptop”
  • The name Kindle is rubbish.

It’s exciting because:

  • It’s a very cheap mobile bookshop
  • The screen is a great step forward
  • It has the potential to change the way [some] people read

Sure some will fly of the shelves, but at $400 it’s simply too much for £50 man. People will offset the amount of books they read and think it’s not worth it.

It appeal to the niche. The tech geeks, the academics but it won’t light the fire for my younger brother. As one reviewers says:

“If you travel a lot, or require rapid and accurate access to references (as I do), the Kindle is definitely soon to be a necessity. I am a medical student, and I loaded an entire medical library onto the one I’ve been beta testing”

Having said all this, I might get one… For research purposes of course.


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