For anyone who hasn't already clicked the link, here's the basic premise: it's a device which will allow you to read e-books, electronic newspapers, magazines, and blogs. It downloads the content wirelessly, and you can carry it with you everywhere. So it's like a book, only it's all the books you might want, all at once. Or at least that's the idea.
My take (not having seen one in person yet, or anything)? It will indeed kindle the fire of people wanting devices like this, but it won't be that fire. I could easily be mistaken, of course, but here's my reasoning:
Basically, my impression is that this device gets a number of things Right, and a number of things... well, let's just say Less Right:
Some of the things they get Right:
- It's using "electronic ink" instead of traditional LCD. In theory, at least, this means a crisper image, that's more like paper, and thus much happier to read than a regular LCD.
- It uses the cell networks (EVDO), for broad coverage (at least in the U.S. -- does it work internationally, though? Perhaps, but it looks doubtful, since they won't ship it out of the U.S.), but without charging any sort of monthly fee (of course, that just means the price of each title you download is higher, but I would still say that's the better option).
- It has expandable memory (just add an SD card).
- It doesn't use backlighting, which means you should be able to read it nice and easily in any good lighting situation.
- It keeps track of where you left off.
- There's a built-in dictionary for looking up words in the text you're reading.
- Clunky interface -- they seem to have done a half-way decent job with the interface, but only half-way. You can't touch the screen and have that mean something, so even though you can annotate certain pages, lines, and even words in the text, the way to do that is going to be moderately annoying. Not horrible, mind you, but annoying enough that I'm sure this won't be the final word in this technology space.
- It only does cell networks. It should do wifi, too, so you can use it in places with wifi but no cell coverage (e.g. internationally, or in large metallic buildings or whatever).
- As far as I can tell, there's no way to add arbitrary blogs to it. If this thing could be my RSS reader, that'd be killer (as in "killer app").
- Of course, if it's going to be my RSS reader, I'd want it to be able to show me color, too -- e.g. for viewing images from my contacts on flickr.
- The dictionary looks limited. It'll help when there's a word you just don't know, but the true word geeks (let alone the lexicographers) will not be satisfied.
- More interface clunkiness: there are buttons to "turn the page" (in either direction), and thus it would seem it's page-oriented, and yet, at least with certain font sizes, it seems clear that one "page" does not always fit on the screen at once. This is certain to be highly annoying in some cases, even if only mildly annoying in others.
My impression, though, definitely boils down to this: I'm really glad someone's doing this kind of thing, and I think in the future there'll be lots more of it. And that's the thing. I don't know what will follow -- new revisions under this name, or competing products, or both, or what, but I fully expect that the current iteration of Kindle will not be the final word.
Still, I would recommend that folks check it out, and maybe even buy one if you've got the cash.