Kindle

I was kind of embarrassed, but now I'm coming out into the open. I got a Kindle. This was a hard decision to make (making the blog post, not buying the Kindle. It was an impulse purchase). Everyone was ridiculing Amazon for producing such a stupid and crippled device. After playing around with it and actually reading some stuff on it, though, I can justify it to myself. The price was pretty stupid, but the value is pretty great. Let me list the things that aren't really well advertised on the Kindle site.

  • Free web browsing. This is the biggest one. They mentioned some stuff about looking up articles on Wikipedia, but it sounded like that was a special-cased service and they wouldn't allow arbitrary web browsing. They do. And it's free. You can browse to sites like manybooks.net and download ebooks. Or check up on the Twisted review queue. Whatever. Apparently there's even some javascript support, but I have a hard time believing anything of interest is supported (definitely no XHR, guys). I think the reason they didn't advertise this very well is that it makes using their blog subscription service absolutely idiotic.
  • The format support is better than it looks. You can download your bookwarez or your Project Gutenberg texts or whatever. You can transfer .txt and .azw files directly, and it does support the MOBI format. All you have to do is rename your mobi file to .azw and the Kindle will pick it right up. It's totally idiotic that they didn't advertise the native MOBI support (they do advertise that it works with their free conversion service. That must be one of the easier converters to write).
  • It looks like they have a good attitude towards future development: Right in the home menu there's an "Experimental" item which leads to three cool things: Basic Web (see point 1), Ask Kindle NowNow, and Play Music. Yeah, it'll play mp3 files, either with its built-in speaker or through headphones. The Ask Kindle NowNow thing is kind of neat, but it's not that exciting given that they have a web browser that's quite capable of viewing google.

Here are the things that they do advertise, and that they were right to advertise:
  • The display is damned snazzy. I'm surprised every time I glance over and can actually see what's on the screen when the Kindle is lying at some odd angle to my line of sight.
  • Yeah, it's full of DRM, but it is really frickin' cool to be able to find, buy, and download a book in a minute or two. Now when people recommend that I buy some book or another, I'll actually be able to get it instead of (forget to) write it down on a list somewhere and (forget to) buy it at some book store the next time I'm around one.

I'll bet that within a year or so there will be working cracks to de-DRM an AZW file. Like I said above, it seems to just be a mobi file, but with some encryption added. The DRM is the thing that worries me the most, even as a consumer, since I'm wondering if I'll be able to read these books in ten years. But given the Kindle's support for other formats, you could keep yourself busy reading nothing but non-DRMed content acquired from places other than Amazon.

The stupid things follow:
  • I can't copy an .html file to the Kindle and view it. Even though it has a web browser, there's no way to look at local content with it, as far as I can tell. You can send them to the free conversion service and get back an .azw, though. Or put them on the web and view them with the web browser :-).
  • The books are kind of expensive. I'm used to paying about $7 or $8 for a paperback, and the books seem to consistently be about $9 or $10. Given the convenience, as a consumer I'm not annoyed (as a socialist, I am. Production cost for a bunch of bits is less than $10). And it's actually *way* cheaper to buy a Kindle book than a new hardback release, since paperback releases are often delayed. I bought Pratchett's latest novel, Making Money, which I haven't seen in paperback yet, for $10 instead of the at least $20 that I'd pay at a brick and mortar store.


Ok. So I got it, and I'm pretty happy.