The Kindle – all hype and no substance

The big story of the week has to be Amazon’s move into consumer electronics, specifically the launch of their e-book reader the ‘Kindle’. For some reason the Kindle has grabbed the headlines, but not necessarily for the best of reasons.  It’s fair to say most opinion leans towards mocking the device. Critics site the obvious flaws; grey-scale screen, lack of touch screen, no wifi, limited (if any) web access and the price  – $400.  The device does have access to a cellular connection, which enables you to download a catalogue of books. But note – the books are not free. You are expected to fork out $10 or so for each one. I am genuinely surprised it has generated so much interest. I suspect its due to two things; 1) No significant tech news at the moment and 2) the Amazon angle. For years now tech devices such as PDAs, including the greatest model ever, the Psion 5MX have supported e-book readers in some form or another. I recall reading Richard Stallman’s book ‘Free as in Freedom’  in text form on my Psion many years ago. My cousin (who may wish to comment at this point)  has, for a number of years, used his HP PDA to read eBooks.    So we agree nothing new. It would seem that for some reason – tech companies and geeks are obsessed with replacing ink and paper. Why bother. I am not deliberately trying to cause a debate. But actually as I’ve said, ebook readers are far from new. They have their place. Some might choose a PDA, some might choose an iPhone, some might even choose reading the complete works of Shakespeare on a laptop. But come on. In a world of hybrid multi functional devices that can do so much and do so much very well – is there really a need for an over priced device aimed purely at a niche market with practically no additional functionality. We are in a world of convergence. The early adaptors will undoubtedly create an early sales spike (as is the case right now), but its limited use and lack-lust performance will undoubtedly cause the Kindle to flop.  I can only compare the Kindle as the ebook reading equivalent to the Microsoft Zune. Has someone forgotten ‘Audio Books’?? Come on guys – get with the times.