Amazon Kindle Headed for Kindling Pile?

Written By: Timoth Fish Published: 11/20/2007

Option A

Option B





4.7 oz

10.3 oz




User RAM



Expandable Memory






Wireless Connectivity






User Interface

Touch Screen


Note Pad, Calculator, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, Web Browser, Memos, Adobe Acrobat Reader for Palm OS, Bluetooth Manager, RealPlayer for Palm, Palm VersaMail, PalmSource SMS, palmOne Media, eReader for Palm OS, DataViz Documents To Go 7 Professional Edition





Which is better?  Take a look at the two options on the right.  Which of these is better?  The goal here is to provide a user with a device that will allow him to download and read a book from anywhere he can connect to the cellular network.  Both options will do this, but which is better.  There is clearly a tradeoff here.  Option A is smaller, the screen size is smaller, making it harder to read, but the weight is much less, so it is much easier to clip this device on your belt when you aren't reading.  Option B has the advantage in terms of memory.  It has 180MB availabe for a book while the other has only 26MB, but both have expandable memory, so that may not be a major issue.  Just store your book on an SD card and you are good to go.  Swap them out when needed.  Option A has a color display, so you can see the color charts in some books while Option B is only 4 tone grayscale.  They have different user interfaces, but since most of why you want is a display for a book, either will work about equally well.  With Option A, you can do things with other software and even install additional software.  With Option B, all you have is a custom operating system to display and purchase books.  Lastly, Option A is half the price of Option B.

It seems like all of the publishing industry is taking an interest in Amazon's Kindle this week.  I wanted to take some time to give my own impression of this device.  In the table, Kindle is Option B.  Option A is a palmOne Tungstun E2 Handheld PDA.  It isn't top of the line, but it is a good example to show what a person can get for half the price of Amazon's Kindle.  Kindle does have some advantages, but all it really does is displays black and white pages and provides an interface for buying books from the device.  A pedestrian PDA, like the one shown here, has most of the features of the Kindle with a lot more things added to it.

In my opinion, Amazon's Kindle is flawed because it is addressing the wrong set of problems.  It is clear from the design that the requirements were to provide a replacement for the novel rather than to provide a better reading experience for book lovers.  It is black and white, as books are black and white.  It is about the size of a mass market paperback.  It has keys for turning the pages and a thumb keyboard for a search feature.  It is designed to be readable inside and outside.  It has the capability of displaying blogs and magazines, but who really wants to read a blog or magazine in black and white?

Amazon should have been aiming more at the textbook market.  Create a device that will replace the many pounds of books students carry home from school.  Let teachers put homework assignments on the device.  Provide a method for authors to provide interactive examples.  Make the device tough enough that can be dropped in the toilet or run over by the school bus and still survive.  Include the typical PDA software and allow for additional software to be added.  Provide a way for the school calendar to be automatically updated on the device.  If you can make a device that school children will use to do their homework, even read a novel and can do it at a price that is reasonable then you stand a chance of being able to do it for other segments of the population as well.

For now, I think Amazon's Kindle is a major miss and aside from the people who buy it as a technology toy, people will not take is seriously.