Kindle continued

I've been keeping tabs on the whole Amazon Kindle thing, and as new(ish) technologies go, the whole thing's turned out to be rather contentious. If you go to the US Amazon site there are literally several hundred negative reviews of the device; a quick scan soon makes it clear that most of those commenting - and clicking on the review button while they're at it - haven't actually either bought one, seen one or used one or understood the fundamental difference between Kindle-like machines and anything else with a screen. But I turned out to be wrong about my prediction it might take up to a week or two to hack the device; according to a friend in the games industry, it took less than forty-eight hours.

I don't want to come across like some kind of Amazon groupie here because I'm in the position of never having been able to get my hands on one myself, but the whole idea of the Kindle is a remarkable one. And, like I said in a previous entry, the Kindle is only one particular implementation of a technology, not the final item, and as yet still very much at the early adopter stage - mostly because of the cost.

I've stumbled across two reviews of the Kindle which are interesting because they're so entirely polarised in each reviewer's response to it. One is a video review at scobleizer.com, and the chap concerned really, really doesn't like it. While attempting myself to remain as impartial as possible at this stage, I felt the review was perhaps not as fair as it could have been; but take a look and see for yourselves. The other review (on computerworld.com), which is far more glowing, presents a list of things Amazon say you can (and can't) do with the Kindle - and then backs it up with a list of things you can do with your Kindle, that Amazon aren't talking about too loudly.

In fact, it appears that the Kindle is hack-able to about the same degree that Apple's Iphone isn't. And the implication to some is that back-doors to the device's software have been more or less left deliberately left wide-open. Not only that, but many of the purported limitations - you can only read books downloaded through Amazon's website, you can't copy books, it doesn't work as a web browser - are, according to some, manifestly not true. For instance, the majority of blogs you purportedly have to pay to be able to read are accessible for free using RSS feeds through the Kindle's basic web browser, as in fact are the free online contents of many of the newspapers now selling Kindle subscriptions.

The latter review goes on to make some very salient points that simply hadn't occurred to me:
"What you didn't know: You can just surf the Web in general. Kindle comes with a Web browser called Basic Web, which supports cookies, JavaScript and SSL, but doesn't support plug-ins like Flash or Shockwave or Java applets. Basic Web lets you type in a URL, click on links and generally surf the Web like you would on a PC."
Now, the Kindle connects over a free, mobile-phone based network in the States primarily intended to give you instant access to Amazon's online store. That means you get to browse the net for free, without paying for the connection, a service that is presumably intended to spread to the UK and all other points. When you think about it, this is actually quite radical, once you factor in the minor revelation it can be used to a certain extent as a web browser - one that functions without being dependent on the availability of wifi hotspots. It makes me wonder if this is perhaps Amazon (or rather, Jeff Bezo's) intention - to create a device that does in fact slip somewhat under the radar of certain legal issues relating to DRM, distribution and networking - or to put it more simply, the problems that eternally spring up in relation to supply and demand where creativity is involved: someone creates something that people want (music, books, art), while someone else altogether creates the means by which that product is distributed; one feeds off the other. I have little doubt that a company as big as Amazon would have to develop such a device under any number of binding legal restrictions; but for there to be so many back-doors that allow those who look a little deeper a means to bypass many of those restrictions does rather make you wonder.

... of course, all that said, there is still that one humongous problem to date; you can't read a Kindle in the bath ...


Anonymous said...

Interesting. I think the kindle is going to really revolutionize reading. Whispernet is awesome.

Anonymous said...

The other day some blogger went to the trouble of reading all the 1-star Amazon customer reviews of the Kindle, and literally 99% of them -- 251 out of 254 -- are from people who've never laid hands on the thing. If somebody doesn't even know the definition of "review," they probably ought to read more. Cheap irony is a hoot.

I wouldn't count on the Web access being free forever. It's an "experimental" feature.

Oh, and Scoble needs a timeout.