Amazon’s Kindle has a real problem that it needs to solve. The problem is neither the $259 price tag, nor the looming Apple tablet. The Kindle’s biggest problem is that it’s not the best device for reading.
The only reason–and we do mean ONLY–to buy a Kindle is that it’s a better reading experience. It’s thin, easy to hold, and most importantly, it’s easy on the eyes. Compared to a tiny iPhone with its radiating screen, reading text on the Kindle is a trillion times better. We’ll take the Kindle for reading 10 out of 10 times over the iPhone.
Except, we can’t do that yet. The Kindle is a reading option only about 5 times out of 10. The reason is simple — we do a huge portion of our reading on Instapaper, an iPhone app.
Through Instapaper we save straight to our iPhone all the big newspaper and magazine stories we run into online during the day but don’t have time to read. At night, or on our way home, we read all these saved stories. We can’t do this as easily on the Kindle.
Sure, we can go into Instapaper’s website, and send stories to the Kindle, but thats an extra step. And it costs us 15 cents each time we send stories to the Kindle. On the iPhone it’s free.
Even if we wanted to pay for a magazine through the Kindle store, options are limited.
For instance, we wanted to get this month’s Vanity Fair. In particular we wanted to read an excerpt from Andrew Ross Sorkin’s forthcoming book. Vanity Fair isn’t available in the Kindle store. So we copied the text, emailed it to the Kindle and can now read it. That cost time, and money–15 cents to zap to the Kindle.
That’s just one failing of the Amazon’s Kindle store offerings. Staying with Sorkin, it looks like we’re not going to be able to read his book on our Kindle. It’s not going to be available*. How is that even a possibility?
We know there’s rights issues, but Amazon needs put to its foot down. It’s the number one e-commerce destination. Act like it! Steamroll the book publishers who don’t want to get on board.
Amazon is working on making the Kindle bookstore bigger, so we can’t bop them too hard for that, but it’s the other thing–the fact that we can read more stories, more easily on our iPhone–that’s the Achilles heel for the Kindle.
If the Kindle can become the best place to read books, newspaper stories, blogs, magazine articles and anything else that’s text based, it can carve out a healthy niche for itself that’s seperate from any super gadgets waiting in the wings.
If it fails to do that — and so far, it is — then it will be relegated to historical footnote.
*UPDATE: Mr. Sorkin says his book, Too Big To Fail will be available for the Kindle, for some reason Amazon hasn’t updated the page.