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The Kindle update

Yesterday, Amazon announced a new Kindle, similar in design to the new DX and just $140/$190 for WiFi-only and 3G models, respectively.

Naturally, the tech press is already declaring it “dead”, because the tech press loves product “killers” and other perceptions to completely rule out entire classes of products because they lack the empathy or worldview to recognize these products’ markets.

Dave Winer says:

When I read on tech blogs that Kindle is a goner, I think these people must not read very much.

I love the Kindle. The iPad didn’t “kill” it. Amazon is going to sell a ton of these, especially at this new price point.

Reading on the iPad is a bit of a kludge. You can read on it, and it’s a lot better than reading on a computer, but it’s still too reflective, heavy, bright, and power-hungry compared to the Kindle.

People often assume that the iPad’s backlit LCD screen is an advantage over the Kindle because it doesn’t need a separate light to be read at night. But the Kindle’s e-ink screen is actually more versatile for different lighting: not only does it work in bright sunlight just as well as paper, but I find it easier to read a Kindle at night with a small lamp on than with an iPad in the dark, even using dark mode and low brightness. And I often can’t use those same nightstand or headboard-clip lamps with the iPad to light the area less harshly because the iPad’s screen is too reflective. The iPad is also too heavy to comfortably hold in most ways for long periods, and its wide range of software capabilities can be distracting. When you’re holding a Kindle, all you can do is read. When I read on an iPad, I always want to go check my email. And my feeds. And Tumblr. And Twitter. Just for a minute.

The iPad is a great casual computer, but the Kindle is the superior reading device.1 And there doesn’t need to be any “killing”. If you really like an iPad for its other uses, now that a Kindle’s entry price is $140, it’s perfectly reasonable to have both.

Tiff and I are taking our first backpacking trip in a few weeks. We’ll presumably have no access to AC power for 6 days, and we’ll likely regret carrying anything heavy or unnecessary. But we’ll have times at camp in which it will be nice to be able to entertain ourselves.

I’m not bringing the iPad. I’m certainly not bringing a laptop. I’ll have my iPhone for emergencies, but powered off to conserve its battery. I’m bringing the S90, not the 5D Mark II.

And I’m bringing a Kindle, loaded up with books and Instapaper compilations, in a Ziplock bag for waterproofing. No case, no charger, no extra batteries. Total weight: 10 ounces. (I’ll be carrying more coffee than that.) If it breaks, it’s a lot cheaper to replace than an iPad. Its battery will outlast the trip, even with heavy use. It holds so much text that I’ll always have a great selection and more than enough supply. And I’m simply bringing a few extra sets of AAA batteries (2 oz.) for my headlamp to light it at night if needed.

Gizmodo and the like probably don’t care that the Kindle is the perfect device for so many uses like this that people encounter on a regular basis in Real Life. But Kindle owners, and Amazon, don’t need them to.


  1. The iPad is better for certain content types, such as anything that requires color, images, tables, formulas, sound, or video. But when most people think of “reading”, they’re thinking of traditional text-only books and occasional magazines and newspapers. With these, the Kindle is by far the best reading device. ↩︎

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