Yesterday I laid out Three Temporary Advantages of Dedicated e-Readers. Today let’s talk about the Kindle’s disadvantages and why it might be a better idea to purchase the iPad.
- Amazon is not a computer hardware company. Amazon wants to sell books and other goods. They see the Kindle as a means to an end. The cannot put the necessary research and development into the device to keep significantly improving it without losing focus on their core business of selling other “stuff”. I think it will be very difficult for them to maintain focus on this device over time, especially in the face of mounting and superior competition.
- Amazon’s e-book format is proprietary. A book you buy from Amazon will only work on the Kindle or inside Kindle software for other devices. You stand a significant risk of losing access to your purchases because of their Digital Rights Management (DRM). While other devices use DRM and proprietary formats as well, the EPUP format appears to be closer universal support, as the MP3 audio format is to music players. While publishers require DRM at this stage, a more universal format is always more desirable.
- The device is a “single-tasker”. I’ll bow to my hero Alton Brown on this: “no single-taskers allowed.” Alton’s talking about kitchen gadgets, but it’s good advice with wider applications. Why would you buy a device that can do only one thing well when another device, for about the same price, can do that thing as well or better AND do many other things as well?
And the biggest reason: Apple is almost certain to dominate the market. Although you may debate this, consider for a moment what the implications are. First, if Apple dominates the e-Reader space, even though the iPad is not strictly an e-Reader, then Amazon may discontinue the Kindle. If they do, all of the books you purchase in the Kindle format may be lost – unless they maintain a Kindle app for the iPad.
The Kindle served its purpose. It’s brought attention to the potential of electronic books and established that consumers are interested. But in the scope of the full market, the Kindle is only a minor player with a very small installed base. If you don’t already have one, I’d recommend not buying in at this point.
The iPad approacheth. Is it complete doom for dedicated e-readers like the Amazon Kindle?
Yes, but not quite yet.
There are MANY advantages of a flexible solution like the iPad, but the Kindle retains three distinct advantages. These may not be enough, and they certainly won’t remain distinctive for long, but they are still very important.
- Battery Life. The Kindle will provide up to a week of reading – far beyond the iPad’s reported 10 hours. Admittedly, the iPad is full color, a fully functioning computer in most aspects, but for reading, the Kindle has a distinct advantage. Until battery technology improves. For many, 10 hours between charges will never be a problem, but usable up time is a significant issue for all portable devices.
- Display. It’s unclear at the moment, but it appears that the Kindle’s use of E Ink makes for a very readable display as well as improves its power usage (see point #1). For pure reading, this may be a clear advantage. I won’t know until I’ve had extended time with the iPad. But this advantage is only one for reading long form materials. For all other uses, like watching movies, surfing the web, playing games, etc., it’s a big disadvantage.
- No fee 3G connectivity. Although there’s limited functionality and poor display of the web, there’s no charge for wireless connectivity for Kindle users. This is terrific for purchasing books anywhere and controlling the cost of ownership. But in a larger scope, it’s meaningless. The Kindle is designed as a “reader”, not an online device. It needs very little connectivity. Most Kindle users never use the online features, beyond accessing Wikipedia. The iPad requires either access to an open wireless network (then it’s free), or a paid 3G subscription, but it provides full online access for the web, games, and applications.
Are these reasons enough to purchase a Kindle over an iPad? Probably not. But they remain clear advantages and for some who are only interested in reading, they may be enough.
There are some distinct disadvantages that the Kindle has as well. I’ll cover them tomorrow.
I have a new desk chair. While I haven’t thought much about chairs, I got to think a lot about them recently. But as I mentioned in The Spend Nothing Game Part 2: Planning For The Unexpected, you don’t always get to pick when you’re going to have to spend money.
My old chair broke. It was one of those good looking but uncomfortable wooden desk chairs. I found that I perched on it, rather than sat back in it. And after five or more hours in a morning writing session, it was very uncomfortable. But I soldiered through.
That is, until Sunday, when I was sitting on it and typing, and one of the casters and legs gave way and broke. I got a nasty jolt that immediately made my back flare up. I’m always on the verge of significant back pain from arthritis, and this sent me over the edge. I examined the broken leg and caster. It might have been possible to repair it, but I would always have suspected its imminent collapse, and it probably would have broken again.
So I went chair shopping. I started out with the big comfy chairs, leather and memory foam. I wanted comfort. They call them “executive” or “manager” chairs. They were very nice to sit in. Until I remembered I wasn’t going to be using my new chair to sit at a conference table or have meetings. They were comfortable to sit back in. But when I write, I need to sit up straight, with good posture, and as much support as possible.
This led me to focus on “task” chairs, which brought me to another realization: my chair is one of my most important writing tools. When I’m thinking about writing tools, I naturally think about my computer, keyboard and mouse, or about notebooks and pens. But the chair is one of the most important and most used of them all. Getting the right chair means I can write longer, keep the pain in control, and, thus, produce more. I found a very workable and comfortable chair for around $200, but I could have spent much more.
I had a choice. I could have cobbled together the leg on the old chair. I could have pulled up another chair from somewhere else around the house. But those solutions, while they would have let me not spend money, would have cost me more in the very short term because I would have been at risk of pain and injury. I can’t work well if I’m hurting or doped up.
The chair was an unexpected expense, but by choosing wisely, I hope to avoid additional expense (trips to the masseuse or therapist) or lack or productivity, and for me, being productive means earning money.
It was also a business expense, so it gets recorded for next year’s taxes. I hope there won’t be many more of these, but if there are, I’ll keep in mind what I really need, what keeps me productive, and healthy.
How are you playing the Spend Nothing Game? Are you winning?
If you have the goal of becoming a better writer, you need to practice.
Here’s your writing assignment for today:
Write a short section of dialog. You can start from an overheard conversation, but you are not limited to it. Try and convey the individual personalities using only their spoken words.
Dialog is one of the most difficult types of writing. You are limited to only what a person says, not what they do, not what they’re thinking, what they look like, or other visual cues. Working with dialog only focuses you very narrowly on what they are saying and precisely how they say it.
Try this: go to a restaurant where you know no one and listen to the people around you. Listen to how they speak, the sounds that they make. Note that most people don’t talk in complete sentences or paragraphs. Listen for the things that make them individuals.
When you’re done with your writing, ask yourself if this dialog reads and sounds like real human speech. Does it convey the personalities of the speakers? And as always, give your completed work to someone else to review and comment on.
Here’s my example:
“She said I could spend the night at her place, but I’ve been in the city since seven.”
“Oh, and I’ve got to be at that sale tomorrow. My mother wants me to come home, too.”
“Sure. You should go home.”
“Oh, I’m not even looking forward to going out. Everyone always says, ‘Oh you’re a nutritionist? What do you eat?’”
“Oh, but you’re so thin!”
“I eat food, just like everybody else.”
“Sure, you eat healthy.”
“Just not today.”
“Ha! I don’t even think about it. This was good.”
“Yeah. Thanks. We better get going.”
“That’s a nice coat.”
“And you’re going out tomorrow night?”
“Yeah, he’s nice. He called me Tuesday, no pressure. Said he wanted to go out Saturday night. He’s meeting me in the city.”
“Oh. He’s not picking you up?”
“He said he wanted to surprise me. He said he wouldn’t tell me where we were going.”
“You’re so lucky. He sounds nice.”
“Yeah. Did I tell you . . .”
You may leave your completed assignment in the comment section below.
That’s the big date.
It’s not the Singularity. But it does herald a major shift in the way that ordinary people interact with computers. And if that isn’t enough, I believe that the iPad and its successors will transform not just computing, but several other major and seemingly unrelated industries.
Here are my predictions and a timeline:
- April 3rd, 2010. The iPad is released. All units sell out that day. Supplies stay tight through the summer.
- September 2010 – over five million units have sold worldwide. Amazon’s Kindle numbers are not reported publically, but remain around one million units. Sony’s e-reader has completely stalled.
- Last half of 2010. Other manufacturers release their versions of tablet or slate computers, most of them running the Windows 7 operating system. Their sales are almost too low to count.
- January 2011. Version 2 of the iPad is released. Over 10 million units of version 1 have been sold worldwide. Electronic book sales surpass hardback book sales in total dollars with Apple outpacing Amazon’s eBook sales.
- October 2011 – Dell and HP drop their tablet computers and begin focusing exclusively on business computers and servers. iPad sales pass 100 million units by the end of this year.
- 2012 – Cisco attempts a late entry into the consumer/home media server market. They will exit a year later. Apple introduces a series of iPads with sizes up to 50 diagonal inches, intended to be wall-mounted and to replace conventional televisions.
- 2013 – The last major US city daily newspaper ceases daily print production. Several “name brand” papers like the New York Times survive, but as online versions only, primarily supported by iPad subscription sales. The third generation of iPads brings new size and function options, as well as much lower pricing. The entry level unit is priced at $149.
- 2014 – the “Big 4” television networks cease scheduled broadcast entertainment. Everything is now on-demand or a live event like sports or news. The iTunes Store is now the leading sales channel for music, books, movies, and TV. Amazon sales are now primarily consumer goods with book and music sales comprising less than 20% of their sales. They remain a clearinghouse for used goods as the Amazon Marketplace grows in sales and revenue impact.
- 2015 – printed books are now considered luxury items, with the exception of children’s books. Electronic comic books and graphic novels reach new heights of sales and creativity. Movie theaters have a resurgence in attendance, but largely due to new interactive features that allow audience members to participate and comment on the movie using their iPads. Showtimes are electronically coordinated worldwide so audience members can share their simultaneous experiences. Apple announces their next revolutionary product.
- 2020 – the shake-out in the lumber industry is complete. The collapse of the newspapers and end of the majority of printed books has caused lumber prices to plummet. The use of wood in home and furniture construction is rare. Antique wood furniture skyrockets in price. A much smaller commercial forestry industry begins a very long term focus on developing 100 and 200 year plans for hardwoods. Planetary reforestation projects begin showing signs of successfully pulling carbon from the atmosphere.
No rocket cars or jet packs; I think my prediction sounds like a very different world, yet one that is only small steps away. Today’s pretty different from 1980, isn’t it? I have no problem seeing things moving three times as fast as they did for the last 30 years, so it’s not so hard to think that my imagined future could happen.
In fact, if anything, I’ve been far too conservative. The future’s bright. Where are my Virtual Light sunglasses?