Piling on

This post may seem to be a bit of a mish-mash but, trust me, there’s a central point that should emerge by the time I’m done.

Having joined the fray and unloaded my first thoughts on the subject of Amazon’s Kindle earlier this week, I thought I’d move on to newer ideas but “Just when I’m ready to get out, they pull me back in.” Clearly, the blog world isn’t ready to let go of this ready-made target for their rage, their opinionated attitudes, their endless need to keep on blathering until people are driven into a coma of indifference or simply stunned into immobility.

Publishers Marketplace, that indispensable, online source for publishing-related news, had links to two ebook-related items in today’s issue.

One was from a U.K. Bookseller Association blogger and contained a news item that every sensible person has been possibly expecting but, at very least, hoping for since the first stories about EInk went public a couple of years ago. The company is working on developing a system that will allow them to operate in color rather than their initially established, high-contrast greyscale/black & white first generation technology. Despite some technical issues that make eink screens not the best choice for a number of dream applications, the idea of the technology being able to accommodate full color is inspiring and encouraging.

The other was a link to a new review of the Kindle by Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal. Mossberg has been talking about tech for a long time, is widely respected, seen as objective and unbiased and, when he wants to be, which is most of the time, quite blunt and to the point. He had some good things to say about the Kindle but I’d have to say that on balance his review was not very positive. Since some of his opinions mirrored some of mine, I’m not much inclined to disagree with his overall conclusions which sum up for me as “Nice try. Give it another go and I’ll look at it again to see if you get it right on the second try…but I’m not betting on it.” By now, of course, Amazon has to be getting used to the chorus of critics and presumably they can console themselves by remembering that they very quickly sold out their initial inventory of $400 apiece items and will shortly start filling back orders and banking not inconsiderable additional cash. Just in case that link above ends up falling behind a registration curtain, the end of Mossberg’s column has this helpful hint: “Find all my columns and videos online free at the new All Things Digital website.”

Then, a colleague here at E-Reads mentioned a site I’d heard of but hadn’t previously visited–Buzzfeed. The object of this operation is to collect and organize what’s going on out there in Blogland and neatly summarize it for our consumption/entertainment. You’ll never guess what the title of one of their recent collations was: Kindle Backlash. Clearly, none of E-Reads’ comments made the top of the list, but they neatly provided the top five hate-ons for the Kindle. I can’t resist pointing you to some of them here.

Chip Kidd, famous book cover designer, contributes a comment that’s well under the 200 word limit for the A Brief Message site. Almost 200 words under the limit, in fact, depending how you count.

Robert Scoble, famous blogger at Scobleizer, offers up a highly critical review after using the Kindle for a week.

Mobileread.com thinks that Amazon Kindle might be the worst thing that can happen to e-books. Among the hardest hits is: “Amazon has gone out of their way to make sure that you can only buy books from them, and can’t use them anywhere else. When you buy a book, you use it on the Kindle or you’re out of luck. We’re talking about control of content, with format and DRM lock-in as the tool of power. We’re on the verge of a future for content that makes you buy the same thing over and over every time you have a new technology.” Now, just in case you haven’t noticed, that’s what the record business and the movie business have been moderately successful at doing for at least a couple of decades now so don’t be too shocked if book publishers are showing the same sort of greedy thinking.

Cracked.com gets off a pretty funny spoof of a new piece of technology designed to supersede the Kindle.

And, finally, Amazon itself manages to collect a large number of negative comments about their own product. Here’s a link to all the 1-Star reviews of the Kindle on the Amazon site. Isn’t the internet wonderful? Isn’t social networking a blast? Just FYI, by the way, when I clicked the link, there were a total of 790 reviews: 191 5-Star; 103 4-Star; 124 3-Star; 121 2-Star and 251 1-Star. Not a scorecard I’d like to see for something of mine, I have to say.

Now, I’m just enough of a contrarian to think that when this many people have something bad to say about anything that I should be looking for a way to put something on the other side of the ledger but, for the moment, I can’t think what that might be since most of my reactions to the Kindle were well onto the negative side of the scale. Still, Amazon has taken a big position in a game where I’ve committed to play and whatever else they’ve done, they’ve galvanized the attentions of the world at large, both within the tech field and within the publishing field, and it seems to me like they may also be causing a fair number of people who never think about books at all to give at least a passing thought to the subject of e-books and that can’t be all bad, can it? Maybe, as seems too often to be the case, we’re a small circle of zealots sitting here raving at each other but I don’t really think that’s true this time. Let’s all ask someone we know who doesn’t seem to read much if they know what a Kindle is.

In the meantime, of course, we can dream about how Amazon is going to get it exactly right (for everybody) with Kindle 2.0.

– John


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