Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Kindle and the Short Tail

Amazon has released its ebook reader the Kindle (which I will hopefully get around to reviewing soon). The irony of this device is that it takes away Amazon's greatest strength, that of its selection.

Using the Kindle takes you from being able to select from 3.7 million books to just 90,000. Amazon's digital inventory is a mere 2.4% of their non-digital offering. Their digital selection is equivalent to that of a local brick and mortar book store. It takes you from the long tail to the short tail.

No Harry Potter, no Lord of the Rings, no Jurassic Park, and hardly any books that weren't best sellers or are over 5 years old. And that is just with books. Their selection of newspapers, magazines and blogs is similarly limited. No USA Today, no Wired magazine, no Engadget blog.

This sucks. I love Amazon precisely because I am a long tail reader. But now if I want to go with their ebook I have to give up that long tail and go back to the "tyranny of choice".

The Kindle has been called the iPod of books, but with the iPod, you could rip music from CDs and put it on your iPod. Your selection of music was not limited by the transition to the iPod. With the Kindle there is no way to "rip" the content from your hardcover and paperback books on to the Kindle.

Tech Crunch does point out that you can get access to a digital version of many books via Bit Torrent that can then be transferred to a Kindle. But as with all file sharing content, quality is suspect.

I thought the whole point of the internet and the digital revolution was greater selection. With the Kindle that goal takes a step backwards.


odograph said...

FWIW, I've got my Asus EEE PC on order. It is wide open, and comes with an eBook reader (as I understand it, FBReader).

Asus expects to sell 3.8 million of them this year.

I hope that the EEE PC / FBReader will be pleasant for reading, but certainly it will work for light web surfing and blog stalking.

odograph said...

Update - It arrived last night, and I'm posting with it now. First impressions are that it is a nice ultraportable for web surfing. I did read an ebook for a while last night and enjoyed it, but I don't think I have that dialed in yet. Maybe I just need a smaller font.

0.07 kWh so far (I've got my kill-a-watt monitor behind the eepc charger)

Fat Knowledge said...


That EEE does look like a cool device. Will be interested to know how you like it.

What kind of wattage does it draw? I would guess like 30-40W?

Oh, and I saw that you have started blogging again. Good stuff. I was going to leave a comment on a post, but I see that you don't accept them. I found that very ironic. :)

odograph said...

The highest instantaneous draw I've seen is 22W, but you know, the Kill-A-Watt does totaling over time. I plan to monitor for a week and see the total. So far (running on batteries in the moment so I run into the bedroom to check ...) 0.22 kWh drawn in 63 1/2 hours.

I only plug in the device through that charger and that Kill-A-Watt so that's a good total.

Other than that my general reaction is that the small size is slightly frustrating. It is no doubt a great deal for $350 (4G "surf" model), but I can look forward to future iterations, slightly larger screens, and maybe even slightly larger keyboards.

I'm touch typing right now, but it still feels cramped. That may improve with time.

For the true UNIX heads in the audience,, here's the skinny:

top - 08:11:28 up 44 min, 2 users

load average: 0.39, 0.25, 0.29

Tasks: 72 total, 2 running, 70 sleeping, 0 stopped, 0 zombie

Cpu(s): 10.4%us, 4.4%sy, 0.0%ni, 83.8%id, 1.1%wa, 0.3%hi, 0.1%si, 0.0%st

Mem: 508328k total, 393552k used, 114776k free, 11780k buffers

Swap: 0k total, 0k used, 0k free, 153088k cached

It's interesting that they set it up without swap, but it seems to run tidily within 512M.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. However, I do feel that the limited number of available books is just the beginning. They will scale this up, as they still need to sort out issues with publishers. Note also that Amazon's digital offering is already around 5 times the size of the Sony Reader, which has been around for a long time. The fun has just begun!

Fat Knowledge said...


Good info.


Good points. For me the question is rather to buy an ebook now or wait a year or two. I am not convinced that the time is there quite yet, but it is definitely getting close.

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