The Honeymoon is Over

Sir Kindle the FusspotA nice person over on my Twitter feed asked my why I call my Kindle “Sir Kindle the Fusspot.” Well, the short answer is, Sir Kindle is very fussy and requires some delicate care in file transfer and management. The longer answer is, I’m embarrassed to say, the honeymoon of me and Sir Kindle is over, and I’ve recognized some serious flaws both in the unit itself, and in the way Amazon is electing to do business as a purveyor of ebooks and ebook readers.

First, the Kindle itself: I like the unit, I’m used to holding it in a way that doesn’t accidentally turn a page or go back a page, and I really like the skin Hubby gave me for Hanukkah that turned Sir Kindle into a hot pink spasm of visual pleasure.

The wireless feature is marvelous, and obviously it’s a major selling point of the Kindle itself. You can email files to the device, and wirelessly transmit a sample of a book to the unit. I keep the wireless turned off to preserve battery life but when I turn it on – whoosh! All the files I’ve emailed and sampled arrive and I’m good to go. The minimalist approach to loading ebook files is a marvelous thing. The idea that I can purchase content from anywhere I have a wireless signal is equally awesome.

But herein lies one of the problems:

If by chance I email a file that Sir Kindle doesn’t like, I don’t always hear back. Sometimes I’ll receive a “There was a problem with your email” reply, though with little explanation as to what the problem was. WHY didn’t you like the file, Sir Kindle? WHAT was the problem? Alas, all I know is that like a Chevy Nova, it don’t go. Sir Kindle’s reply has about as much explanation and understanding as a surly teenager saying, ‘Whatever.’

The other problem I’m having with Amazon is with the choices the company itself makes. As a for-profit entity, I well understand the goal: make money and increase value for shareholders. No brainer. Amazon isn’t a 501(c)3, and it’s not a book lover’s co-op. It’s a for-profit corporate entity, and I totally get that.

My understanding does not change the fact that as a consumer and a reader – and an affiliate of Amazon – I think some of their decisions show a remarkable amount of head-up-the-butt-itis.

First: Amazon’s decision to become more and more monolithic in its formatting, distribution and availability of ebooks is epic, epic fucking fail in my opinion.

As most folks know, there is only one format, the AMZ. Amazon can convert .mobi and several other types of files, but in the end, Amazon is like the Highlander: there can only be one.

But if you’re going for brand dominance, which, fine, that’s an admirable goal, don’t shoot yourself in the foot. I think you’ve made several wrong decisions here:

1. You’ve drastically reduced or eliminated users’ ability to bargain-shop. If a book is available free online at eHarlequin or elsewhere, there isn’t a guarantee that the available formats will work for Amazon – not unless I do some kinky things to the file first, and there goes that whole ease-of-use thing. I’ve heard from several publishers that Amazon can be a bear to deal with when it comes to hosting Kindle files, because Amazon wants such a high percentage of the cost of the file and will only make it available on its own website, and prefers not to have Kindle files outside the scope of Amazon.com.

In this economy, bargain shopping is key, and as prices of books on Amazon increase, Amazon.com’s Kindle files are no longer the best deal, or the best bargain. I don’t have the time or the desire to manipulate files every which way to get them on the Kindle. And even though the open source masterpiece that is Calibre can do the kinky bits for me, Amazon’s inability to recongize the need for consumers to bargain shop is very, very short sighted.

2. Library lending. Many savvy libraries offer ebooks for borrowers, including Ye Olde New York Public Library, which, by virtue of being employed in Manhattan, I have the ability to join (OH THANK YOU NEW YORK CITY MMMWMAH). But not for the Kindle. Again, because Amazon likes to control access to its files, it’s not so keen on allowing third-party distributors to negotiate the lending of library ebooks in the Kindle format, and yet again, users lose an opportunity to bargain-shop and save a few pennies.

Amazon: seriously, have you seen the economy? Get with it already.

The things that never bothered me much about the Kindle while the gleam was new and shiny and the experience virginal are bugging the ever living crap out of me now. I can’t bargain hunt; I can’t take advantage of deals on other websites, unless, as I said, I want to do the funky chicken and try to strip the file down to it’s undergarments, and hope hope hope Sir Kindle will accept the more-nakeder file.

I’m curious about what the Kindle Press Conference will bring, but if it’s the Bubbly Boy Kindle 2.0, unless it comes with library lending capabilities, I’m not impressed. Design, which isn’t Kindle’s strength by a long shot, isn’t something that really gives me a problem in my use of the Kindle. I’m used to it. Function and frugality are way, way more important to me than form, and Amazon and Sir Kindle are rapidly causing me to lose my patience on both fronts.

Will the Kindle become the 2008 version of the Apple Newton, which was light years ahead of its time but ultimately a failure in that it paved the way and watched everyone else (Hi Palm!) blow past it at 500mph? Or will Kindle and Amazon get with it and understand that reading is important, and adopting ebook technology is nifty, but consumer demands for bargain shopping options is more important than controlling the product’s availability and sales point?

Does my opinion ultimately matter?

imageNo. But it matters in that I’ve been an outspoken fan of the Kindle as the venue through which I learned to appreciate ebook readers and the possibility of ebooks in general. So imagine my embarrassment as I realized that as the power of the Kindle has increased, so has the limitation of readers to bargain shop, take advantage of libraries, and seek out the most inexpensive options for readers – as the price of ebooks on Amazon increases.

Meanwhile, the Sony family of e-readers are a different animal, as I’ve come to learn. The Sony Reader is a saucy wench who is friendly to many, many file types and is a good buddy to many a public library. In the coming weeks, I’m going to be test-driving a Sony Reader and writing up my experience as I compare the two devices as a high-volume reader and lover of the ebook. Sony has agreed to send over a Reader for me to test-drive, and I’ll be putting the Sony and the Kindle through evaluations based on how I as a reader employ the device.

One more thing: until now, the prize for the Videomo contest has been a Kindle.

I’m amending that: the winner of the Videomo Contest will have a choice between the Kindle or a red Sony Reader 505, courtesy of the alluring folks at Sony. If the winner would rather have the Sony Reader, instead of the Kindle I originally offered, I’m totally down with that.

My point, and I’m making it in every way I can, is that consumers should have choices, and in my world, so should Videomo winners. 

I’ll be revisiting the subject of Sony v. Kindle in the coming weeks, and seeing which reading device will ultimately win my shriveled, wonky heart.

Categorized:

Ranty McRant

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    ms bookjunkie says:

    Sony v. Kindle by SB Sarah? WIN!!!

    Thank you, this is what we’ve been wanting! I heart you vewy vewy much! I also heart Sony more & more every day…

  2. 2
    JenD says:

    *squeee!*

    That’s wonderful of Sony to send you their eReader! I can’t wait to see what you think of it. I’m going to ask hubby for one for my birthday and I’m very interested to hear your take on it.

    The DRM on the Kindle is the main reason (price a close second) that we haven’t bought one.

    tell me The56 reasons you like the Sony.

  3. 3
    Midknyt says:

    I’m sorry to see that you’ve had problems with your Kindle, yet happy that you may be coming over to the dark side.

    I first learned that ebook readers and eInk existed because of the Kindle – that whole taking up the front page of Amazon worked out really well.  I oohed, I ahhed…I looked at the $400 price tag and thought maybe of the days when I was rolling in the money.

    But, as I tend to do when I’m wanting something, I went to read more on it, and I discovered that the Kindle wasn’t as revolutionary as the lovely video on Amazon had made me believe.  Not only were there other devices that did the same exact thing, more or less, but they did it without being fugly.  (Not that looks are the deciding factor, but it sure didn’t help).

    Some research and discovering those pesky little details, like DRM and being stuck to just shopping at Amazon only, and I bought myself a cute Sony that I found new for exactly half the price of the Kindle.  (Ironically, on Amazon Marketplace.)  While I really wanted the dictionary feature of the Kindle, the ability to check out library books really helped put the Sony over the edge.  Here in Korea I can check out books from Phoenix and Las Vegas (ah, parents with library cards), and that in itself has saved my sanity, not to mention many hour long subway rides to get to the nearest English bookstore.

    The ability to shop anywhere is a great thing, especially with places like Books on Board and Fictionwise that give you rewards/rebates in addition to being cheap as well. 

    I think you’ll like the Sony.  The idea of you reviewing the two though?  Fabulous.  I can hardly wait.

  4. 4
    Melissa S. says:

    UGH! Why didn’t you do a comparison last month! I got the Sony eReader 700 for my birthday. I love it very much. MMMM…I wish I could have more time with it. I curse my life for being so busy, but I have 22 books in my purse.

  5. 5
    Arizela says:

    Have you taken a look at the iPod touch?

    Sounds silly, I know, but my husband and kid got them for christmas and the functionality goes WAY beyond any book reader, and yet…

    The open-source (read it FREE) e-book reader software that goes with the iPod Touch offers a very clear, easily read, lockable screen display so you don’t accidentally flip it back and forth and can read laying down. Battery life lasts a long time, even with the backlight cranked up for reading in the dim, and the software allows instant import from hundreds of ebook sites, including Gutenburg and other free sites, as well as paid sites. Also, and here’s the thing that sold me, you can easily convert any file with a few clicks on a desktop to be read on the iPod. How many books does it store? A few hundred thousand if you don’t want music.

    Oh, and did I mention music? Or games? Grocery lists? Web browsing? The list goes on.

    So am I going to get one for myself? Nope. Going to upgrade the hubby to an iPhone and steal his, already loaded with dozens of useful gadgets. Muahahaha

  6. 6
    Angela James says:

    I could have written this post, with one exception: I switched from the Kindle to the Sony a month ago and I’m not looking back. I have the 505, I still want to try a 700 for comparison, and I’ll still try the Kindle 2.0 for comparison as well (I sold my Kindle this past weekend!) but right now, I really am happy with the Sony, I think it’s more consumer friendly, as far as purchasing options, and that’s what I tell people and have always told people at conferences or elsewhere, when they ask me what to buy. And right now, the Sony’s file management is hands down better than the Kindle’s. We’ll see if that changes with the new Kindle.

    Otherwise, with a few exceptions, I suggest most people look at the Sony. I do think there are some reasons to purchase a Kindle (daily commuters looking for wireless delivery of content like newspapers, for one) but those wanting it for the ebook experience should take a hard look at the Sony.

    (as an aside, I think the Amazon file format is AZW, not AMZ, but they actually have that and another lesser used format that will sometimes appear for the Kindle: Topaz)

  7. 7
    Char says:

    I’ll admit I have been scrolling past any and all posts related to Kindle because it’s not available in Canada.  Sony is kind enough to include our small nation in its business plan, which means I’ll be watching your reactions with great interest.

  8. 8
    Jessica G. says:

    I really hope that the Sony 505 is more to your taste. I love mine with a passion that is semi-abnormal.

    To me, the only thing that the Kindle 2 has going for it is that Cole Haan is designing a series of covers. I’d really like one of those.

  9. 9
    Saltypepper says:

    I had been desperately coveting a dedicated ebook reader until I got a blackberry and mobipocket, two great tastes that taste great together!  I never have fewer than 3 books on there (usually more like 5 or 6), I can shop around on price, and it’s all wireless.  Furthermore, Mobipocket IS a format the NYPL (long may it thrive) uses, and life is now better than good.

  10. 10
    ev says:

    I love my Sony 700 and I have said that many times in other posts. If I had had a chance to actually compare it hands on with hubby’s 505 I would have probably stayed with the 505 but that is ok.

    My only complaint is the built in light and the battery power it sucks up. I bought him the lighted cover and it seems to work better. I may actually go buy one for myself and only use the built in light as a backup. The lighted cover is a bit heavier though and you can’t bend it over behind the book the way you can the regular cover and read one handed all the time, including page turning.

    I love the 100 free classical downloads they give with the Sony, which I know you can get from Project Gutenburgh. I have all my faves and few new ones on a seperate card, so I always have them with me too.

    I do find that new releases are not always available right away for the Sony and that the prices vary between Sony and Fictionwise- Sony usually having a better price, at least in the beginning. I tend to be one of those first day buyers cause I hate to wait.

    I am really looking forward to having my Sony with me when I head out on my roadtrip. Only my computer, ereader, ipod and phone to carry. So much lighter packing and no carrying around books that I have read and need to get home again.

  11. 11
    Silver James says:

    SB Sarah, between you and Jane, I’m getting sucked in to the eReader phenomenon. Like everyone else, I’ll be reading closely. It’s inevitable.

    Have you taken a look at the iPod touch?

    Arizela, I’d like your opinion on the iPod’s readability. The screen seems awfully small to my old eyes.

  12. 12
    Maria says:

    Well that sells it I”m going with a Sony. I love my Sony laptop. I didnt know the had an e reader. But now, Im so sold I would love one in that snazzy red.  Ive been scrapping pennies together to save for a Kindle.  But my penny scrapping days may be over, Sony’s are cheaper and you have a wider range of choices. Did I mention the snazzy red one.

    thanks SB Sarah. 

    M
    spambot building22 howd does it know. Maybe its like a magic 8 ball

  13. 13
    ev says:

    Silver- you can play with both my Sony and itouch when I get there. I have one book on the itouch.  I think. Still. Maybe.

    One heads up on the Sony 700- if you go on a plane trip take the sylist out. I forgot all about it, because it was brand new, and some idiot TSA agent took it. Guess they thought it would do more damage than a ball point pen. Surprised that they haven’t taken them yet. Sony, however, was very gracious in replacing it for me free of charge. I don’t think anyone thought of that when they designed it, I know I didn’t when I bought it.

  14. 14
    Victoria Dahl says:

    Huh. Still waiting for my Kindle to arrive, having just heard it will be a Kindle 2.0. Well, now I’m not sure, obviously. But I think the wireless feature has me sold regardless. I have an aversion to bringing things ALL THE WAY UPSTAIRS and PLUGGING THEM IN. Totally ridiculous since I am upstairs and on the computer 600 times a day. But I never, ever update my iPhone unless it starts acting funky. Once every 60 days maybe.

    I’m just a convenience kind of gal, I think.

    Also, I can’t imagine reading on the iTouch or iPhone. My eyes get all googly after playing a game on my iPhone for 30 minutes. It’s way too bright.

  15. 15
    Jill Shalvis says:

    I can’t wait to read your reports on the Sony vs Sir Kindle, as I’m dying to have one or the other and don’t know enough about either.  This is probably a stupid question, and I’m sorry for it, but can I buy from Amazon and put the books on the Sony, or Amazon only for the Kindle?

  16. 16
    Jessica G. says:

    @Maria-
    If you want the red one, there’s a link on Dear Author for the Harlequin edition if you are interested.

    @Jill Shalvis- no, you can’t swap between the two sites. But there are also sites who offer formats for both.

  17. 17
    NancyB says:

    I’m currently using an iPod Touch for my ebooks, having (mostly) abandoned the PalmOS Sony Clie that was my first ebook platform. The primary reason is that I want my ebooks with me for those ‘I’m stuck’ reading moments, at the doctor’s office, the railroad crossing, etc., plus for travel—if I mostly read ebooks at home, I’d be in the market for a dedicated reader.

    I don’t have issues with the small screen, though the old Clie had better controls. I do have issues with the reader software and file formats.  To use my library of several hundred ebooks, plus to be able to buy the books I want that are only available from one source, I’m so far up to 3 reader programs on the Touch, each of which needs a different system to download the books. Of course, I had the same problem on the old Clie, but had hoped things would be better with the Touch. Nope, not yet.  Apple, wake up, and at least improve the file synch for the Touch!

  18. 18
    Deb says:

    I’ve had a Sony since they first came out and I love it more with each passing day/year.  I’m looking to upgrade my old 500 for my upcoming birthday.  I had planned on going with the 700 over the 505. EV, I’d be interested in hearing why you’d have gone with the 505 if you’d had a chance to compare them…

    My magic code is has82 – I has *way* more than 82 books for my sony….

  19. 19
    Angela James says:

    Arizela, I’d like your opinion on the iPod’s readability. The screen
    seems awfully small to my old eyes.

    Clearly I’m not Arizela but I have a Kindle, iPhone, Sony 505 and and Asus EeePC so I can talk about the comparison for those. Given a choice of reading I’d do the: Sony, Kindle, iPhone/Touch and then Eee. I don’t mind reading on the iPhone and if you want a multi-use device, the reading experience on it isn’t bad, but for me, the eink experience can’t be beat. Reading on the iPhone is small, though doable, but it’s still not as…easy?  a reading experience as the Sony/Kindle screens. The eink technology does give you that feeling of reading a book, the screen size makes it easy to adjust, and I find at least the Sony still trim enough to slip into my small purse, along with my iPhone, and carry everywhere.

    I think, if you’re willing to put out the money for a dedicated reading device, the eink experience makes it worth it.

  20. 20
    S. Krishna says:

    I actually debated a lot between the Kindle and the Sony Reader before choosing the Sony Reader, pretty much for the reasons you’ve described.  I’m definitely having a love affair with my Sony Reader, and it’s almost a year later!

    My Sony Reader Review:

    http://www.skrishnasbooks.com/2008/07/sony-reader-pr-505-review.html

  21. 21
    joykenn says:

    Oh, NO!! I drank the Kindleaid several months ago and now there’s a new one.  The bloom is off the love I once held for Sir Kindle and I fear your evaluation. 

    I also have a great public library with ebooks that I can’t read on the Kindle because of DRM. (I curse the one that thought that idea up!)  I’ve never downloaded an illegal copy of a book or song in my life and don’t intend to start in the future.  Am I a dinosaur?  Surely there are many other honest folks who just want to read a book, not steal it.

  22. 22
    rebyj says:

    Ever since I held a Sony in my hot lil hands in Target I’ve been leaning towards that. It kept saying ” Take me hooooome!” and “Shoplifting isn’t REALLY wrong!” Evil thing.  I’ve never even SEEN a Kindle anywhere other than the web. The web access is a big draw but realistically how often am I away from my puter? I could plug up the Sony with no problem LOL.

    Honestly though, until the price of them go down I won’t be able to buy one of any kind. I have a book buying budget each month and they’re missing out on that money being spent on ebooks but 300-400 to buy an e-reader is a major (impossible) purchase for someone on a fixed income ! 

    So SONY and AMAZON BRING DOWN YOUR PRICES!

  23. 23
    Cathy says:

    I’ve been thinking about an e-reader, so posts (and comments) about this are really helpful.  It sounds like the Sony is the way to go right now, but I’m going to wait for some reviews of Kindle2 before I decide.

    Can someone knowledgeable about such things tell me—can I read Kindle books on the Sony?  The bargain shopping Sarah mentioned is a key factor for me, and I’ve noticed that sometimes the Kindle books are cheaper than at the Sony store or other places.  Thanks!

  24. 24
    Kristy says:

    I have a Sony and love it.

  25. 25
    Laurie Fournier says:

    The Kindle was never a choice living in Canda (Can’t buy the reader or download the books). So, went with the Sony 505, birthday present from my boys, and I love it. I’ve purchased books from many sellers online and have never had a problem with any of the files.
    I carry on average 30 books on the reader. Never far away enough from my computer to care about a device that wirelessly downloads.
    Love my Sony.

  26. 26
    SonomaLass says:

    I can’t imagine trying to read on my Blackberry.  I don’t even use it for e-mail (I canceled the data plan), because it’s too small for my wordy self.  I’m still mostly reading on my laptop, only getting things in ebook form if they are free or not available in print. (Or, in one instance recently, where I got a cheap deal on the ebook for a newly released hardback that I COULD NOT WAIT to read.)

    I am a major library user, and (aside from the initial outlay for the device), I shudder to think what I would spend on books if I bought from Amazon all the books I currently borrow.  My cash now tends to be spend on paperbacks by authors whom my library doesn’t carry (mostly newer romance writers, go figure).  But if my library decides to start offering ebooks, and the Sony is compatible, I will be tempted indeed.

    Hey SB Sarah, my sister lives right by the NY Public.  I’ll have her wave to you for me!

  27. 27
    Mo says:

    I’ve had my Kindle for 10 months and I still love it. I travel for work and the wireless buy on the fly is great. You can read Mobi formats on the Kindle. And you can download for free mobi pocket creator software that coverts word (.doc),  Adobe (.pdf), and HTL format to the Mobi (.prc) that can be read on the Kindle. It takes less than a minute to do this easy conversion.

  28. 28
    Silver James says:

    Ev, you are my new BFF! Can’t wait to see you and get my hands on the toys.

    Angela, thanks for the input. I have a friend who loves his EEE like whoa but not my cup of tea.

    I don’t own an iPod and doubt I ever will at my age. I’m barely computer literate as it. LOL! But I was curious. I have the feeling that I’ll take the Sony plunge once some discretionary funds are available. Or I win one. *gigglesnort*

    Whoa…I’ve been signed back in mysteriously and don’t get the fun spambot words anymore. Oh well.

  29. 29
    RKB says:

    I’m on my 3rd Sony E-reader. I don’t know if the Kindle has it, but if you buy the latest Sony e-reader, you can buy an extra warranty where if you break it they will replace it, no charge.  The day I got my second Sony E-reader for the holidays, one of my relatives accidentally sat on it (I didn’t have it on a seat, it was on a computer table) and broke the screen.  Thank goodness I had the warranty, otherwise I would have been seriously upset.

  30. 30
    Angela James says:

    Can someone knowledgeable about such things tell me—can I read Kindle books on the Sony? The bargain shopping Sarah mentioned is a key factor for me, and I’ve noticed that sometimes the Kindle books are cheaper than at the Sony store or other places

    Ebooks sold on Amazon are in a proprietary format that you can read only on the Kindle, unfortunately.

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