Kindle 2.0 – 2nd Impressions

180px-amazbuck rio800

Dave’s “Decade of Ebook Arguments” post took me back a decade, to my first portable MP3 player – the Diamond Rio‘s 800 1

If memory serves, the 800 had 64Mb of storage2 – just enough audio for the walk from the apartment for the L ride into Loop. Not even enough for something new on the way home. I still have fond memories of manually copying files onto it from Panic’s Audion3.

I don’t remember feeling like the Rio changed my life.

I do remember thinking it was pretty neat for offering a small, small, glimpse into a what could be. Like future predictions of personal air travel, video-phones, or the Monsanto House.

The Kindle 2 has a lot in common with that old Rio 800.

The Kindle also shows us a future world – one of of direct-to-reader digital publishing and digital distribution. Dave’s post also brought to mind all the indie ‘zine & comic publishers I knew decades ago. They would have killed for the Kindle’s distribution channel.

But, like the Rio, the Kindle (and ebook readers in general) don’t have the ‘changed my life’ quality Apple is regularly able to ship4. There are 3 huge deficiencies I see with the Kindle after living with it for nearly a week:

  • The typographic capabilities are too basic. Simple conventions like italics, blockquotes, and a great number of typefaces would make the reading experience far more book-like (and actually usable for technical reference ebooks).
  • Navigating the Kindle is kludgy and unsophisticated. I mentioned this in my initial Kindle review. It’s annoying to navigate. It shouldn’t be annoying to navigate.
  • Getting new, free, independent stuff onto the Kindle isn’t as easy as it needs to be. No, I don’t think iTunes’ podcast directory should be used as a model – there are far simpler and equally sophisticated ways to handle this.

If there’s one reason why I’m happy with the Kindle, it’s that I’m a sucker for the glimpses into the future.

1. At the time, I was working for a startup funded by Diamond Multimedia.
2. Fast-forward to today, and on a normal week I download hundreds of Mb of audio from independent producers that’s only distributed digitally.
3. Still the friendliest, nicest, and simplest audio player for the Mac.
4. As you know, none of Apple’s products are first-to-market, and why I don’t expect to see an Apple-branded eBook reader any time soon.