The Amazon Kindle: Friend or foe?


Amazon Kindle

There has been a lot of hype this week about Kindle - Amazon’s eBook reader.

I have always regarded eBooks (also referred to as Digital Ink) as evil. They are almost always DRM (Digital Rights Management) protected so that you can’t share information with others and typically require an expensive eBook reader.

On the other side, the idea of storing my book collection on a nice small aesthetic digital device seems attractive to me as a technophile. However, the device would need to be as natural to use as a book and would need to allow non-DRM content as well.

Kindle delivers neither of these. It is butt ugly (monochrome LCD screen, cheesy keyboard), expensive ($400), and geared towards Amazon’s evil DRM-formatted content (it allows text, but not PDFs, which are the universal DRM-free viewing format for books).

I was surprised when Cali Lewis (GeekBrief TV) bought one and was far too optimistic about it on her podcast. She focused on the attractive idea of storing books in a portable format and didn’t touch upon the freedom issues that eBook DRM imposes. Perhaps she needs to read some Richard Stallman.

Regardless, I do like the idea of eBook readers, but they need to be open and non-DRM. Of course, that would make it less like an eBook reader and more like a portable computer, iPhone or iPod.