The Heroic Kindle Of The People

I agree with all of the points Jason makes in this TechHive piece about the Kindle’s limitations.

(I would add one item: international access. The Kindle is fab, if you live in those parts of the planet where the device and its library are available.)

I also agree with the tone of the piece, which is spot-on. These are things about the Kindle that annoy us. They aren’t reasons why the Kindle is a bad product.

The Kindle is exactly as important and exciting a product as the iPad. When Amazon introduced this e-ink device, it cost $399. Today, the most expensive e-ink Kindle is $119…and the cheapest is only $69. Amazon has continued to add features and build the product up, year after year. But they’ve also worked just as hard to drive the price of the basic model down, down, down.

Every year, Apple updates the iPad and magically delivers a device that’s twice as good as the previous edition, at exactly the same price. Good. But they’ve done next to nothing to put iPads within reach of a broader economic range of consumers.

As with Jason’s complaints about the Kindle, this is meant only as a criticism, and not as an argument that Apple’s a bad company. Apple’s whole business is based on high markups. And at the same time, their whole brand is based on high-quality products. A+B equals a company that isn’t in any position to make things for people who are on a tight budget. Apple is set up to build the slimmest, slickest, and most elegant $999 notebook on the market. They can’t build a chunky, $399 plastic notebook that’s reasonably well-made and will competently suit the needs of most users.

Those $399 notebooks are important to a lot of people. The device that they can afford is way more useful than the device they can only dream about owning.

Amazon keeps finding ways to get the price down. Another five bucks here, another ten bucks here. Ads? On the lock screen?! How gauche! But there are many people for whom that $20 discount is the difference between between “affordable” and “impossible.”

The e-ink Kindles have plenty of faults. Almost none of them get in the way of their core function: book reading. And when we gripe about the build quality of a $69 Kindle compared with our iPads, let’s also try to think about a kid out there who has access to every great work of classic literature, free, for life, for one eighth the cost of the Apple product.