Now that Amazon’s released its first new generation of Kindle devices since the iPad, a lot of people are criticizing the device for its lack of color and touch screen.  I too was a little underwhelmed, until I learned a little more about the improvements (or refinements) Amazon’s made:

  • smaller size body but same size screen with higher contrast
  • a Wi-Fi version that’s $50 cheaper than the 3G version
  • a new open source browser based on WebKit (just like Chrome, iPad, etc), which includes a button to remove content surrounding articles (like the Readability bookmarklet)  (I have a cell phone for browsing the web on the go. The web browser on my ebook reader should be for locating sites that I can then strip down to just the content and enjoy.)

When I showed the knew Kindle to a co-worker, he dismissed it as soon as he learned it didn’t have a touch screen.  I explained how a touch screen decreases the visibility of non-backlit screens, but he then just added the complaint that it’s not backlit. I showed him this quote from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, but he wasn’t as impressed as I was:

“There will never be a Kindle with a touch screen that inhibits reading. It has to be done in a different way. It can’t be a me-too touch screen.” [emphasis mine]

I was also happy to see I’m not alone in appreciating Amazon’s commitment to a simple, quiet, e-reading device.  A commenter on a BoingBoing article on the new device said:

I’m glad to see that Amazon’s not trying to bloat the device with silly features like touch screen and color in a misguided attempt to compete with the iPad–instead, they’re improving its base functions, and lowering the price. They know their product and their market.

The Kindle is a specialized device for comfortably reading [digital] books without eyestrain brought on by backlighting and glare. In that limited scope, it excels, and far surpasses the iPad and other devices that use non-eInk screens.

The biggest (dare I say, only) problem I have with the new Kindle is that is still only accepts Amazon’s DRM. Adding the ability to buy from other e-book sellers (which would simply mean accepting the e-Pub standard) would be a huge step towards eliminating DRM altogether. Amazon has fallen far from the days when we applauded them for championing the DRM free music transition. I still hope they’ll be the ones to bring us DRM-free e-books, but this proprietary “nobody else plays on our device” garbage isn’t any less repulsive then when Apple does it.

So yeah, e-books are still heading somewhere and the value of e-ink hasn’t been swallowed up by flashy LCD tablets like the iPad and Archos. Hooray! But DRM (and even limited e-book availability from some backwards publishers and authors) is still forcing me to stick with buying and borrowing paper books for now.