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Smartphone versus Kindle - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

Smartphone versus Kindle [Apr. 23rd, 2009|12:49 am]
Arvind Narayanan
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On my last trip I packed my kindle in my checked luggage instead of my backpack. When I took it out, it looked like this:



It wasn't physically cracked, but half the display was gone, and it won't turn on any more.

I'm going to call and check if my warranty covers it, but if it doesn't, I don't even really care. In the last couple of months, 80% of my book reading has been on my iPod Touch. As it turns out, Amazon has a free and very slick Kindle for iPhone app that lets you read books you've purchased for the Kindle on your iPhone (or iPod Touch). The devices even automatically sync with each other, so that you always pick up where you left off. Of course, the letters aren't as crisp on the Touch as they are on the Kindle (the latter is almost equivalent to paper), but to me this disadvantage is monumentally outweighed by the fact that the Touch fits in my pocket.

There are still many people (albeit a dwindling number) who won't read books on anything but dead trees, but the average person just doesn't care. Consequently, the market for e-books on the iPhone is huge. On the other hand, Amazon's margins on the Kindle device are slim, probably even negative. This is because it uses Sprint's EVDO network, but Amazon eats the cost and doesn't pass it on to the user. Further, there are 10-15 times more iPhones than Kindles in circulation. Amazon has therefore done the obvious thing by allowing even non-Kindle owners to buy books for the iPhone using the app.

I have a hunch that smartphones are going to swallow the book reader market, just as they did PDAs and Internet Tablets.

Edit. Amazon is replacing my Kindle. 1-day shipping on the replacement! Woohoo!
LinkReply

Comments:
From: fixious
2009-04-23 08:29 am (UTC)
You have an iPod? I somehow thought of you as an anti-Apple person. Maybe I'm confusing you with someone else?
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-04-23 04:09 pm (UTC)
oh, that's definitely me. i don't like apple and i don't like the cult of its users.

i bought my Touch for watchuwant development. before i got my current phone, i also used it as my bedside email and news reader. and of course, i fell in love with the kindle app.

some people apparently use it to play music. i find this notion quaint, as i don't believe in storing music locally. at any rate, i've never used it for that purpose.
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From: statictype.org
2009-04-23 04:50 pm (UTC)
>as i don't believe in storing music locally

As opposed to...?
Accessing it always from a remote server?
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[User Picture]From: normalcyispasse
2009-04-23 04:52 pm (UTC)
As opposed to getting it in your head and unwittingly singing along all day.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-04-23 07:08 pm (UTC)
"Accessing it always from a remote server?"

yes. i often play music from my phone or ipod, but it's always through pandora, last.fm or lala. phones are full-fledged computers these days, and 3G/EVDO and wifi are pervasive.
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From: fixious
2009-04-23 09:40 pm (UTC)
The main uses of my iPod are on flights and occasionally, when running. Both require the music to be stored locally. :P
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[User Picture]From: normalcyispasse
2009-04-23 04:52 pm (UTC)
That seems unfortunate.

To me, the biggest drawback from using smart phones is their simple size. It's hard for me to stare at a tiny screen; for reading, I'd much rather have a larger device.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-04-23 07:09 pm (UTC)
i would encourage you to try the kindle app (if you haven't already). you might still decide it's too small, but you'd be surprised how minimally painful it is.
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[User Picture]From: normalcyispasse
2009-04-23 07:24 pm (UTC)
Honestly, I would but I've neither the need nor the equipment for it at the moment. I use a plain-jane cell phone for my phone purposes and don't use any data transfer with it. Further, I don't commute on public transit or anywhere that would necessitate the Kindle app.

If I were traveling frequently again, though, I'd definitely look into it.
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[User Picture]From: patrickwonders
2009-04-23 09:59 pm (UTC)
I used eReader on the Palm Pilot for years. Now, I use eReader and Kindle on my iPhone.

eReader is a far better app than Kindle. But, Amazon has newer content cheaper. And, the Kindle book format seems slightly better about out-of-band boxes.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-04-23 10:04 pm (UTC)
i've never heard of this eReader thing. i'll check it out, thanks.
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[User Picture]From: dannyman
2009-04-23 11:02 pm (UTC)
Hrmmm. Nope. Never seen a paper-based book do that.
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From: (Anonymous)
2009-04-24 01:26 am (UTC)
"ISuppli, a research firm, recently estimated the Kindle costs about $185 to produce, giving the $359 device a high profit margin."
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/24/technology/companies/24amazon.html?_r=1&hpw

I must mention that I don't have much confidence in the above figure.

Mohit
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-04-24 01:29 am (UTC)
yes, i saw that. it's just guesswork, and i think the actual production costs are higher; more importantly, it doesn't consider the cost of paying sprint for the network, as i said in my post.
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From: (Anonymous)
2009-04-24 01:54 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't be surprised if Sprint is paid part of the money from each transaction rather than a fixed amount upfront.

Mohit
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