When I first started this blog, I announced that I’d write about technology 5% of the time. Since I have written more than 700 articles at this point, I’m allow some 35 articles on technology. I think I used up a few of them with articles on my Asus EEE. As usual, with any technology article, I’ll attempt to tie it back to personal finance.
You may have already read about the Amazon Kindle. It’s yet another attempt by the technology industry to replace books. Companies have been at it for a few years, but it’s hard to replace books. They are extremely portable, require no power, and very easy on the eyes.
Before I completely disregard the Kindle, it’s worth taking a deeper look. Here are some things about the Kindle that I love:
- Easy on My Eyes – I’ve spent a lot of time looking at computer monitors. Human eyes weren’t meant to look to at poor resolution, backlighted screens. I hate to admit it, but Mom was right about sitting to close to the TV. My eyes simply can’t tolerate the computer screen like they should. This Friday, I’m seeing a doctor about what I can do aside from the normal advice. The Kindle uses electronic ink which is not backlit in the same way – and delivers a great reading experience from all reviews I’ve seen. The 250 blogs that it has available would save my eyes considerable wear and tear.
- Light weight – At 10.3 ounces it doesn’t weigh too much more than my Palm Treo. On a vacation last year, my wife wanted to pack a pile of books. Unfortunately, we could only take a few of them due to space/weight limitations on the airplane. If we had a Kindle we wouldn’t have had this problem.
- Google Maps – This is an undocumented, unofficial feature of the Kindle. However it seems you can get Google Maps anywhere where Sprint has EVDO service. That’s a huge amount of area. While it’s not as good as a GPS navigation system it might be one of the best “bonuses” a product has ever offered.
- Constant Free Internet Connection – This is the only device I’ve heard of that has free unlimited ability to connect to the Internet. Amazon has negotiated with Sprint to use their network at no charge. This means free Wikipedia almost anywhere in the US.. wow.
- Automatically Updating Blogs – The Kindle will allow you read more than 250 blogs. One of them is my favorite sports-writer Bill Simmons. If he wrote as much as he used to this would be a huge selling point.
- Newspapers and Magazines – Some of the most popular includes: Forbes, Fortune, Time, Reader’s Digest, NY Times, Wall St. Journal, Washington Post, and Investor’s Business Daily. All are at an additional charge – not that you’d expect to get this content for free outside of a library.
The Kindle might be more portable than traditional books and possibly easier on the eyes… while providing time-sensitive information.
Here are some things that I don’t like about the Kindle:
- Existing and Future books – If you already own a book or bought it off of Amazon in the last two years, do you get a Kindle version? No. If something better comes along like an Apple iReader will your Kindle Books work on it? They may not.
- Internet Connection limited to the US – Remember that vacation that I talked about above… it was to Aruba… The Internet connection wouldn’t work and I wouldn’t get updated blog information.
- Blogs cost money… every month – Not only do they cost money, but there are no personal finance blogs available. I’m a content producer and I do like to get paid, so I shouldn’t be so upset by this. However, I do provide my content via an RSS feed with minimal advertising. I think Amazon should provide that option.
- Limit Blogs Available – This is an extension of the above. There should be a simple RSS reader available – preferably something that connection to popular services like Bloglines and Google Reader.
- Only One Person Can Read it at a Time – This seems obvious, but it is worth mentioning. To go back to the vacation example, the Kindle would have been a poor solution for us to reduce the number books we carry. We would have needed two of them so we can both read on the airplane or by the pool. That’s two Kindles, two sets of subscriptions, etc.
- Potential Theft – I would be very nervous about leaving my Kindle in plain sight and going for a swim. Some people might quickly snap up an unprotected $350 gadget. On the other hand, people are less likely to steal a copy of Your Money or Your Life.
- Newspapers and Magazines are also expensive – I’ve been offered a better deals than $2.99 a month for Forbes… usually about a $1 an issue.
Financially, there are some issues… You might end up buying the same books you already own. You might have to have a Kindle for each member for of the family. You might end up paying a lot for content that you can reader cheaper or even for free. It could get stolen where you have to buy the device again.
Buy or Don’t Buy – I’m going with don’t buy at this point… The price of $350+ and the lure of potential subscription add-ons just doesn’t seem the right value for me. If you’ve got a lot of disposable income, I can see some value in this, but I don’t think it’s really something that middle class will adopt until it hits $99 price point. The potential is definitely there for this to be big in the next five years, so keep it on the radar.