Amazon’s Kindle: Mildly More Interesting Than Other E-Book Readers, Thanks to a Mobile Radio

kindle.jpgAmazon has finally launched its long-rumored e-book reader, called the Kindle. Like most other e-book readers, it’s doomed to mediocrity/failure because too few people will care enough to drop $400 for it. Had Amazon given it away to spur e-book sales, perhaps it might stand a greater chance, but as that post on GigaOM points out, “they stuffed it so full of technological wizardry that it costs $399.”

Part of what’s boosting that cost is the inclusion of an EV-DO radio. That makes it slightly less uncool than other e-book readers (though it’s hard to call anything as fugly as the Kindle cool at all), since it takes the PC out of the equation, allowing users to buy books directly from the device, as well as download blogs (albeit from a pre-selected list of options) and periodicals. While plenty of people will quibble about the choice of EV-DO instead of some flavor of WCDMA, that’s not especially important, since that change wouldn’t make the Kindle a success. But the inclusion of a mobile radio at all is noteworthy.

The EV-DO service comes without the need for a subscription, and is provided by Sprint, who’s been saying that a major use of its WiMAX network will be to provide connectivity to a wide array of consumer electronics. This is a significant paradigm change, because it removes the need for a PC, or phone, or other networking conduit from devices. While the phone itself will take over the functionality of many ancillary pieces of electronics (like MP3 players and cameras), the inclusion of mobile connectivity in standalone devices offers new realms of possibilities for enhancement.

To steal Russell’s lingo, the fight between the Convergionists and the Separatistas will rage on — but both converged and standalone products will continue to get better and better, particularly as standalones begin to integrate wide-area mobile connectivity.

Still, none of this will likely help the Kindle. Perhaps it’s a great product for the small number of people that will care about it, while the rest of us will decide that $400 would buy us plenty of old-school dead tree books. Or you could plunk down $460 for something like the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet (which also went on sale today, through Amazon no less), and use it for an e-book and blog reader, and everything else it does.

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