Yesterday Amazon released an eBook reader/service called Kindle. Yesterday a lot of people wrote reviews of Kindle. Yesterday barely anyone on the planet had actually used Kindle, but they just couldn’t wait to tell you how much it sucked.
There’s a lot of premature hating going on. Hypercritical negativity is in season among a large set of the web’s independent tech observers.
Most of the 300 reviews on Amazon’s Kindle product page were overwhelmingly negative. Most of the blog posts on the web were overwhelmingly negative. Much of the tech news/review sites were overwhelmingly negative. Again, few people had actually used a Kindle. And none of the reviewers had a chance to live with one yet.
One thing we have all had a chance to live with are books and newspapers. They’re stacks of dead trees. Bulky blocks of words. They take up a lot of space, need to be pushed around by plane and truck, and quickly fill up your carry on if you want to take more than a couple with you. When you buy a book, you’re buying a tiny piece of furniture that you usually carry with you the rest of your life. Moving? Time to pack up the books!
I know book lovers like to talk about the permanence of books, but I think that’s overrated and over-romanticized. Some people love to build extensive physical libraries to house their books. Not me. I’d prefer to read it and move on. Sure I could buy a book, read it, and sell it or give it to a friend or a library, but I’m just looking for the knowledge, not the inventory or an exit strategy.
That’s not to say books are bad. Books are wonderful, important things. But they’re also terrible at a lot of things. You can’t search paper. You can’t bring that many with you at once. They suck up valuable resources in production and transportation. They take up a lot of space. They leave an artifact when you’re done with them.
I’m not suggesting we get rid of books as we know them. Ever. I’m suggesting there’s plenty of room for another model that shines the spotlight on convenience rather than the legacy attributes of print.
The Kindle sounds like a really interesting device with an interesting value proposition. It’s not tethered to a computer. That’s big. It’s more about the convenience and benefits — your books, small size, instant new books, morning paper delivery — than the physical product or the technology.
Kindle isn’t the first eBook reader, but it’s the first portable bookstore. That’s novel. A book in 60 seconds whenever I want it at used-bookstore prices. And the daily push newspaper feature sounds like one hell of a bonus. I love getting the paper, but I hate getting the paper. What a complete waste of resources just so I can get yesterday’s news. I like that there’s some genuinely new thinking behind Kindle. We should embrace this, not tear it to shreds before it even has a chance.
So I’m going to withhold judgement. Our Kindle arrives today. We’re going to live with it for a while and then we’ll write an honest review. Until then…
Full Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in 37signals.