Amazon Slashes Kindle Price

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

So Amazon’s Kindle just dropped to $299.

Which gives me the opportunity to post on how much I love mine. The 1984 weirdness aside (and hey, Jeff Bezos apologized!), I absolutely love mine. Never thought I’d need the ability to electronically highlight, bookmark pages, clip and save text, search books for keywords, and make use of a built-in dictionary (put the cursor over any word in the text and a definition pops up; click on the definition, and a longer entry from the Oxford English Dictionary appears), but they make reading much more interesting. They’re also incredibly useful if you’re a journalist or in some other research-oriented field.

The Kindle library is still early in its development. I’m finding that roughly 2/3 of new titles I’m interested in are usually available, and about half of the older books I’ve looked to buy in Kindle form.

(Side note to book publishers: If you send me review copies of new books in Kindle form, I am much more likely to read and possibly review them than if you send me hard copies. When I travel now, I usually just take the Kindle. The thing holds 1,500 books, plus I can instantly download all of the national newspapers and many of the magazines I read (including Reason). I’m much more likely to put your book on the Kindle and look it over on a train or a plane than I am to schlep a hard copy around.)

The e-ink reads the same as an actual book, so it doesn’t trigger migraines the way staring at a monitor can. It’s also perfectly readable in bright sunlight, though if you want to read in darker environs you should invest in a book light.

I really only have one complaint, and even here I may just not be aware of how to get around the problem. But the Kindle has its own odd method of notating locations within in a book. That is, it doesn’t use the same page numbers a hard copy would use. So while the search, text clipping, bookmarking, and comment functions are wonderful for research, if I’m writing a book or paper that requires citation, I’ll need to go out and buy the hard copy to cite to specific pages. Or at least until citing to Kindle’s location system becomes an acceptable form of notation. And again, there may be a way around this. But if there is, it isn’t intuitive.

Finally, if you’re thinking of getting a Kindle, you can make me a little money by buying it through this site. At no extra cost to you, of course.

Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

40 Responses to “Amazon Slashes Kindle Price”

  1. #1 |  Constant | 

    The strangeness of the Kindle’s location-numbering system is probably related to the fact that the Kindle “pages” are variable in size. It’s better to have a set number for a location in the text than have a different number based on the different page sizes that you can choose. Of course this doesn’t explain why the hard-copy numbers are not used. I think that in principle it should be able to include hard-copy page numbers. One possible way to find the hard-copy page numbers short of buying the book is doing a full-text search of the book either on Amazon.com or on Google Books, if either of these sites have the book online and searchable.

  2. #2 |  Rune | 

    My major complaint against the Kindle is that I cannot buy one here in Denmark (or any other country outside of the US as far as I am aware.) Regional licencing, ain’t it beautiful?

  3. #3 |  Hamburglar007 | 

    The price drop in the Kindle is encouraging. I don’t own one, nor to I plan on purchasing one. The idea of Amazon being able to remotely alter content I purchased is repugnant to me, and I would just as soon wait for a little bit more in the way of serious competition before buying a dedicated ebook reader. There are some knock offs right now, but not much cheaper and not nearly as well designed as the Kindle.

    For those who feel the same way as I about the Kindle, and you have an iPhone, I would highly recommend downloading Stanza for it. It is also owned by Amazon, but free, with the ability to download free books from project gutenberg and more sites, sync up your library with your pc, etc. I have no problem with eye strain so it works out great for me.

  4. #4 |  Lee | 

    I had been kicking around the idea of getting a Kindle but for me the cons outweight the pros and with Barnes and Noble about to re-release another eBook reader, I’ll wait to compare.

    The biggest con for me is that it does not support open format books or PDFs. Being in the tech industry I read a lot of PDFs.

  5. #5 |  zero | 

    My major complaint against the Kindle is that I cannot buy one here in Denmark (or any other country outside of the US as far as I am aware.) Regional licencing, ain’t it beautiful?

    Well something is definitely rotten, there.

  6. #6 |  Andy Craig | 

    @#5

    Words, words, words…

  7. #7 |  Dave Krueger | 

    My main problem with kindle is that I have four bathrooms. The price needs to drop even more.

  8. #8 |  chris | 

    You’ll all be blind by the time your 40. Squint,Squint.

    CIII

  9. #9 |  Dave Krueger | 

    The failure of MusicMatch along with the introduction of all the recent DRM protected video games have taught me never to trust electronic media. Remember, I’m a guy who still uses film.

    I think Kindle probably has some secret NSA-mandated security measures that allows the government to detonate a small integral explosive device if you cross a certain threshold of subversive reading material. I think the Orwell book deletion fiasco was kind of like a test firing of that system. This weekend I plan to clean out my bomb shelter and make it usable again so Ill be ready for the approaching Kindle apocalypse.

  10. #10 |  MacK | 

    Use the Kindle form of notation, and citation from now on. After all who is to say you are not the one to start the trend.

    Kinda like some people who insist on quoting King James versions of the bible instead of new world version. They both exist one is just a more modern form using language that I use now, and the other uses an archaic language not spoken outside the biblical references for 4 hundred years.

  11. #11 |  Rhayader | 

    @Lee: Yeah same here; PDF support seems like a no-brainer.

    In the end, even the reduced price seems a bit too steep for me. They are pretty cool little devices though, honestly.

  12. #12 |  Taktix | 

    Holy crap,

    I googled “e-ink” and found the digital paper from Firefly.

    Sweet!

  13. #13 |  pris | 

    Love my kindle and I am a book lover. I have 36 books downloaded and can choose what I want to read at any time. If I see a new book, I can download it immediately- you can also get many free books on kindle and kindle books are half the price of paper books.There is nothing that I dislike about the kindle- I read more and take it everywhere.
    The kindle price dropped almost a month ago.

  14. #14 |  Radley Balko | 

    Lee — The Kindle 2 does support PDF. You do have to send the PDF to your Kindle email, then Amazon converts it for you. They do charge for the service, but only 10 cents per document (per document, not per page). It’s a bit convoluted, but it does work.

  15. #15 |  Chris Farley | 

    I don’t have any complaints about mine other than I buy a lot more books and spend more time reading and get behind on TV shows I like.

    There are a few “rights” issues that everyone should be aware of before getting one and the work around:
    1. They can remotely delete books from your Kindle – the 1984 thing.
    2. They sometimes do odd things with your on-line storage that removes the book and prevents any further downloads. I’ve seen several examples, like publishers discontinuing titles and other things.
    3. There is some sort of limit to the number of downloads and/or the number of devices that a book can be downloaded to the isn’t completely clear – six downloads, six devices, usually six but sometimes some other number, etc.
    4. If your Amazon account gets suspended, so does your Kindle account and you lose access to all your books.
    5. The Kindle service is still too new and technical/customer support makes a lot of mistakes.
    6. The Kindle II is fragile without a good cover – that costs extra.

    Other than #5 & #6, the work around is to copy each book to a PC for permanent storage. I just download my book and then copy it onto my PC. When the Kindle is linked to a PC, it looks like an external hard drive that you can explore and drag/drop stuff to and from. All of mine also get captured in my nightly back-ups.

    Personally, I love my Kindle II. Radley is right – just like paper, needs a night-light, works in bright sun-light and I’ll add there is minimal screen glare, it weighs nothing and has tremendous battery life if the wireless is off and good battery life if it is left on. The only time anyone needs wireless is when they are actually shopping the Kindle store or downloading a book.

    Amazon will convert any text thing you send them to an e-reader format for a small fee.

  16. #16 |  Chance | 

    I really loved my Sony Reader, but the online store was pathetic. I’ll probably end up getting a Kindle one day, but for now I’m okay with my iPod touch (if you like graphic novels, they look great on it).

  17. #17 |  tim | 

    #9

    I find it interesting that people place so much emotion (or as you put it “trust”) to a medium. I got the value out of them when I when I read them. And with the exception of technical books (which end up being out of date six months to a year after they are released anyways) I really never refer back to a book I’ve bought.

    With the exception of cookbooks – if I can’t get it on the Kindle I don’t buy it.

  18. #18 |  Frank | 

    Nope, won’t get a kindle. Now that they’ve demonstrated that they can delete anything off of it, what’s to stop Homeland Security from forcing access to the servers to delete anything they want removed from the public eye?

    At least Webrights from Baen Books doesn’t send a virus to your PC to delete old copies of ebooks. I would send Bezos a shiny new metallic fireman’s helmet, but he’s so clueless that he wouldn’t get it.

  19. #19 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #17 | tim | July 28th, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    #9

    I find it interesting that people place so much emotion (or as you put it “trust”) to a medium. I got the value out of them when I when I read them. And with the exception of technical books (which end up being out of date six months to a year after they are released anyways) I really never refer back to a book I’ve bought.

    With the exception of cookbooks – if I can’t get it on the Kindle I don’t buy it.

    It all stems from my admittedly outdated belief that once I buy something, it should be mine. I found out after buying a bunch of songs from MusicMatch that I only really own it as long as their server tells me I own it. By the way, I buy a lot of books. I am never not reading at least one book. When I’m done with them, I box them up and give them to charity (which, I have recently found out, probably sells them on ebay for the cash).

    But, seriously, I think Kindle is probably great. It sounds like it has some very handy capabilities that books don’t have.

    It also goes a long way to keeping a record of people’s reading habits in a single data base, saving the government a lot of trouble (not that government is really interested in that kind of thing). And if the government ever declares certain reading material seditious, they can just instruct amazon to delete it, which amazon would willingly do for the good of the country (like AT&T did when the government asked the for illegal wiretaps).

  20. #20 |  Gonzo | 

    Jesus, even writing this is caring more than I want to. And I read much, much more than any of you cats. But it’s neat! And possibly a censorship and/or content manipulation vector! The apocalypse can’t get here quick enough.

  21. #21 |  Angie | 

    Can you get college books on Kindle? If so, this might be worthwhile to get my oldest so he isn’t lugging around all those books.

  22. #22 |  Tim C | 

    #19 “It all stems from my admittedly outdated belief that once I buy something, it should be mine.”

    No doubt; if a book goes out of print you still own it (and it may well go up in value). I’d say unless there’s a way to get a book on Kindle and then save your own copy, I’m not interested, no matter how neat and useful the technology may be (of course, I’m not the type who can read just anywhere anyway – bus, plane etc = too distracting).

  23. #23 |  Fluffy | 

    I would no more get a kindle than I would get a robot dog or cat.

    I can just get a real dog or cat. Or a real book.

  24. #24 |  Brad Warbiany | 

    Radley,

    Drop a link to the Kindle DX with your associate info. I’m probably going to buy one within the next 1-2 weeks, and I’d sure love to help you out (especially at no cost to me!)

    Consider it an early gift from the Boilermakers since we’re gonna stomp your Hoosiers at the end of this year :-)

  25. #25 |  Jon Hendry | 

    Radley,

    To get citable page numbers, you could search for the quoted text on Google Books or on Amazon if “Search inside this book” is enabled.

    I have the Kindle 2, and I also bought the DX because code samples in programming books don’t look as good on the smaller screen. And I use a fair number of pdfs. Love them both.

  26. #26 |  Jon Hendry | 

    “It all stems from my admittedly outdated belief that once I buy something, it should be mine.”

    I find it less objectionable if I get a refund, which isn’t the case for most DRM-server-goes-down or subscription-service-terminated scenarios.

    After all, quite a few books I own are in the process of turning yellow, on the way to acidic self-destruction. (Relatively few books I own are acid-free.)

    And in the meantime, I get to pay (in rent or opportunity cost) for space to store them, even if I never read them again.

    Then there are the rapidly-obsolete books (Quicken 2007, Visual Basic 1.0, etc), which I probably won’t care if they disappear, and don’t particularly want to dedicate shelf space for.

  27. #27 |  Jon Hendry | 

    “6. The Kindle II is fragile without a good cover – that costs extra.”

    I keep mine in a cheap bubblewrap mailing envelope (folded along one edge for a more snug fit) which is inside a cardboard mailing envelope. The envelopes are open at the top, with the flaps removed. Total cost: Under $3, I think.

    I read it ‘naked’, but otherwise slip it into the envelopes, which stays in my backpack.

    The cases Amazon sells are all ridiculously overpriced. And apparently some people have had problems with their cases breaking their kindle 2. The cases have metal clips that clamp onto the kindle, but too much pressure causes them to crush the plastic of the case.

  28. #28 |  KBCraig | 

    One has to wonder how much this sudden price drop has to do with the rumored forthcoming Apple Tablet.

    The iPhone and iPod Touch already have some great reading alternatives to the Kindle. Now imagine one with a 10″ screen: FTW.

  29. #29 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I’m not saying I would never get one. I’m only pointing out that I have a number of significant philosophical objections to what constitutes ownership these days. I don’t like the idea that someone else can independently turn it on and off.

  30. #30 |  Ben | 

    Does it smell like a new book when you open it? Or an old book? No? I’ll pass then.

  31. #31 |  KeithH | 

    It smells like a communist plot.

  32. #32 |  Chance | 

    “Does it smell like a new book when you open it? Or an old book? No? I’ll pass then.”

    You seriously smell your books? To each their own I guess.

  33. #33 |  Steven | 

    When I buy a Kindle book, I immediately download a copy to my computer and decrypt it. I’ll never lose access to the decrypted copy, and Amazon can’t delete it on the rare occasions I enable the internet.

    The decrypted copy can also be read on any platform or device that has the MobiPocket reader.

  34. #34 |  Ben | 

    You seriously smell your books? To each their own I guess.

    The sense of smell is be a powerful memory trigger. Books definatly have a distinct odor. I enjoy that smell. What can I say?

  35. #35 |  Steven | 

    Some more information for those paranoid among us.

    The Kindle is a fantastic reading device.

    It can be connected to your computer as a mass storage device (aka external hard drive) with the included cable, or any USB microB cable. Books can be copied onto the device.

    The “Kindle book” format is MobiReader (.prc or .mobi) (see http://www.mobipocket.com), which has been around for a very long time. The books you buy are scrambled with a secret “password”, which can be deduced from your Kindle’s serial number. The files can be easily unscrambled to be used anywhere and backed up and read forever, no matter what happens with Amazon. The code to do so can probably be found online, I’m not going to post any links. Judging from the DeCSS debacle, I’m guessing a program is straight out, a description of the algorithms is free speech, and code is nebulous. The decryption code is interpreted by Python, and isn’t really compiled to machine code (kind of).

    The upshot of all this is that the Kindle can read any unencrypted MobiReader file. The free MobiPocket Creator program can convert almost any file to a .mobi book. That’s how I have 95% of my books, and Amazon doesn’t know a thing about them. You can also buy books in the MobiReader format from other online stores, and I believe they can all be decrypted in the same manner as Kindle books, as long as you are able to glean your “password.”

    Stop with the paranoia, buy the fantastic device, don’t buy from Amazon (or anybody) if you don’t want to. There’s plenty of Creative Commons and Public Domain text to be read.

  36. #36 |  Matt | 

    I will NEVER pay for a kindle after the 1984 incident. I’ve already seen similar crap pulled time and time again on DVRs

  37. #37 |  Joel | 

    It does sound like it would be a useful device, especially if they’d make it more robust. Seriously, who worries about crushing their laptop or calculator? Those problems, if they ever existed, were solved quite some time back.

    But until they settle the (to me, very relevant) question of exactly who owns what I just bought, and settle it to my satisfaction, I’ll continue to pass. I’ll be happy when the whole IP issue goes away, though it appears I may have to wait for centuries.

    Paper books have disadvantages, but the batteries never go dead and nobody can remotely delete my copy in a fit of pique.

  38. #38 |  Ken | 

    I previously had no interest, but if I could use a Kindle to read academic journal articles (doctoral student in marketing…the trees! the trees! they howl for my blood!) I might get interested, especially with the highlight/copy/paste features.

  39. #39 |  Angie | 

    Seems a teen has taken the 1984 issue to court – Amazon sued for wrecking teen’s Kindle work. And I know I’ve asked this elsewheres, but this kids thinks like I do, just he has the ability to do something about it – Teen whiz shakes up Apple’s world

  40. #40 |  Holmes Wilson | 

    Re: In response to Amazon’s remote deletion of 1984 and Animal Farm

    Hi there,

    Saw you’d written about the Amazon / 1984 flap, and I thought you might be
    interested in the petition we launched yesterday:

    http://defectivebydesign.org/amazon1984

    We have over 1400 signatures already, and signers include Lawrence Lessig,
    Clay Shirky, Cory Doctorow and other notable authors, librarians, and
    scholars.

    The petition opens:

    “We believe in a way of life based on the free exchange of ideas, in which
    books have and will continue to play a central role. Devices like Amazon’s
    are trying to determine how people will interact with books, but Amazon’s
    use of DRM to control and monitor users and their books constitutes a clear
    threat to the free exchange of ideas.”

    Please have a look, and if you support the cause or think it would be
    interesting to your readers, a blog post would be great!

    Thanks,

    -Holmes Wilson
    Free Software Foundation

Leave a Reply