Three Reasons Why You Probably Shouldn’t Buy A Kindle (Or Other Dedicated e-Reader)

by Randy Murray on March 25, 2010

Yesterday I laid out Three Temporary Advantages of Dedicated e-Readers. Today let’s talk about the Kindle’s disadvantages and why it might be a better idea to purchase the iPad.

  1. Amazon is not a computer hardware company. Amazon wants to sell books and other goods. They see the Kindle as a means to an end. The cannot put the necessary research and development into the device to keep significantly improving it without losing focus on their core business of selling other “stuff”. I think it will be very difficult for them to maintain focus on this device over time, especially in the face of mounting and superior competition.
  2. Amazon’s e-book format is proprietary. A book you buy from Amazon will only work on the Kindle or inside Kindle software for other devices. You stand a significant risk of losing access to your purchases because of their Digital Rights Management (DRM). While other devices use DRM and proprietary formats as well, the EPUP format appears to be closer universal support, like the MP3 audio format is to music players. While publishers require DRM at this stage, a more universal format is always more desirable.
  3. The device is a “single-tasker”. I’ll bow to my hero, Alton Brown on this: “no single-taskers allowed.”  Alton’s talking about kitchen gadgets, but it’s good advice with wider applications. Why would you buy a device that can only do one thing well when another device, for about the same price, can do that thing as well or better AND many other things as well?

And the biggest reason: Apple is almost certain to dominate the market.  Although you may debate this, consider for a moment what the implications of this are. First, if Apple dominates the e-Reader space, even though the iPad is not strictly an eReader, then Amazon may discontinue the Kindle. If they do, all of the books you purchase in the Kindle format may be lost – unless they maintain a Kindle app for the iPad.

The Kindle served its purpose. It’s brought attention to the potential of electronic books and established that consumers are interested. But in the scope of the full market, the Kindle is only a minor player with a very small installed base. If you don’t already have one, I’d recommend not buying in at this point.

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