What the iPod Nano is to music, the Kindle is to reading.
It’s been almost three years since Amazon introduced the Kindle, a groundbreaking electronic reader that — just as the name promised — ignited the long smouldering e-reading revolution. Way back then, I wrote a blog post for Businessweek predicting that the Kindle would be the iPod of books. Today comes confirmation from a top-drawer Apple and iPod authority, Daringfireball’s John Gruber.
I’m not posting to gloat but rather to put the focus on Gruber’s tweak to the analogy. Kindle 3’s not just analogous to the iPod but to the iPod Nano.
To me, both devices share some of the same strengths and weaknesses. Most notably, both have an excellent focus on doing one thing perfectly (music playing/reading) while doing other things poorly or not at all. There’s also the attractively low price point and the trade-off of small size forcing less-than-great controls.
The Kindle 3 is all about reading and acquiring books. It’s smaller and lighter than the prior models (and competitors) with better screen contrast and faster page turns. It’s easy to hold and operate with one hand, it’s easy to read in direct sunlight and it’s easy to purchase and download new ebooks on the go.
As far as weaknesses, there aren’t a million apps, web browsing is text only and there’s not much more to say. The controls are good but not great. I was a fan of the huge page turn buttons on the original Kindle and since then the buttons have steadily become less great. On Kindle 3, the buttons are too small and don’t have enough feedback or clicky-ness to help you know when your push has registered. At least there’s a page forward and a page back button on both sides of the Kindle, a key omission in round 2 for lefties like my wife.
Although some anti-Kindlistas used to claim Amazon would never sell enough ereaders to cut prices, that argument never made any sense and we’re fast approaching the killer price point of all time: $99. In less than three years, the Kindle price has dropped from $399 to $189 including lifetime free mobile wireless service and the new wifi-only version is all the way down to $139.
And maybe that’s the most like a Nano. It’s pretty easy to justify a purchase, even an impulse purchase, of a $100 or so gadget you’re going to use day in and day out for a couple of years.