Kindling This Blog

The main post on techmeme for the past 24 hours is the news that Amazon has a new ebook reader called Kindle. I was going to completely ignore this meme. eBook readers are stupid. The iPhone and Blackberry and services like DailyLit that deliver books via email and RSS to any device are the way to go.

But then this morning I saw this twitter post by Hugh:

      $0.99 for a month subscription to a blog on an Amazon Kindle. Losers. Assholes.

And it reminded me of an email conversation I had early this year, in February. It started with this email:

FM recently signed a deal with a large e-commerce company (one you’ve definitely heard of) that is planning to launch a portable eBook reader & content service in the next few months. This company has designed the device to offer great screen readability, to be lightweight and to have a long battery life — in part because the company hopes it will be used for reading online content. The e-commerce company has asked us to see if you are interested in providing your site’s RSS content for distribution on the eBook reader in exchange for a revenue share.

If you’re interested in hearing more about this and agree to be bound by the non-disclosure agreement that FM has already signed, which would prevent you from blogging about the device until news about it is officially released, drop me an e-mail and we can tell you more. We can also arrange for you to talk to the e-commerce company about the device, and coordinate your getting an in-person demonstration in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco or at CES in Las Vegas.

I replied:

But I won’t charge for the feed
They can have it for free
Let me know what I need to do

The reply came back:

It seems like the company is planning to charge the reader for the subscription whether you charge them or not, because, in part, they have to cover the costs of distributing the content wirelessly. Are you cool with them charging enough to just cover their costs?   In other words, is your desire to have your readers be able to subscribe for free… or are you just offering it for free because you don’t care about the dough yourself?

To which I replied:

Ideally I’d like my content to be free for everyone

I don’t need the money and want my feed to be as broadly available as possible

So I don’t want to charge anyone for it

If they feel the need to charge, so be it. Maybe they can charge a little bit less 😉

The next thing I got back was a contract, which I think I ignored but honestly I can’t be sure. There are no other emails to jog my memory.

So you probably can’t get this blog on the Kindle. But it’s easily readable on an iPhone or a Blackberry and that’s where mobile content is headed, not to some big, heavy, proprietary device that charges to subscribe to content. Losers is right Hugh.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Hank Williams

    I think you are off the mark here.I know I will *never* read a book off my phone – based on current technology. Reason? It is too hard on the eyes, and it doesnt phyiscally feel right.phones that want to show video and other stuff will never use eInk, which is what makes an ebook possible, because the refresh rate is *way* too slow.I have not tried the product, but it sounds like it solves the type of objections I would have, particularly if they carry the kind of geeky tech books I tend to read.But what I find fascinating is that so many tech folks are opining on a user experience that is clearly different, that they have not actually experienced. It is, of course, your right, but I am reminded of the drubbing that the iPod took in the tech community when it was announced, because it wasnt “up to snuff” spec wise and was too expensive.Perhaps you will be right when we have another advance in screen and battery technology that makes a phone and an ebook be possible in one device. But for now they really have very different design criteria, and cannot peacefully coexist.

  2. thomasl824

    I don’t see myself curling up with my Blackberry to read On The Road. Bezos’s point about comfort level is valid. Free is right but maybe there is another route.

    1. fredwilson

      How about the iphone?

      1. thomasl824

        I don’t know Fred. I’m looking at it as someone who loves to read and be transported away by the experience. I gonna have to see one before I know for sure.

        1. fredwilson

          You are right that I haven’t seen it touched it used it but any device maker that tries to bundle paid content is a non starter for meI have wasted more time battling the way apple/ipod tries to force me to use their drm’d contentI want an unlocked device that I can connect to any network I choose and put any content on it I wantFred

  3. cortland

    While I agree with Fred’s philosophy of freeing up content/platforms/etc., I think to wave off the Kindle or ebook readers as “stupid” is a case of tunnel vision. Reading a book on a BlackBerry or iPhone is OK for the Introduction, but if I bring either of these devices to the beach with me and want to read a few books over the course of a few hours, then I’m going to be sorely disappointed. If I’m lucky enough to have the battery last that long, the actual experience of hunkering down with a handheld to read at the beach will make me (and nearly anyone else) want to throw the device into the ocean.For people who read dozens of books per year, the Kindle is a dream. For people who read blogs and newspapers on the web, the Kindle is useless.Yes, charging for blogs is about as lame as it gets. Yes, the device appears to be, well, aesthetically challenged. Yes, the DRM books and lack of PDF support are annoying. But, the idea of being able to carry 200 books and a stack of newspapers to lunch, on vacation or even just into the backyard is awesome.This is simply not possible with any other device. That’s why the Kindle is a winner, at least with folks who still buy and read books on a regular basis.

  4. Bob Warfield

    I can’t understand the non-stop preference to read books on iPhone over Kindle. Screen size alone sours me on the idea. I love the iPhone, and it needs to be as small as it is so I can stick it in my pocket. Nevertheless, it stills requires a bunch of finger pinching around to really read a web page. I can’t imagine enjoying a paperback novel on an iPhone, but I have no trouble seeing it on a Kindle.Incidentally, apparently you can read this blog on a Kindle (it has a web browser), and those who have them don’t see it as big or heavy. Some have remarked that it is a lot lighter than it looks like it would be.Now we see why UI designers have a tough job. You can talk about UI all you want, but until you can try it, people don’t get it.More on my blog:http://smoothspan.wordpress…Cheers,BW

  5. Brian Breslin

    Fred. They have to charge, since blogs will eat up a large percentage of their data deal with Sprint for EVDO service.Not sure why they didn’t include wifi in it though. that would have added maybe $15 to their cost.But in respect to charging for blogs, if it can make the blogger money (which they lose out on by not being able to show ads), then why not? Although federated is probably taking their cut along the way there too…The price on this device will drop substantially i am guessing in the next 12 months. ($299, then 250, then settling in at $199). But its the fact that you could get tech books, and have them auto-update to new editions which intrigues me. Although I will likely miss being able to use a highlighter or write on the pages.

    1. markslater

      isn’t that the point. the consumer does not want to be incumbered with this. this therefore should be disqualified as part of their model. The opposite has happened where they are attempting to impose something on the consumer he or she does not want. that is a model destined for failure. the notion that they HAVE TOO to cover their EVDO costs is flawed.

  6. Farhan Lalji

    I’m sure someone will develop a much better reading experience for the iPhone when the SDK comes out. If not Apple themselves, then ebooks on iTunes as well, look out Amazon.Surely one device that browses blogs – for free – and allow’s you to read ebooks if you so wish, plus make calls would be a better device and experience then the Kindle. Especially as it’s Apple and they have a history of great experiences on devices.

  7. Nate

    Any device that charges you for things that are normally free or that you already own is a non starter.Imagine if the iPod charged you .10 cents every time you uploaded one of your own MP3s to it.Also, who designed that thing? Fugly.

    1. Jeremyx

      Everyone here has posted on a connection from an ISP that they, (or someone else), pays for. The cost to get blogs is to use EVDO without getting a contract. You’re paying for the connection, not the content – just like you are now

    2. Personal Ensign

      “Any device that charges you for things that are normally free or that you already own is a non starter.”So I guess the iPod/iPhone that charges $1.99 for “The Office” or “Gray’s Anatomy” even though it’s free over the air is also a “no starter”, right? LMAOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

      1. fredwilson

        Its a non starter for meI would never buy content exclusively for my ipodfred

        1. Dan Buell

          When I buy book content, unfortunately I usually buy it for my bookshelf. I swear, I have so many unread or partially read novels and I would like to look at them more during down times at airports, while the kids are playing on the toys at McDonalds or wherever so I am intrigued by the capability to pull out one device and have multiple books contained within. It’s a big investment really though, roughly 28 books worth. My biggest problem with the device is how ugly it is. White plastic is going to stain badly and look really worn pretty quickly as it is transported about…

  8. Steven Livingstone

    “eBook readers are stupid”I once questioned the iPod – i mean we all have MP3 players in our phones. But people seem to like them (i don’t have one).

  9. Tom Evslin

    Fred:I DID sign the contract so Fractals of Change is available on Kindle for $.99 (as well as for $4.76 but that’s another story). Because Amazon charges for the content the connectivity is free (after you but the $400 device) – not just for downloading the content you paid for but for unlimited (altho slightly crippled) web browsing. Usually you pay for the connectivity and get the content free so more choices is good, I think.Posted my impressions of Kindle proposition

  10. Peter Kafka

    easy solution to the cost issue – limit the browser’s ability so that it can only access AMZN-approved content. What none of us have mentioned yet, btw, is that Amazon also wants to charge me $15 a month to read the NYT, and separate charges for other papers. Obviously that’s a non-starter as well. Seems like they really don’t want you to use the free wireless to do anything but buy Amazon titles. But if they limit your access to that, and a smallish universe of other pubs, then their bandwith costs have to be fairly limited, no?And remember, they’re asking me to buy this thing – and charging $100 more than Sony’s reader. Their wireless costs aren’t my problem.

  11. JimB

    FredSony has had an eReader on the market for over a year now with a supporting online ebook service at Sony Connect ( Its a nascent market but there is plenty of demand.

  12. jeffychang

    Damn Fred, you got straight capped by your readers. You love that ish though, which is also tight.

    1. fredwilson

      Tight. I like that phraseGoing to use it myselfJust shows that calling something stupid is stupidFred

  13. Dan Entin

    Fred – when you say your blog is easily readable on a BlackBerry do you mean via an RSS reader? Your blog is pretty painful to read in the BlackBerry browser (as is mine). One of my biggest complaints about Six Apart and Typepad is their lack of a mobile *browsing* solution. They have some downloadable apps and mobile sites for posting blog entries but unlike WordPress they have no solution for making their blogs readable on mobile devices.

    1. fredwilson

      My blog is programmed to recognize mobile browsers and render the center column first. If its not doing that on your bberry, please let me knowFred

  14. Leela

    Why would I buy ANOTHER gadget? I already have an Ipod … two phones … a computer. As a small business person I have to lug these around everywhere I go. Frankly, my Ipod touch allows me to follow my blogs and news feeds via wi fi. I’ll download ebooks and print them off, normally.People have tried this Ebook reader thing already. But the way forward (as we’re seeing with phones and Ipods) is increasing the functionality of small gadgets so people have to carry less … not building new ones so we have to carry more.

  15. Peter Renshaw

    “… It seems like the company is planning to charge the reader for the subscription whether you charge them or not, because, in part, they have to cover the costs of distributing the content wirelessly … “to which you replied:”… Ideally I’d like my content to be free for everyone. I don’t need the money and want my feed to be as broadly available as possible. So I don’t want to charge anyone for it …”Which shows you get it. Middle men want this market. Long live the open web.

    1. fredwilson