back to article Kindle beats Apple's closed book on choice

Despite the fact that our gadgets increasingly multi-task as cameras, phones, email devices, and more, we continue to accumulate different devices to serve different functions. Perhaps because of this multi-device reality, those digital goods vendors who persist in seeing the world as one big Apple iOS party are likely to lose …

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FAIL

Readability

The Kindle has a nice size E-Ink screen. It's much better for book reading than the smaller, light emitting iPhone or iPod screens. An iPad has a better size, but it is still a highly reflective light emitting screen. It simply doesn't work anywhere near as well as the Kindle's screen in bright light, and studies have shown that screens like it give more eye strain than the non-emitting screen's like the Kindle's.

I have a Kindle, and find it quite readable. Much nicer for long-term use than this computer screen, for example. Also, the Kindle is quite light (weight-wise), so works nicely for holding.

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Boffin

@Chris Gray 1

What does the physical Kindle device have to do with this? As I understood it, the author was saying that owners of an iPad are more likely to buy an eBook from Amazon than from Apple.

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I don't know where all those iPads are, but i see PLENTY of

iPHONES on public transit, but at most i see 1 iPad per day on a train and almost never on a bus.) When i say PLENTY of iPHONES i am saying clusters of about 3 to 6 on any end or middle of a MUNI LRV. Whereas last year and in 2009 i observed things, i might have seen only 2 to 4 iPhones on either END of a train, and sometimes the same number on BART. Nowadays, it's either end AND the middle. On buses, I see maybe 4 or 5 max.

However, as for Kindles, I see 2-3 a day on either of those transit vehicles. As for seeing iPads in Borders before they shuttered their downtown SF locations, I would see 2 to 3 at a time starting from release date.

There are a couple of coffee shops i visit, and they are mostly or almost exclusively ithis/ithat although 20% might be generic win-based PCs and virtually NO win-based nor Android-based tablets -- yet.

Interestingly, this individual (I cannot tell if it is a man or woman, honestly) who USED to carry and dotingly use an iPad in the morning for several months and lug a laptop or book tote now only carries a reader.... Kindle, and NO lugged electronics. So, that person appears to have NOT upgraded to the iPad 1.5, er, umm, two.

At any rate, Apple execs and designers must be wetting their pant and spraining their wrists when the look at the iPhone -- and to some extent the iPad -- signal blobs on a real-time wall display. Sure, there are maybe 5x as many non-Apple phones on a transit vehicle, and a very packed train of some 200 people must have some 30 or 40 iPhones in each car, but those non-Apple phones are fragmented across different OSs and styles of phones.

iPads, however, seem to suffer from price and glare and random if not increasing new reports of thefts (at weapons-point) of Apple products in SF. One or 2 people were even home-invaded and relieved of their goods. Kindle might be less tempting a theft target, I suspect.

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Causation?

It's sometimes said that people won't pay for sync, and that they don't value choice. Kindle's ebook sales compared to Apple's iBook sales suggests otherwise. Syncing across different devices matters. Choice matters. The proof is in the sales figures.

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See this rock? It keeps away bears! Well when was the last time YOU saw a bear? The proof is in the bear attack figures.

You need to prove causation if you want to do more than suggest a link.

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Stop

Saw two actually...

....last week. Of course I live out in the woods anyway - so what's your point?

Oh, and you may want something a little more powerful than a rock if you decide to 'commune' with them. Two years ago a couple of kids were killed by a bear a few miles down the road, rocks don't work.

Just pisses them off.

On topic: What causation? Apple is locked down hardware and software - always has been (eh, the mac clones did happen for a while before Steve killed those off after his return). Who won the desktop wars? Microsoft. Why? Simply because you could install it on damn near anything x86. Same principle here. Amazon will win the ebook war over Apple because Steve hasn't learned a damn thing and his ego demands that it be done his way.

Amazon has a superior product both with the Kindle itself and their marketing that mirrors what MS did in the 80's and 90's, only seemingly without the intent to destroy somebody (Netscape, Apple,etc).

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FAIL

Again

You're just suggesting a link. The claim was that its sync and ability to use on multiple devices that pushes more kindle sales, not a larger range or any of the other advantanges that kindle has over iPhone.

If a high powered Red car, and a Cheap red car are both more popular than a green car thats expensive and underpowered, is it because red cars are superior>

If you want to prove a link, you need more than sales figures. Show me a survey of Kindle users who say that its the ability to use on multiple devices thats the key factor in buying their books, and then I'll believe it. Until then, its an unproven hypothesis.

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Mkay. Let's begin

Surveys are unscientific and can be manipulated by fanbois of any stripe to 'prove' anything they want - that would be your first argument if anyone did provide a survey so where do we go from here?

I purchased a Kindle for my wife because 1. pained me to see her reading off her BB for hours at a time. 2.The option to install Kindle software on anything I choose to (and do). 3. Amazon is more realistic on their prices and the free book selections change regularly. 4. Readability on the Kindle in bright or low light areas. 5. Competition is more expensive and/or hardware clunky.

You're being anal about the 'key factor' nonsense - it may not be The Key Factor but it's part of the equation, a very large part.

As an aside, global climate warming change is an unproven hypothesis by your definition, no surveys proving Pi = 3 by popular vote, nada.

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FAIL

@ Getter

Your last paragraph just destroyed any gain you made in the previous paragraphs. Those things can have their causation proved by scientific tests. Oh look, each time I have a circle the radius and Circumfrence remain in the same proportion.

You can say I'm being anal all I like - the author has made an assertation he claims to have proven, but hasn't.

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Is sync really the reason?

I'm curious if you have considered the fact that reading from a kindle e-ink screen is infinitely better than reading of an LCD/LED screen, regardless of the resolution.

The e-ink makes for a far superior experience than the Apple, Android or other handheld or tablet devices.

This, I think, is the crux of the 60:1 ratio cited by the author in your article.

Would like to hear your thoughts on that perspective.

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Completely agree

With both mucksie2676 and the other posters making the point that correlation is not causation and, even if it were, taking the one difference in abstract is massively overreaching.

From a completely subjective point of view, I live in London, in a typical London sized property. When I bought books, I tended to read them once or twice, maybe keep them on a shelf for a while but eventually give them away — either to a friend or via those handy Oxfam collection bins. I don't have the space to keep every book I've ever read and I don't really have the desire to. I have a bunch of reference books that I'll probably keep forever but they're in the minority.

Hence, I really don't care about portability of my e-book purchases. I have a Kindle and an iPad, and tend to buy a few books a month on the Kindle but have never bought any at all on the iPad despite downloading the iBooks app and trying the sample copy of Alice in Wonderland. I have the Kindle app for the iPad too, but doubt I've opened it more than about twice.

It's simply that the Kindle is by far the better reading device. It's a much more convenient size for public transport, you quickly forget that it's a screen you're looking at because the type looks a lot better (ie, you can't see the pixels), and the screen is visible in direct sunlight and doesn't attempt to blind me when I'm reading at night. So, it's more convenient: (i) on public transport; (ii) in the park; and (iii) in bed. Which is a clean sweep of my normal reading environments.

I guess it's nice to know that my purchases will someday be portable should a better device come along, but as I've yet to read any of them more than once I'm not really that bothered. It's actually much more bothersome that I can't pass them on having now finished with them.

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60:1

I know about 5 people with a kindle and another 5 that read kindle books on their android or PC. I think the fact that amazon has two markets where as apple has access to one also explains the trend.

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Happy

Kindle kicks ass for ebook

I love my Kindle, for reading ebooks nothing comes close and I wouldn't consider buying an ebook for a different device. The fact it syncs and if I get caught out and about with a few minutes to kill with just my phone I can keep reading on that is an added bonus, but even without that I would still be Kindle all the way.

It's small, its cheap, no-one thinks you are a wanker for having it out in public and you are unlikely to get mugged for it. Little wonder they sell like hot cakes.

Stands to reason that if you can sell ebook readers by the bucket load you will also sell ebooks by the bucket load.

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Anonymous Coward

Doubt it's choice

I really doubt it has much to do with choice.

Sure if Amazon let Apple sell their iBooks on the Kindle maybe it would help, but in most people's minds Amazon = books and that's where they go.

They even promote them alongside the physical ones, something Apple can't do.

I have an iPad and have tried the ibooks app, but couldn't find any of the books I wanted. That's also not helping. Of course since then I've hardly used that app anymore and just go to Amazon.

Same thing with iTunes and Amazon MP3s.. Guess which one is more successful? (hint: it's not the one which gives you more choice)

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What?

Kindle books available everywhere? You mean 'everywhere' that has a Kindle DRM-encumbered app, perhaps? The Kindle format is a closed, DRM-encumbered format that doesn't (AFAIK) work on any other dedicated ebook reader.

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The wombat is required, and must contain insects and/or plants.

You can have an e ink ebook reader use amazon files it is not allowed to use the ADEPT stuff at the same time. The hanlin readers have several different firmwares that can handle all sorts of stuff but you have to re flash the firmware to change.

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Pint

Exactly what I was going to say

Matt Asay's comments on Apple are fair enough, but to hold Amazon up as the shining example of an "open" alternative is just sloppy. What's the point of allowing people to read their "Kindle(TM) Editions" on other devices if they can't even buy them in the first place without having a Kindle registered to their Amazon account? Also, if you look at the discounts Amazon offers on Kindle editions, it's pretty clear they are shredding the publishers and authors for every penny.

Amazon should be applauded for raising the popularity of eBooks and readers, and bringing some serious competition to the reader market with their heavily subsidised hardware, but nobody - least of all El reg - should be giving any false impressions about the Kindle system's "openness".

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Re: What?

True, but Kindle owners would hardly feel pressed to buy another ebook reader. The "choice", as pointed out, stands for other classes of devices, meaning your PC, your tablet-smartphone and your Mac.

DRM might be a hassle, but since there are applications which allow you to read the protected books on other non-ereader equipment, you certainly have some choice. Just the ereader has to be courtesy of Amazon, and Kindle is incidentally one of the best ones on offer, especially with the free worldwide 3G package.

While I'm not very happy with Kindle's obstruction of DRM EPub, especially in light of possible library loans, I do understand Amazon's wish to protect its market share. Besides, publishers do not seem too eager to allow electronic library loans any time soon.

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Happy

"Everywhere"

'Everywhere' as in Windows, GNU/Linux, Mac OSX, iOS, Blackberry, Android and Windows Phone 7. I don't see why they would support their direct competitors in the dedicated eBook reader market, though. Besides, you're free to use DRM-free books that work on just about any hardware if you're that bothered by it.

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@Jeff 11

From Amazon's perspective availability of .azw on other physical ebooks is a non-issue. It might piss YOU off as a user of one of those devices, but the game has already moved on; the Kindle reader is kicking every physical ebook's arse, and Amazon have wisely realised that the game isn't going to be in that market anyway, which is why they've launched apps. I have an ereader that can read amazon files and epub and every other file you care to throw at it; its called a smartphone.

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Syncing?

Or the fact the range is so much better from Amazon. Most likely a combination of the two but I think the range is the most important factor. Why? Because most people will only have the one device and the syncing problem is, sadly , for most people "abstract". The range of available books is a more immediately apparent problem though.

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Almost agree

I almost agree with you, I don't want Apple any of the time (happy N900 user), I have however purchased an Android tablet for those times when my N900's screen space just doesn't quite cut it for me, although odds are my niece will use it more than me.

I also have a camera for taking good photos (and my N900 for quick photos), I'll use the Android as a book reader though (screen space) and purchase consoles (although the N900 can emulate a PS1 oddly) for games.

I think the point is, having one item to do many things makes that object master of none, it can be decent at everything but it can't do everything you want it to do, so you find stuff which fills the gaps in your requirements with devices that can fulfil the purpose at hand. For me, that was reading ebooks (maybe should have gone Kindle, but I'll use the Android for other things).

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Kindle reader

"On their Android device. On their iOS device. Even on their PC."

How many Kindle users are actually reading on multiple devices though? The Kindle reader device itself is far and away the most popular e-book platform. People simply don't want to read novels on their smartphones. Lighting the screen all day will quickly drain the battery on an iPhone and there are too many distractions - another round of Angry Birds, or a quick browse through status updates on Twitface. The Kindle's advantage is the absence of distractions or interruptions. It does one job and it does it very well (and at a great price).

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I'm a data point

"How many Kindle users are actually reading on multiple devices though?"

1 here, if my kindle isn't with me, I'll continue reading on my Nexus One when commuting. Sync is very useful when the older eBooks don't have page numbers (caveat being I have leave wifi on, on the kindle and have data reception from voda - which isn't a given)

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Umm .. me

I have an iPhone. I use the Kindle app on IOS and on PC. Sometimes I read on my phone (battery is adequate for the 2x40 minute train rides). Sometimes on my netbook.

Going for the Kindle app was a deliberate choice. I read about 3 books a month. Over a year that is a lot of money. If next year I go for an Android phone or I but an android tablet I don't want to have to throw all that money away. With the Kindle app I wouldn't have to. With Apple's ebook I would.

My other big regular purchase is music but at least that is no longer DRM.

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Could have been my post

Probably >95% of the time I'm reading books on my actual Kindle - but I have the app on my PCs and Nexus. Is very nice, when you're at a loose end, just to be able to pick up where you left off for the odd 10 mins.

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Jobs Halo

Disingenuous, to say the least...

The reality is more complex than the author cares to admit.

Kindle purchases will only work on kindle apps, albeit on different platforms, and those kindle apps will not display DRM-free epubs. That is a very real attempt at a lock-down.

Non-DRM epubs, and there are increasing numbers of smaller publishing houses that are selling them, will work in many applications on many platforms, including iBooks on iOS.

My reader of choice, by a long chalk, is iBooks on the iPad but I won't buy books from there until Steve persuades the publishers that DRM-free is the way to go, as he did with music.

Until then, I'll frequent the smaller publishers. For example, Lightspeed Magazine has supplanted Analog as my regular SF quick-fix and, when I really need a mainstream title, I buy from amazon, strip the DRM and read it in iBooks.

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Stop

(untitled)

"Kindle purchases will only work on kindle apps, albeit on different platforms, and those kindle apps will not display DRM-free epubs"

Technically a true statement, but still somewhat misleading. Kindle apps will not display DRM-free EPUBs because they are a viewer for a different format. They will happily display DRM-free Mobipocket books.

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ePub

Yes, and those non-DRM ePubs can be easily converted to a kindle-compatible format (.mobi) using free software.

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Confused by your argument

Yes, Kindle purchases only work on Kindle apps. I can see that.

But Kindle apps don't read non-DRM files? Where do you get that idea?. The most popular Kindle app is the one on the Kindle device. My Kindle is full of DRM free stuff - (it also displays PDF's) I have no problem reading any stuff, and if the book I want isn't in the right format, Calibre will convert it automatically for me. All without DRM, and all work fine on the Kindle.

As for Kindle apps on other devices, whuh? If they don't display the format of your choice, there are apps out there that do. Not sure where the lock down is, except for DRM stuff, which is sort of how business works. Point being, there is a Kindle app for most devices, so you are not limited in where you can read with DRM, and there are apps that read any other format you may want to have.

The eInk screen advantages over LCD or similar are covered above, so won't go in to that.

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drm free epub not an issue

Who cares if the kindle doesnt support drm free epubs. Just run it through Calibre and convert it to .mobi.

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kindle apps will not display DRM-free epubs....

but free apps like Calibre will translate any DRM free format (including epub) into mobi, which is supported by kindle.

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Aldiko

epubs on Android with aldiko, Kindle books can be easily unskindled to allow reading on non kindle apps.

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Not Just Kindle

I have the Sony Pocket Edition, didn't want WiFi, didn't want 3g, I buy my books from many places depending on price. I use Calibre on my desktop to sync to the Sony, my Desire, and N900. I don't use Kindle software other than for downloading books I buy from Amazon, on the Desire I use Aldiko and on the N900 I use Dorian.

Unfortunately the ebook market is screwed thanks to his Jobsness, forcing publishers to go down the agency route so he can be sure of his 30% take, essentially fixing prices for all users of ereaders. I hope the enquiry into ebook pricing gives the publishers and Apple a kicking, Until that ends I'll stick with sites such as Smashwords and feedbooks.

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Coat

LED

Reading on iPad in the dark is like having 5 flashlights pointed in your face.

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Kindle user here

If you have a DRM free ePub book then there are simple tools out there for a convert to Mobi pocket and then you can read it on you Kindle HW.

I read the same books on 3 devices, my Kindle HW (long sessions), my Laptop (Lunchtime at work) and my Blackberry (Sitting in a shop waiting for food or the wife clothes shopping). The page sync feature is great and I would hate to not have it available. Turn on the WiFi on the Kindle when I pick it up for 2 mins and again just before I finish reading and I am up to date everywhere with no real impact on battery life.

Would not trade the Kindle platform for anything.

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An title

To describe Amazon's Kindle platform as open is disingenuous.

(I have a kindle - I love it)

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endgame

I don't know how the endgame will play out, but 60:1 doesn't actually mean much. Amazon set out right at the start of dot com to be the world's biggest book retailer, and for buying a book they of course offer the best experience. I suspect that in dollar value, the physical book:ebook ratio is also not much closer than 60:1.

Amazon cross-subsidizes and sells ebooks below cost; Apple doesn't. Amazon wants to be a content distribution near-monopoly, Apple doesn't; Apple is a platform company, Amazon isn't. Amazon wants to distribute on every available platform. Apple doesn't distribute on other platforms, but wants to define a user experience on their own platform with which other content distributors must compete. Apple's ibook store is a service publishers can use or not, but Amazon is company book publishers cannot currently live without.

IOS device users are far more numerous than Kindle device users, and spend far more on content than the average Android device user. I suspect IOS provides Amazon with more than 50% of Amazon's entire Kindle ebook sales.

Amazon has never disclosed how many Kindle devices have been sold, or what is the breakdown of Kindle ebook sales by platform. They can't be that proud of these data.

The print publishing business is burying its head in the sand over book downloads and very likely Amazon will take control, just as Apple did with the music business.

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Happy

Wouldnt buy an eBook device

I have a Galaxy S and contrary to what others have written it works perfectly well as a reader . I can read an entire book without flattening the battery . Works great in bright light and what eye strain ? Set it to night mode , black screen/white text and its all good . I use Aldiko as my reader app and run my books through Calibre eBook Manager on the pc which rapidly converts format to format which means I can get ebooks anywhere and use them regardless of format . As for drm worries just strip it out if it bothers you .

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Pint

Glaring assumption

The author seems to just assume that it's to do with syncing et al., that Kindle ebook sales outstrip Apple's. I find it far, far more likely that it is because the Kindle not only wipes the floor with the iPad for reading books on, but goes so far as to scrub the walls, ceiling, down the halls and out of the front door. There's no way I would want to spend extended periods reading a book on the iPad (assuming the battery life could manage that). The Kindle - certainly!

A beer for Amazon - top notch customer service and a great device.

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DRM

Much as I like the device, I'm loath to start buying Kindle books, for much the same reason that I never bought anything from iTunes while there was DRM - I'm happy to carry on buying Apple's shiny devices, but I don't want to be locked into them.

('Apps' are a different matter, in that platform is still materially important).

Interesting patent the other week on combining e-ink and LCD into a single layered display, which could answer a lot of technical reasons for keeping your ereader and tablet separate.

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FAIL

Outrageous Price!

I looked at some titles on the iBooks store but was turned off by the outrageous prices the publishing houses are forcing Apple (and I imagine others) to charge.

Take away the cost of printing, storage and distribution of a physical book and the price should be significantly lower for an ebook.

Sometimes I'm faced with the same choice when buying a music album.

For an extra couple of bucks, I'll just go to my local book store until they get real on the price.

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cost of printing

This has been a topic of discussion before. I think that the costs associated with printing account for about 10% of the total cost of producing the book.

Yes, I was a bit surprised by that as well

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Headmaster

Choice...

...something which Apple will never understand that consumers want. Choice and flexibility.

At least Amazon have ensured that their proprietary, DRM "encumbered" (PAH) platform is as widely available as possible. I have no issue whatever with copyright holders protecting their IP and ensuring that payment is received prior to consumption... but Apple's approach is STILL one of forcing you to buy their product as well if you wish to use a particular Apple service. Amazon have taken a much more consumer friendly approach to their "lock down".

Regarding eBooks I'm in agreement with the masses above; the picture is far more complex than your article would suggest. The Kindle's display is why I read books on my Kindle as opposed to my phone (regardless of delivery platform)... I almost NEVER use the Kindle app on my iPad/iPhone/Android/PC - I just pick up my Kindle.

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Thumb Up

Multiple Devices

I've just been using Kindle's multi device capability.

1. An actual Kindle - brilliant for outside or at least where is reasonably well lit

2. Archos 101 Android 10" Netpad: V Good for armchair use, but alot heavier

3. HTC Hero Android phone: Great for when I'm travelling really light

What I really like is that all the platforms even remember what page I was on!

By the way, yes Amazon uses DRM, but in fact you can read non DRM books as well. Using Calibre (Win, Lin + Mac) you can also easily convert / sync.

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Silver badge

In which part of the world?

The Kindle is limited to the US and the UK. And, as Amazon reserves the right to delete content from a device without the user's consent, the claim of it being more open and free than Apple is rubbish. Making their software available on other platforms is exactly the same kind of gatekeeping that Apple does with itunes.

Price is certainly a factor with Amazon already able to able to sell the Kindle at a loss in the knowledge that it will make money on future book sales. Also, as has been noted by others e-ink is a better reading experience in bright light. Not sure whether it matters for others but a sense both of robustness and replaceability for a device designed to be used outside is important to me. I also do think nerds with shiny shinies are more likely to get into conversations with envious knuckle-draggers as the things are so easy to nick.

I'm currently happy with my Sony reader although I would prefer a larger screen. The PDF reflow is fantastic and it has just enough "touch" control to be useful.

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Stop

Limited to US/UK?

I must have imagined that I just received one in France this morning, then.

You can only *buy* from the UK or US site, but you can have it delivered anywhere...

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@Uncle Slacky

Unfortunately that will be where your problems start. Thanks to the ridiculous rights landscape, if I buy a US edition Kindle, I can't put US edition books on it without a US credit card.

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FAIL

Wrong end of the stick

I have a Kindle and several Apple devices. The Kindle is by far the best device for reading text. It is the quality and readability of the screen that decides which device is used as it's the users experience that counts. The fact that I can read the books on multiple devices is a nice to have but not a compelling feature as I use the Kindle for about 95% of the time to read the documents.

I think if tablet makers can use an e-ink type of colour screen then they will displace dedicated e-book readers but until that time, e-book readers will continue to be around.

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Silver badge

Well, I don't have any DRM books

For the same reason I don't have any DRM music; I rip music from CDs I've bought and I scan and OCR books from books I own. Epub for the Sony Pocket (PRS-300) has a perfectly good display, thank you, recharges once a month, and holds five hundred books.

While I have the choice I will not download either music or books.

To be honest it wouldn't even occur to me to read a book on the computer (except for proof-reading and preparation) or on an ipad or similar (even if I owned one).

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I don't care about the cross platform malarkey

And none of my kindle owning friends or family bother with it either. I realise this is purely anecdotal, but the reason I use my kindle to buy and read books is because it's perfect for that role. It's 3rd gen and I honestly can't see many ways they could improve it for the role of displaying and purchasing ebooks and newspapers.

I'm a little confused by the DRM "lock in" and encumbering comments though, it's not like you can only read DRMed books on the kindle, it reads open MOBI format files happily as my mass plunder of Gutenberg shows.

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