Amazon Kindle vs Sony Reader Bitchfight

Illustration for article titled Amazon Kindle vs Sony Reader Bitchfight

Wired has compared the features of the new Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader. They don't give a definitive verdict yet, but point out the $400 Kindle's biggest drawback: lack of "format neutrality." Labeled as a "portable DRM bookstore," the Kindle won't be able to read open formats like Acrobat PDF (unless you have a Windows PC and convert them first). We agree. You will be the judge but, while the $300 Sony Reader may not have always-on internet connectivity, looking at the specs it seems like a better option. At least on paper:

The Sony allows you to read virtually any format. It may not have the huge commercial titles selection that the Amazon gadget has, but you can read any PDF, TXT, RTF, DOCs, Blogs and RSS for free and right away. On the other side, PDF, RTF and DOCs are all out of the question with Amazon's device unless you have a Windows PC and go through the hassle of converting them for the Kindle with Mobipocket Creator. And inexplicably, you will have to pay $1 for each blog and $1 for each RSS you subscribe to. Maybe not a huge investment, but is it really necessary to pay for this when you are already getting this information in your smartphone?


The Sony also wins in one important area, which is often overlooked by most manufacturers: design. The Sony is simple, clean and looks more similar to a book. With its cheapo UMPC-like keyboard, the Kindle looks awkward. If Jeff Bezos wants this to be the iPod of books, he better hire John Ive. Amazon argues that they wanted to make it look like the Vessel of Culture, but the fact is that something doesn't have to be ugly to appear serious.

And while some will love the idea of electronic mail and web browsing on the Kindle, gadget history has taught us that frankendevices more often fail than succeed. Of course, the rules are meant to be broken—as the convergence of telephony and computing has taught us—and this could turn out to be the device that kills the pulp forever. But personally, I have a difficult time seeing this happening with this version.

If I had to choose a device I will get the Sony Reader. What about you?

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I'm not surprised the blog and RSS costs a buck each - they are not charging you for EVDO service so they have to make up data usage costs somehow.

Also don't think that the Kindle's closed nature will necessarily make it a loser - the iPod was always a more closed format than the other MP3 players, but it did better, a big reason being that the music labels bought into iTunes and only the iPod supported iTunes. That, plus Apple's big name launched the iPod into huge popularity.

In the end, it's all about CONTENT, especially when it comes to books. People already know what they want to read, so whatever e-book they choose, they expect their favorite books to be available.

But, until this thing gets a LOT cheaper, it will be a niche product. Only gadget lovers will get this now. The rest of us will wait. Especially serious book lovers, who are probably the best market for these readers, but unfortunately for Amazon, those folks are more endered to real paper books than anyone else.