What is Kindle, iPad, Android, and All That Jazz??

By Xah Lee. Date:

Recently, i noticed there's something called Kindle from Amazon. What's with the jazz? Another hand-held electronic gadget?

Kindle ad from Amazon
Kindle ad from Amazon

I don't think i'd be interested. If you want a small computer for reading, you can buy a small computer for reading, which lets you do a lot more things than reading. Or, you can buy one of those fancy cellphones. So, i looked up Wikipedia. Quote:

Amazon Kindle is a software and hardware platform developed by Amazon.com for the rendering and displaying of e-books and other digital media…

The Kindle hardware devices use an E Ink brand electronic paper display that features 16 shades of gray…

And what the hell is “E Ink brand of electronic paper”? Sure, i heard of electronic paper before. It's supposed to be a future tech, where, basically it's just like a paper, except the text on it can change. So, i looked up Wikipedia again. Quote:

Electronic paper, e-paper or electronic ink display is a display technology designed to mimic the appearance of ordinary ink on paper. Unlike a conventional flat panel display, which uses a backlight to illuminate its pixels, electronic paper reflects light like ordinary paper. It is capable of holding text and images indefinitely without drawing electricity, while allowing the image to be changed later.

Ah, so, that's it. The display tech is rather different from cellphones or laptops. Basically, you can read it under sunlight. You see that attractive chick comfortably sitting on a beach holding the Kindle with sunglasses and reading? Now that makes sense! (is she reading bodice-ripper?)

OK. So it basically is a gadget primarily for reading books. If you do a lot writing, chat with friends, play games, watch movies, then Kindle is not for you, but you also don't have to deal with all the computer problems. It's a simple device.

So you buy this, then you can buy digital books from Amazon. I've seen prices like 2 bucks to 9 bucks. Am pretty sure most widely circulated books, mags, come in a kindle version. (and if you are into math textbooks and computer journals, forget it. lol.)

Ok, so what's the format of the digital book? Certainly it's not plain text or some html, because that quickly gets pirated all over. Apparently, Amazon provides free software that you can download on Apple or PC or other handheld devices so that, if you bought a Kindle book, you can read them on your laptop too.

Kindle's OS is actually Linux! More juicy Wikipedia quote:

Amazon released the Kindle First Generation on November 19, 2007, and it sold out in five and a half hours. The device remained out of stock for five months until late April 2008.

The Kindle 2 features, a text-to-speech option to read the text aloud, and 2 GB of internal memory

To promote the new Kindle, author Stephen King made UR, his then-new novella, available exclusively through the Kindle Store.

Wow, amazing. So it actually quite popular. I guess your grandma simply just want to read, begone with software updates, anti-viruses shit, browser wars, incessant ads.

Specific Kindle sales numbers are not released by the company, but Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, stated in a shareholders' meeting that “millions of people now own Kindles.” According to anonymous inside sources, over three million Kindles have been sold as of December 2009, while external estimates as of Q4-2009 place the number at about 1.5 million.

Humm… i think that number is bigger than emacs. Actually, probably bigger than linuxes.

How Much?

The cheapest runs around $140, called “Kindle Wi-Fi” Buy at amazon

The middle is called “Kindle 3G + Wi-Fi”. Buy at amazon About $180.

The big bad ass runs close to $400. “Kindle DX” Buy at amazon. It's about the size of a standard US A4 paper. Kinda unwieldy.


Probably red-eyed by Kindle's success, Barnes and Noble introduced a competing ebook device: The Nook. Looks like it's also selling well.

Quite a interesting trend with these ebook devices. Of course, laptop sales has been taking over desktops since mid 2005s. iPod, iPhone, have been selling like hotcakes, and Apple changed its company name from “Apple Computer, Inc.” to just “Apple Inc.” in 2007.

iPad Says: “What About Me?”

It'll be another day to fully philosophize on Apple's latest: IPad, on the technology, the impact on economy, influence on human animal society, relation to futurism and singularity… but just a quick juicy Wikipedia quote:

Apple released the iPad in April 2010, and sold 3 million of the devices in 80 days.

humm… that's much more than Kindle. Note also the iPod, iPad, are tightly controlled by Apple:

The iPad's design imposes strict restrictions in its usage namely DRM intended to lock purchased video content to Apple's platform, the development model requiring a non-disclosure agreement and paid subscription to develop for the iPad, and the centralized approval process for apps as well as Apple's general control and lockdown of the platform itself,…

Of particular concern is the ability for Apple to remotely disable or delete apps, media, or data on the iPad at will.

Digital rights advocates, including the Free Software Foundation, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and computer engineer and activist Brewster Kahle, have criticized the iPad for its digital rights restrictions.

It turns out Apple practices heavy handed censorship. Not just about technology issues of what software technology is allowed to run, such as Adobe Flash, but actual contents from established newspapers, magazines, cartoons. See: Apple iPad and Censorship .