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Kindle Killer! (What?)

In case you haven’t heard, Amazon released an e-book reader called the Kindle back in 2007. The device is on its second generation now, and includes 3g internet access for free in most of the world. When the iPad was announced, certain news sources dubbed it the “Kindle Killer.”

As an Creative Writing major, I can see why they did it. “Kindle Killer” has a certain cacophonic, alliterative quality to it – a rhetorical technique that is nearly guaranteed to add drama to an otherwise boring and possibly speculative tech story. (Hey, you clicked on this story, didn’t you?) Once you cut out rhetorical technique and technical jargon, the argument looks something like this:

  1. Amazon made an e-book reader.
  2. E-book readers are flat.
  3. Apple made a device that is also flat. (NB: This point justifies comparing them in the first place.)
  4. Apple’s device does much more than *just* read books.
  5. Apple’s device is really shiny and, of course, made by Apple.
  6. Therefore, no one will buy Amazon’s E-book reader after the Apple product is released.

The people who make this argument generally forget one thing:

  1. Amazon is, primarily, a bookstore.

Amazon sells books. Now, it’s true that Apple wants to sell books too, but it’s not exactly their core market. Apple sells books so you can read them on your iPad, Amazon sells Kindles so you can read their books on them. How did Amazon respond to the release of the iPad?

Simple. They released a Kindle for iPad app.

Now the iPad is a Kindle (sort of) and you can buy your books from Amazon and read them on a reader from Apple. Even better, if you get tired of the iPad and decide to switch to some other device, say, a Blackberry phone, a Windows-based tablet computer or even an Amazon Kindle, you can take your Kindle books with you to that device. This is a little bit different from what happens when you try to take content you bought from Apple to another platform.

Just for fun, lets pretend you had 500 bucks to spend and wanted to play games, listen to music, watch movies, do basic word processing, and maybe read a book or two. If that’s you, buy the iPad. Its powerful, fun, and has a gorgeous, full-color display.

But what if you had $500 to spend and wanted to read a book on a device that is amazingly lightweight, completely readable in direct sunlight, capable of going a week without recharging, and can go online anywhere in the world without reliance on Wi-Fi? In that case, buy a Kindle and find something else to do with the other 230 dollars. Books, maybe?

iPads are really, really cool, but the Kindle is a superior digital reading device. No contest.

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