Color me entirely underwhelmed by Amazon’s Kindle. For one thing, the thing is fugly. Wickit fugly, as we say in New England. The thing looks like it was designed by the people who did my thermostat. A tricorder looks more modern. So for four hundred dollars, I get a basically single purpose machine. I can pay more money to get DRM’d content onto this machine (It’ll hold 2 grand worth of ebooks!,) or I can jump through hoops to get my own content onto it, including paying yet more money (“conversion fees”) to get the most widely available eBook format (PDF) onto it. Plus did I mention it’s really ugly? I happened to run across my old Sony Magic Link yesterday while doing some cleaning, and it’s much more attractive than the Kindle.

But wait! you say. It’s got an always-on network connection, via EVDO. Yes, an always-on connection to But, you say, it will vastly expand the act of reading. It will finally provide the rich information contexts that that poor old slob the printed codex book has lacked on its dance card for centuries. So even better – I can take one of the few activities – book reading – where I can hear myself think without having to incorporate the contributions of the Teeming Millions, and now i can see what other people thought of the book? I want to see what I think of the book.

So, this is sort of like an always-on iPod with no iTunes that only connects to Apple with really tight DRM on the content you buy for it.

Hey – it’s the Zune for books!

Sorry, but I remain skeptical. You can spend the same amount on the OLPC Give One Get One program, get a much more versatile machine that’d make a terrific eBook reader, and do some good in the world.

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