e-readers, e-readers, e-readers…

Yup. They are the Craze du Jour. What’s worrying everyone, of course, is that Apple is getting ready to do to the Amazon Kindle what it’s done to Nokia smartphones. GMSV has a nice round-up.

Amazon knows that competition in the developing e-reader market is going to get considerably stiffer in the near future, so it’s doing what it can to grab share while the grabbing’s good. Today the company announced it was lopping another $40 off the price of its Kindle, bringing it down to $259 in the U.S. The geographic distinction is needed because Amazon also announced it would start selling an international version of the gadget, equipped to use the global network of AT&T and its roaming partners, in more than 100 countries (though still not Canada) at a price of $279.

International customers, however, will have to factor in some additional expenses. Different countries will impose various duty charges and value-added taxes on the hardware for starters. Downloading books and periodicals in the U.S. comes for free via Whispernet across Sprint’s EVDO network, but will cost $1.99 abroad. Taking delivery of periodical subscriptions will cost an extra $4.99 a week internationally. And users overseas will pay 99 cents a megabyte to transfer personal documents to their Kindle. Still, the expansion should give a nice boost to the Kindle’s sales figures (whatever they may be; Amazon will say only that the Kindle is its “most wished for, most gifted, and No. 1 bestselling product”).

Kindle 2 Usability Review

Jakob Nielsen likes the new Kindle.

The new version of Kindle, Amazon.com’s dedicated e-book device, recently shipped with an improved display and various other upgrades. It now provides good usability for reading linear fiction (mainly novels), though it’s less usable for other reading tasks.

As an experiment, I bought two copies of the same book: a trade paperback and a Kindle download. Alternating for each chapter, I read half the book in print and half on the Kindle screen. My reading speed was exactly the same (less than 0.5% difference), measured in words per minute.

Of course, one person reading one book is not a proper measurement study. So I can’t say for sure that Kindle has finally reached the nirvana of equal readability for screens and paper. But it did feel that way.

When I was carrying Kindle through the house, I felt like a Star Trek character with a datapad. But when I actually sat down to read the novel, I became so engrossed in the story that I forgot I was reading from an electronic device. This fact alone is high praise for the device designers…