Kindle and O'Reilly

The Amazon Kindle is very interesting to me. I'm probably not a big enough reader to have one for home, but I would like one for work. Having technical documentation on a nice eBook reader is attractive to me for many reasons.

  • Portable, flowing screen. In other words, I can stick it on my desk wherever I need it to be, just like I do with a reference book, but without needing a stapler to hold the pages down. Sure, I could have another monitor just for reference text, but I don't always need reference text at a quick glance and there are just interactions with book-like info that you can't do easily with a monitor. You can't easily hold your finger on an API reference that you want to refer back to. You can't lay handwritten notes right up next to things on a page. You can't take that screen with you to the couch, on the bus, or the bathroom for that matter.

  • Space - I don't know about you, but my cube is small and packed. 20 linear feet of books doesn't help things.

  • Searching - How's that go? You can't grep dead trees. Exactly.

  • Available offline - Accessing documentation online is great until your connection goes down or their connection goes down.

I'm a big O'Reilly fan. The picture to the right is the portion of my personal collection that isn't currently at work. The problem is that O'Reilly content isn't directly available on the Kindle. I was delighted to find that Tim O'Reilly himself posted some comments about why...
We aren't currently planning to offer books for sale directly on the kindle, but that could change if the device really takes off.
We really aren't interested in producing books in more and more formats. There's a real maintenance nightmare, as you have to update across the set every time you make a change.
Even supporting HTML and PDF/print is a hassle. So we'll add kindle when we know there's a significant market for it.

Why no O'Reilly books on the kindle? Well, Amazon has chosen to use a proprietary format, with a conversion cost of a couple of hundred dollars per title to that format. Multiply that by 500+ O'Reilly books, and it would cost us $100,000 to have a strong presence on that new, unproven platform.

I guess I can buy that. There are further comments in the thread where it seems Tim (and O'Reilly readers) would be happy with PDF support that wasn't experimental as Amazon currently classifies it.

PDF support is important because O'Reilly currently offers many of their titles as PDF downloads for purchase, even by chapter. I found a sample chapter in PDF and it looks good, but then again, I don't have a Kindle either :)

The problem with good PDF support is that it bypasses Amazon's revenue model. They could help that with store relationships with sites like ORA's Safari. Tim mentions that too...
We'd also love to experiment with models in which people who are Safari subscribers could access that content on the kindle. We'd be very eager to have a reseller relationship with Amazon, such that they resell safari subscriptions on the kindle.

I guess I'll wait to see how things develop over the next few months. Books won't die, but I wouldn't mind burying a few reference titles in an eBook.

1 comment:

Jason said...

I know that I'm not currently a big enough reader to use this, plus I'm still partial to reading a standard book if I have the time.

However, some of the other possibilities of this device are really starting to look good (http://igorsk.blogspot.com/). 400 MHz. XScale with 64 MB of RAM running Linux? Yep, that can do some damage.

Prepaid cell connection, with already existing location services? Yeah, now we're talking.

I see this working very nicely as something similar to an iPod Touch. In fact, let's just give it a color screen, and have Apple produce it as the "iPod Tablet".