That’s right, you can now get the full text of every Cognitive Daily post via RSS. There’s just one catch: You must buy a $399 Amazon Kindle and pay 99 cents (per month, I assume) to subscribe to Cognitive Daily.
I don’t know if this subscription will allow you to view images, and I’m pretty certain video, polls, and other interactive features won’t be available, but for some people this might be a very attractive way to get Cognitive Daily. You can also get the amazing ScienceBlogs Select feed, which includes the best CogDaily posts as well as the best from dozens of other ScienceBlogs for $1.99.
[Update: This isn't meant to be a pitch for Kindle or for subscribing to our feed. We're not getting paid by anyone to support these ventures; I'm simply intrigued by Amazon's attempt at an ebook reader. I'd actually be shocked if many people decided to pay to get this blog, since they can get it for free online.]
There have been dozens of reviews of the Kindle across the blogosphere. Most of these reviews share two traits: they are negative, and the reviewer has never used the device. I’m skeptical about this thing too, but I’m willing to suspend judgment until I actually have one in my hands.
The Kindle is being hyped in some quarters as the iPod of reading, which also strikes me as a bit over the top — although Newsweek’s Steven Levy has at least used the thing. Even without having used it, I’m certain that it’s not quite an iPod; it doesn’t have the seamless integration of your existing library, your computer, and your future online purchases that the iPod has.
With the iPod, people could take most of their existing music — on CDs, initially — and transfer it to their computer, then to their portable listening device. They could purchase more music online and use it on their computers, put it onto CDs, and again, listen to it on their portable device.
With the Kindle, you can’t do anything about the majority of your existing library: paper books. You can only read the things you buy with Kindle on your Kindle. You can download them to your computer as a backup, but you can’t read them on your computer. So while the iPod is just one of a variety of ways to listen to the same digital music files, the Kindle insists on being the only way you view items you purchased for it.
That said, you can transfer text and other documents to the Kindle. You could download a free book from Project Gutenberg and read it on both the Kindle and your computer. While it won’t read PDFs natively, you can pay Amazon 10 cents to convert a PDF to Kindle format, or you can use one of many online PDF conversion tools to convert it to a Kindle-readable format yourself.
While you’re reading a document with the Kindle, you can copy and paste text snippets and write notes to yourself that will later be readable by your computer. You can search for words or phrases in your books. You can mark pages for later reference, and of course it will remember your place when you stop reading a book.
It still doesn’t quite meet my requirements for the ultimate ebook. I think an ebook should offer a seamless transition between audiobook and printed book form, so you can start reading a book on your computer during lunch break, listen to the book in your car on the way home from work, then finish reading it on your ebook reader in your living room when you get home.
But for people like Greta who tear through 50-plus books a year, the Kindle is an attractive alternative to wasteful paper books stacking up on shelves. It would be great for travel, too, since you’d only need to carry one item instead of a half-dozen books to read on vacation.
Now, on to some of those negative reviews. First, Greg Laden:
This is just another expensive electronic device where the device’s operation is tied to a particular market … like US cell phones, for instance … I don’ t think I want one.
That’s a definite downside. However, it’s not necessary to use the cell phone signal to download books. You can download them to your computer anywhere you have internet access and then transfer them over. As I mentioned before, it’s a real bummer that you can’t just read the file on your computer, though.
From PZ Myers:
Now instead of buying books that you can do with as you please, you can lease them and get digital copies all bound up in DRM hindrances. The hardware is a step forward, the software lock-up of all the content is a big leap backwards, one that is going to doom it all to failure.
I’m not quite as apocalyptic about DRM as some people are, but I agree that this is a real problem, especially the fact that you can’t read your own book on your own computer. What if the Kindle device is a flop? What happens to all the content you purchased? If your Kindle breaks and is no longer supported by Amazon, you’ve just lost the dozens, or hundreds of books you’ve purchased. At least iTunes allows you to back up your music to a nonproprietary format.
If you’re concerned about archiving or reusing books, especially in the distant future, Kindle is probably not for you. But if you’re just reading for entertainment and aren’t worried about maintaining a personal library, it might just be a better way to read books.
If any of our readers have a Kindle, I’d appreciate it if you’d at least try the 14-day free trial of CogDaily and let us know what it looks like.