Cognitive Daily

Cognitive Daily — now full text RSS!

i-2b8f13b08f9767fd4334ac0ab4ce231d-kindle.jpgThat’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.

Comments

  1. #1 Ethan Fremen
    November 24, 2007

    I have a Kindle on order, and I’ve been a regular reader of cognitive daily. Kindle offers me a variety of ways to read text for free, not the least of which is using its browser or uploading html.

    I’m really rather put off by having to pay for RSS feeds, as I personally read over a hundred feeds, and I can’t imagine paying a hundred bucks a month for the privilege; nonetheless, I’ll give cogdaily a go and see where that takes me.

  2. #2 Johan
    November 24, 2007

    I really like the ebook concept. Currently I do almost all my readings on my laptop screen, but it would be great to have an alternatives for traveling.

    Unfortunately, none of the current ebooks have anywhere near a sufficient resolution for reading pdfs (unless you’re prepared to mash the formatting, which isn’t much good for research articles).

    Bring the resolution up to 1024*768 or so, and I’ll run out and buy one.

    Just not a Kindle. I think the most audacious of their DRM moves is that they actually charge you for converting your existing PDFs to their DRM’ed format. So not only do you have to pay to view the stuff you already own, you also get massive copy restrictions imposed on it. With so much DRM, you’d think it would at least be considerably cheaper than the competition, but it’s not.

  3. #3 Tony
    November 24, 2007

    Ouch, CD and other ScienceBlogs becoming ads for Amazon? Tacky. Guess we can now be as pessimistic of posts as we are of clinical trials funded by pharmaceutical companies.

  4. #4 jim
    November 24, 2007

    @Johan: The iLiad does handle 1024×768. I certainly want one, but it’s expensive; nearly double the price of the Kindle, Bookeen Cybook Gen3 or Sony Reader.

    Incidentally, Dave, your link to Project Gutenberg is outdated; it’s now at http://www.gutenberg.org.

    I waited to make my decision about which to buy from this generation of e-ink readers until I saw what the actual specs of the Kindle were going to be.

    It seems to me that the Kindle is especially good for people who are not PC-centric, or who travel a lot away from their own PC. Another interesting ares of comparison between The Kindle and The Rest will be the number of current titles available in Kindle format as against encrypted Mobipocket over time. I have every confidence that sites like Munsey’s (was Blackmask) and Manybooks will do something to make public-domain titles from Gutenberg easier to get onto the Kindle.

    Me, I spend half of my waking hours in front of one of my PCs, so I’ve now ordered a CyBook. I look forward to writing my own daily “newspaper” of feeds from my favorite sites for transfer to the CyBook!

  5. #5 Peris
    November 24, 2007

    Ok, so now I have to buy a butt-ugly, ridiculously expensive device that uses DRM and proprietary formats… and on top of that pay (for something that it is free…) to read a blog in black/white without video, images etc. Sometimes I feel so lonely…

  6. #6 Wataru Tenga
    November 24, 2007

    To see the full text, I simply need to set my RSS reader (Omea or FeedDemon) to show the original Web page by default. And I certainly have no interest in a Kindle.

  7. #7 Jen
    November 25, 2007

    “At least iTunes allows you to back up your music to a nonproprietary format.”

    It does? Is this assuming all of your music is unlocked (ie m4a instead of m4p)? What mechanism specifically are you talking about? Last time I used iTunes heavily (about a year ago) I had to go through all sorts of not-quite-legal-means just to get a backup of my music library. Last time I used it, iTunes would convert m4a files to mp3′s, but not m4p’s. And isn’t an m4p file proprietary?

    [Sorry... I know this has nothing to do with the actual topic... but I'm rather interested as I've spent way too many hours and headaches dealing with iTunes backups]

  8. #8 John S. Wilkins
    November 25, 2007

    If they sell my blog material for Kindle, I have a legal suit against them. My material is under a Creative Commons licence that says nobody may resell my material without written permission. And they haven’t asked me. Have they asked you?

  9. #9 Bill Brown
    November 25, 2007

    Pass. Unsubscribing from the regular feed.

  10. #10 Michael X
    November 25, 2007

    I know Razib was talking about people not being attached to paper and ink in some “mystical way” but I have to admit, I love me some paper and ink. And while I do also enjoy reading tons and tons of material online, I prefer books when I’m buying books. To own a book is to have that knowledge on hand any time until you die. Not until it burns out, breaks, or gets surpassed by another e-reader. And for $400? How many books could I get with that money? (In a used book store, a hellova lot!)

  11. #11 Dave Munger
    November 25, 2007

    Wow, sorry –

    This wasn’t meant to be a pitch to get people to buy a Kindle and subscribe to the CogDaily feed. We don’t get any money from anyone either for promoting the Kindle or from CogDaily subscriptions.

    I don’t think it’s worth 99 cents a month to subscribe to a blog that I can read for free online. I’m not sure the Kindle is worth $399. I doubt I will be getting one.

    That said, I’m intrigued by the concept of ebooks and I’m not convinced by a lot of the negative response to this device from people who haven’t even used it. The reader itself and its interface look to be quite solid. There is no obligation to opt in to its DRM scheme, and there are ways to get around most of Amazon’s pricing schemes.

    John, the Creative Commons license does not preclude other methods of distribution of your work. You own the copyright; you can sell it, give it away, paint it on the outside of your car if you want. Others, of course, can only do those things if you give them permission.

    I’m sure you won’t have to resort to a lawsuit to get your feed removed from the Kindle service. I’m guessing all you’ll need to do is ask and it will be done. At these prices, however, I don’t think anyone will be missing out on much revenue.

    Bill, sorry to see you go. Again, this wasn’t intended to be a sales pitch, and I apologize to those who believe that’s what it was.

  12. #12 Dave Munger
    November 25, 2007

    Jen,

    All I was talking about was the ability to burn an audio CD of your music. It’s then in AIFF format, which can be easily converted to any other format you want. It’s a clunky system, but it’s better than Kindle’s system of holding all your purchases on their server.

  13. #13 Stephen Downes
    November 25, 2007

    I am curious to know:
    - whether I can ‘sell’ my feed on Kindle for absolutely nothing
    - whether you can sell the same product on Kindle that is free elsewhere

    Where did you get your information about how to offer your feed for sale on Kindle. I’ve looked all over the site and still haven’t found it…

  14. #14 Dave Munger
    November 25, 2007

    Stephen:

    I think Amazon contacted ScienceBlogs and that’s how we got signed up. I didn’t do anything myself to get my feed listed.

    So far they haven’t given any indication that individual bloggers could offer their feeds for sale, but I suppose that’s possible in the future. I doubt you could sell your feed for free — the way Kindle works is that part of what you’re paying for content is actually covering transmission of the data via cellular networks.

    Amazon can and does sell the same product on Kindle that is free elsewhere — CogDaily is one example, Moby Dick is another.

  15. #15 Freiddie
    November 25, 2007

    This is ridiculous – what is the difference between reading CogDaily on Google Reader and using Kindle?

  16. #16 Dave Munger
    November 25, 2007

    what is the difference between reading CogDaily on Google Reader and using Kindle?

    The main difference is that on Kindle you’d be able to read the entire post without visiting the CogDaily web site. So if you were in a place without a computer or out of wifi range, you could still read CogDaily. If you subscribe to a blog, it downloads to your Kindle automatically over the cell phone network every time the blog is updated.

  17. #17 Freiddie
    November 25, 2007

    I only find that a minor nuisance. Isn’t there supposed to be a setting on your blogwriter that allows your feeds to be full-syndicated?

  18. #18 braingirl
    November 26, 2007

    Amazon charging fees to reprint and redistribute someone else’s hard work without passing on the residuals? I dunno, sounds fishy to me. I bet the folks at BoingBoing.net would have something interesting to say about that, if they haven’t already. I know they’ve already commented on the wacky “EULA within a EULA” agreement Amazon has for this device. Read carefully!

    I’m betting that Amazon would not remove your content from their service upon request and is counting on individual bloggers not being able to afford their own legal counsel. Unless a class-action was filed by bloggers to either a) get some of the money that’s due to them, and/or b) get their content removed from the service for violation of their copyright/creative commons, Amazon will just keep on collecting the dough at the expense of the hard-working bloggers that provide their content on the web for free.

    $0.99/month may not sound like much, but $12/yr per CogDaily reader probably adds up pretty quick. Anyone want to do the math on just how much Amazon is likely raking in for this site?

  19. #19 Qalmlea
    November 26, 2007

    There’s a semi-favorable review of it over at Neil Gaiman’s blog. He also thinks it’s overpriced, but he enjoyed the preview version they gave him to play with.

  20. #20 Dave Munger
    November 26, 2007

    Braingirl:

    ScienceBlogs does get money for publishing Cognitive Daily through Amazon; however, Greta and I don’t. I imagine if that becomes a significant revenue stream for them, we might ask to renegotiate our deal with them.

    That said, I suspect very few people will be willing to pay for the content they can get for free online. I’m pretty sure you can even read a free version of Cognitive Daily via Kindle’s web browser. Why would you pay for it? Beats me…

  21. #21 Medrin
    November 26, 2007

    Kindle will only be worth the money once some good cracks are availible so I can get the feeds and transfer my own PDFs and text files free. Won’t be too long, if I had the money, I’d order one and start working on it myself.

  22. #22 Dave Munger
    November 26, 2007

    Medrin, you can already transfer your own text files for free. Since there are free tools for converting PDFs to text files, then you can transfer those for free too. But it would be better if this was all seamlessly integrated into the product.

    I suspect you’re right, though, and someone will find a way to automate/streamline the process.

  23. #23 Tina Su - Think Simple Now
    November 26, 2007

    I’ve used the Kindle for the first time over Thanksgiving. And I have to say that I’m really impressed with it. I was expecting it to be really ugly and unusable, but to my surprise, the small device came with a leather bound cover to emulate the feel of a book, and continued to surprise me with each feature.

    One of the biggest wins I found with the device is that it comes with a life time internet access. This is not the same as catching the local wifi from where you are standing, rather, it’s a separate sprint wireless network that comes with the device. The wireless service is free of charge and works through out the US. That’s pretty amazing. It’s like a little laptop.

    It comes with a web browser. I was able to view my blog directly from the device. I was also able to click on links to sites like flickr. And google worked as well. The screen quality is just like the Sony book reader. I don’t think you can view videos, but definitely pictures.

    Question: How did you setup a subscription for your blog on the Kindle? Can you point me to where I could do the same? (please email)

    Thanks Much!
    Tina

  24. #24 Medrin
    November 26, 2007

    Ah, that’s good to know, I got the gist from skimming your plug, err update, that you couldn’t, that makes it a little more appealing.

  25. #25 ian findlay
    November 29, 2007

    No way I would pay to read this.

  26. #26 Dave Munger
    November 29, 2007

    Thanks for your support, Ian. At least we can say we agree on that point.

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