Sunday, March 8, 2009

Kindle's wireless

A few years ago, I was really impressed when I first tried out an e-book reader - the screen really did feel like paper for reading, so when Amazon released the first Kindle, I decided that I'd get one, when the second version came out, fixing anything bad in the first one (which a little piece of advice I give to anyone - never get the first of something, it always sucks in some way).

Just recently, this second version came out, and I decided to check it out. The screen really is nice, and reading on it is great - I have about 20GB of stored e-books which I may finally get to read. I was also happy to find out that the Kindle allows you to just copy PDFs into it over USB, so I wouldn't be tied to their exclusive content.

On the first version, the Kindle had wifi connection so you could buy and download new ebooks right from the device. This was a killer feature - I was definitely willing to buy new books this way (even though I have downloaded ebooks from torrents in the past, I don't mind paying for them, if it's convenient enough). On the second Kindle, came an "improvement" of this technology - instead of requiring a standard WiFi 802.11 connection, it now comes with a builtin cell-phone-like EVDO connection. One would think that the main problem here would be the restricted EVDO coverage (even in the US, it's not available everywhere), but they took one lame step further and don't allow you to just put any cell phone SIM in it - they wanted it to be cost-free to the users, which means they had to pay the cell phone providers themselves, ultimately meaning it's tied to Sprint.

Sprint is not that bad, one may say (and lots of others will disagree), but unfortunately Sprint only exists in a small country in North America, meaning all the rest of the world is essentially locked out of buying stuff on the Kindle. Of course, you can buy it on your computer, then transfer by USB, but it takes all the fun out. Why, Amazon?? Was it really so hard to allow me to use my own cell phone connection, or just plain old WiFi like the first Kindle did?

I'm now looking for another e-book reader...

UPDATE: Ars Technica has an article detailing how to bypass the Kindle's whispernet restriction, but its still far from ideal. It also seems that the "free" whispernet is not really free - if you transfer too much they'll charge you.

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