Amazon’s Kindle: pay to read blogs? WTF?

So lots of people probably know by now (at least if they read Techmeme) that Amazon is launching an electronic book-reading gizmo called the Kindle on Monday, and there’s a gigantic cover story about it in the latest issue of Newsweek magazine. Speaking of which, the Kindle will apparently be a magazine and newspaper reader too, letting you read publications that you’ve downloaded using its built-in wireless connection.

amazoneink-thumb2.jpgFirst things first — I think that Bezos is right to emphasize the wireless aspect, which is based on a cellular-style service that Amazon is calling Whispernet. Previous e-book readers had to be hooked up to the PC or a cradle of some kind in order to download new books via the phone line and so on, but being able to buy and download them almost instantaneously will add a whole other dimension (I realize that the iPod has managed to succeed without that ability, but then I think music is different from books in a whole bunch of ways).

The second thing that hit me was the part where Steven Levy says that users will be able to download books, newspapers and magazines, and will even be able to “subscribe to selected blogs, which cost either 99 cents or $1.99 a month per blog.” That one made me do a double-take. Pay a monthly subscription fee to read a blog? Either Levy and/or Bezos have been smoking something, or they have found some magical way to get people to pay for something that has historically been free.

I’m trying to think of a blog that I would pay money to read, and nothing is really coming to mind — not even Engadget or TechCrunch or Boing Boing. But that line of thinking raises the inevitable question: if a blog like Engadget is pretty much as good as a magazine (which I think it is), then why would people pay for one but not the other? That can lead you in one of two directions: charge for the blog, or don’t charge for anything. We know which one Jeff has chosen — but is it the right one?

Other questions include: Is it really as ugly as it looks in the photo? Steve Levy says no on his blog, but David Rothman of TeleRead says yes. And will it be open and support industry standards, or will it be full of awkward proprietary formats and DRM?


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