#32: cabaret (bob fosse, 1972)
music friday: muddy waters, “mannish boy”

kindle fire, first thoughts

The Kindle Fire is a piece of ideological machinery.

I suppose I should explain what a Kindle Fire is, for those who don’t know. The Kindle is an e-reader from Amazon that is very popular. There are now many models of the Kindle for you to read your books and newspapers on. The Kindle Fire is something like a tablet: it reads books and newspapers, and magazines, and plays music, and shows movies, and plays games, and … well, you get the idea.

I said “something like a tablet” because it’s nonsense to compare it to “real” tablets like the iPad. It doesn’t have a camera, or a microphone, or GPS. This, among other things, is why the Kindle Fire only costs $199, while the iPad 2 goes for $499.

That is the magic number, 199. If it was $299, I wouldn’t have bought it. I don’t really need a tablet, even a crippled one like the Kindle Fire. But $199 makes it an impulse buy.

And so I pre-ordered one, and it arrived Tuesday, which was pretty quick considering Tuesday was originally the release date. I turned it on straight out of the box … it knew my name, it knew what books I had bought for previous Kindles, it knew what songs I’d bought through Amazon along with all the songs I uploaded into the Amazon cloud, it knew what apps I had gotten for my smartphone via the Amazon Market. There is something cool about turning on a machine straight out of the box, and it already knows who you are.

I signed up for a three-month free trial subscription to Wired. When I opened it, there was an animation of curtains opening, and then the cover gradually “drew itself” until it was complete.

I listened to a song, “Alcohol” by Brad Paisley.

I read a chapter from a book, A Woman of Heart by my friend Marcy Alancraig.

I downloaded the Amazon free app of the day, Bejeweled 2, and played it for a bit.

I checked my email, played around a bit on Facebook, looked at my blog.

I watched a movie, Vengeance with Johnny Hallyday. The movie was free as part of my one-month free trial of Amazon Prime.

I probably did some other stuff. Then I went to bed.

So, why is the Kindle Fire an ideological machine? Because, while it allows you to do all of the above, it exists for only one purpose: to get you to spend money at Amazon. The magazine came from the Amazon newsstand. The song was uploaded by me to my Amazon cloud storage, but if I wanted more Brad Paisley, I could buy it from Amazon. The book was from Amazon. The game was from Amazon. The movie was from Amazon.

It took less than a day for hackers to start breaking down the Kindle Fire so it could be used for extra functions, but I’m not much for that (too lazy). Without those hacks, you have a machine that resembles a tablet, except you can’t play outside of the yard Amazon has created for you. It’s like a prison with invisible walls. You think you are free, but you are only free to buy from Amazon.

This isn’t a bad thing for a person like me, who already buys stuff from Amazon. I don’t need most of the things a real tablet offers. I use my computer for most things (I am on it a lot), and I use my smartphone when I’m out of the house. To say that the Kindle Fire is like a crippled iPad misses the point … you know the old line, “you say that as if it was a bad thing.” The Kindle Fire is simple, it does what I want it to do, and does it easily. There are things it doesn’t do, and if I cared about them, I wouldn’t have a Kindle Fire. If you decide to stick a Kindle Fire in a loved one’s xmas stocking because they want a tablet, that loved one will be disappointed.

It’s not a tablet. The Kindle Fire is a media machine that locks you largely into the Amazon world. The ideology of the Kindle Fire is that Amazon will give you what they think you want/need, and you won’t ask for anything Amazon doesn’t give you. (Unless you’re a hacker, or you know how to get the fruits of the hacker’s labor.)

In case it’s not clear, BTW, after two days, I love my Kindle Fire. I could complain … the glare on the screen is bothersome, the screen itself is only 7” (although I’ve gotten used to reading and watching movies on my little smartphone, so the Kindle Fire seems huge to me), and, of course, it is nowhere near being a functional computer on the level of a real tablet like the iPad. But, like real tablet owners, I now have this little machine that lets me read books, listen to music, watch movies, play games, check my email, hang out on Facebook, read magazines and newspapers … you know, the stuff you do on a real tablet … and it cost $199.

One last note: it took me less than 24 hours to start treating the Kindle Fire like just another tool lying around the house. The thrill wore off by the time I woke up Wednesday morning. It’s fun to have around, though.

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