Ebooks showdown Kindle vs. XO laptop from OLPC

I’m learning more about ebooks thanks to some recent inquiries related to my work for One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) to collaborate on the kid’s user guide. I’ve been so busy with that I’ve barely had time to blog. I’m learning so much it’ll add to the blog entries later.

But I have been noodling on the fact that Amazon’s Kindle and the OLPC XO are at the exact same price – $400 – and that the XO can be used as an ebook reader (PDFs preferred.)

I’m going to try to do a comparison here, but please realize I’m no ebook reader expert nor have I owned one in the past. So I really have no business writing this at all other than my innate curiousity and love of researching and then presenting information.

On to the interesting comparison – let’s look at other parameters, and feel free to suggest your own. Like I say, I have no business writing an ebook comparison so do pitch in where you see fit.

Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader versus the One Laptop Per Child XO in ebook mode

Comparison item Kindle XO
Dimensions kindleebook.jpg7.5″ x 5.3″ x 0.7″, weighs 10.3 ounces xoebook.jpg9.5″ x 9.0″ x 1.25″, weighs about 3 pounds
Price $400, free shipping $400, about $25 shipping, $200 is a tax-deductible donation, so slight discount depending on your US tax bracket, I suppose
Content DRM content, can’t read PDFs unless you have a Windows PC and convert them first. Mostly PDF, but plans for more format support. With the built-in browser (Browse Activity), many reading materials are available such as Project Gutenberg.
Usability Robert Scoble has a harsh usability review of the Kindle. Robert Nagle I hope will review it in the future, but he has a great review of the possibilities as an ebook reader for kids. And I like the review written by a 12 year old.
Battery 30 hours 4-5 hours
Wireless connectivity Uses a wireless cellular network it calls Whispernet to deliver your Kindle content. It’s EVDO. Uses 802.11b and comes with a free one-year subscription to T-Mobile wireless service.
Screen monochrome: 600 x 800 pixels (167 dots per inch) monochrome: 1200 x 900 pixels (200 dots per inch), color: 1024×768 perceived (it’s complicated, see the hardware specs PDF.)
Warranty one year 30 days

Gizmodo already put the Kindle up against the Sony Reader in this online poll. I realize that the OLPC XO is intended to be a kids laptop, and it’s not really fair to pit it against the Kindle because that’s not the design of the device (nor the intentions of the project behind the device.) But your $400 might be well spent here.

By the way, I read about expected XO delivery information from the new XO User’s Facebook Group 50 members and growing. If you order now, you’ll get your laptop arund the same time as a child in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Haiti, Mongolia or Rwanda – in early 2008. See Shipping information on laptop.org.


  • HeavyG
    December 12, 2007 - 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Under your Usability section you reference Robert Scoble’s review of the Kindle. I have a Kindle and have seen Scoble’s review and to put it bluntly – Scoble is an idiot (at least in this instance). I suspect his review was intended to be way over the top and confrontational which is his frequent modus operandi.

  • December 12, 2007 - 10:54 pm | Permalink

    I’m no conflict journalist, but, yeah, I admit I was hoping someone would call me on my bluff – I put one of the sensationalist reviews of the Kindle up there, didn’t I? I did love one of the commenters on Scoble’s blog who said “you used to be an honest excited tech geek, but since you left Microsoft you’re all ‘fire these people'” (ah, it’s on a follow up post, “On the street reviews of the Kindle” at http://scobleizer.com/2007/11/27/on-the-street-review-of-kindle/#comments.

    So yeah, thanks for calling that out for others to notice as well. 🙂 A more balanced Kindle usability review is probably over at Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/2007/12/03/ebooks-kindle-digital-tech-personaltech-cx_ag_1203ebooks.html).

  • AlanW
    January 3, 2008 - 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Under “content” for Kindle the following would be more complete:
    DRM content from Amazon only (~90,000 titles). DRM-free content must be converted to the MOBI format. Many out of copyright titles are already available in MOBI format. Amazon will convert PDFs and other document types for you via e-mail and deliver the result to your Kindle via EVDO.

  • January 3, 2008 - 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Well, you see, you killed the XO as an ebook for me right at the start:

    Kindle – weighs 10.3 ounces
    XO – weighs about 3 pounds

    Weight matters. Enjoy yours, though.

  • January 3, 2008 - 3:44 pm | Permalink

    @AlanW – great information, especially about Amazon doing PDF conversion. I hadn’t found that tidbit so thanks a bunch for adding it here!

    @mikecane – Yeah, the weight and size comparison can be a deal-killer. I especially liked the teleread.org comparison picture they posted – gives a real sense of which one is the size of a paperback book, doesn’t it! http://www.teleread.org/blog/2007/12/22/xokindle-face-off-and-a-few-opera-and-e-book-tips-for-the-xo/

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