September 29, 2022

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The Kindle vs. Books (is this really a contest?)

The Kindle vs. Books (is this really a contest?)

Amazon launched the Kindle this week, a nifty little device that is heralded as “the iPod for books,” in that you can purchase entire books from and download them to the Kindle for reading on the go.

My initial reaction to all devices like this (the Sony Reader being the previous incarnation) is nothing short of pure horror. I may have a zest for technology, but I’m also a bibliophile.

Nothing could ever replace the experience of books for me–the way they look, the way they smell, the soft rustle of turning pages, hushed libraries, arty bookmarks, the fluttery feeling of excitement as you wind down towards the last page, the “ah” sigh of satisfaction as you close the book upon finishing…the reading experience is so much more important to me than the relative convenience of a portable device. And I don’t think I’m alone.

That being said, I’m more than willing to give the Kindle a fair initial analysis based on the product reviews I’ve read.

I’ll start with what’s bad:

1) The price. $399? I’d rather spend it on an iPhone. Or a new Coach bag big enough to carry my books in (oops, I said I’d be fair, didn’t I…)

2) Most of us, particularly tech nerds and bloggers, already spend a great portion of our days doing immeasurable damage to our peepers squinting at a computer screen. While Jeff Bezos claims in interviews that reading on a Kindle is highly comparable to reading on paper, with little “eye strain,” I can’t help but find this claim rather dubious. It’s not paper.

3) Half the fun of books is sharing them with others–with the Kindle, unless you hand over the device itself (and your account password, and who is going to trust anyone with either?), there is no sharing of books among friends.

What’s Good Interesting (can’t bring myself to call anything good out of my loyalty to Dead Tree Books!):

1) I get the appeal of the portability, as someone who packed four books to take on a recent cruise (I drastically overestimated the amount of time I’d spend reading, and only got through one), books are heavy and take up space.

2) At $9.99 per book, Kindle books are cheap. Even cheap paperback beach reads can run you $12.99 at times, and with first-run hardcovers clocking in at $29.99 and up, $9.99 is a bargain (unless you factor in that you’ve paid $399 for the device itself..but there I go being all negative again).

3) Now this part I really do like: You can subscribe to newspapers, magazines and blogs for a monthly fee. As someone who (on top of those four books) also frequently boards planes with several cumbersome magazines (what? I like to read!), I can see where storing all the latest from the Wall Street Journal and Newsweek on a small, portable device would come in great handy. (Although since the screen is text only, you would be hard pressed to view any of the accompanying photos…darn, there I go again!)

Final call: I’d hold off on the Kindle for now. I’m just waiting for the price to go down by a couple hundred dollars right after the holidays, causing an uproar among the forty or so people who will actually buy this thing (oh drat, okay, I’ll stop now, I promise).  While the device holds some promise, and I particularly am interested in having access to blogs and newspapers on the go, right now I am unmoved.

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    Aaron Brazell

    It’s unclear whether bloggers that are listed under Kindle are recieving royalties/revenue share off this subscription. I highly recommend bloggers adopt a Creative Commons license that prevent commercial use until such a question has been answered. 🙂

    Sarah Wurrey

    Aaron – Excellent point, seems a bit shady doesn’t it?
    Jonathan – Thanks so much! Reading IS romantic…that’s what makes the Kindle so offensive to me. It’s so sanitized, takes all the emotional experience away.

    Chip Griffin

    OK, take a deep breath now. E-book readers are cool. They’re useful. I love my Sony Reader. It really does read like paper (think paperback gray paper). Better yet, for people like me who have fading eyesight and tired eyes, I can adjust the font size late at night to reduce eyestrain. And since I travel so much, it is great to tote along one tiny lightweight thing rather than a stack of books.
    I still love paper books, but the benefits here outweigh my adoration for the real deal.
    The ability of the Kindle to allow me to purchase books wirelessly might be enough to get me to switch. Plus, Amazon’s books are cheaper and more plentiful (based on early reports) than what Sony offers. I just wish the Kindle wasn’t so darn ugly.


    Sarah Wurrey…tell me how you really feel. 🙂 You cannot write notes on the non-pages of Kindle for your children to read later, and you cannot smell a Kindle (unless it ignites…ah!) and you cannot slam a Kindle onto the table for dramatic effect (without crushing it into pieces…which might, in fact, help you feel avenged, SW!)…so I don’t want one. I’m with you…there are some staples to being HUMAN we just shouldn’t part with.

    Sarah Wurrey

    Quite a lively discussion topic! No wonder I’ve seen so many tweets about this lately! 🙂
    Chip – I agree these things do have *some* benefit, to someone, somewhere….sigh. It just hurts me to think of books being edged out. And I loved Valleywag’s take on it, noting that you couldn’t bring a Kindle to a deserted island. Actually, you probably wouldn’t want to bring it to a beach at all…sand gets everywhere, can’t imagine that’d be good.
    Kait – Your inability to refer to me by anything other than my full name cracks me up.

  6. Jen White

    Okay, in addition to the fact that I just love, love, love my books I have a more concrete reason for not getting a Kindle. My book purchasing is already a budget problem for me, the last thing I need is the ability to make it easier for me to make impulsive book purchases on the fly, via wireless. Plus, I do go back and re-read books…I can’t imagine doing that on this gadget.
    Four hundred bucks buys a lot of books…!

    Joe Tennis

    Couldn’t agree more! I think there could be a place for tech books, which are essentially disposable and you just want the best deal… plus they’re bloody heavy.
    The share-ability is the killer for me. Plus, I just don’t see myself saying “Think I’ll go home, have a glass of wine and curl up in front of the fire with my microcomputer”
    Wrote a similar post last night… complete with pix of my overflowing book shelf!

    Chip Griffin

    Sarah, I love my Sony Reader at the beach on vacation. When I finish one book, I don’t have to go back to my hotel room to get another one. And if I start one book and find it isn’t what I really want at the moment, I just fire up another one.

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