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 Amazon.com 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.
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.