Thursday, November 22, 2007

Is Amazon Kindle™ prompting a trend that will eventually make us set our books on fire?

It's an exciting time in the U.S. right now where book and gadget lovers alike are concerned (drats, when will we have access to this I wonder). Amazon very recently announced a new device that took 3 years in the making: the Amazon Kindle™, a wireless electronic book that has been described as nothing short of revolutionary. It was sold out in 5.5 hours.

I'm normally skeptical of e-books. I don't cherish the thought of reading novels on a computer monitor as I get tremendous eyestrain. And back pain. I'd rather curl up in bed with a book in hand. Don't you just love fondling the paper, smelling in between the pages (for new acquisitions, not old ones eh), tucking the book under your pillow or lining up your books beside you on the bed when it's time to go to sleep?

But after reading through Amazon's Kindle Product Page and watching the videos there, plus checking out some third party reviews, I'm stoked. Good thing we can't get it here because it's $399. Gah. Check out the display. It's called digital paper. And darn does it look crisp, as near an illusion of the printed page as any, dayum. There's no backlighting, ergo it will not cause as much eyestrain as does a computer screen. And judging by the demo video, using the device is highly intuitive. Successful technologies are marked by their capacity to disappear or become invisible. Those devices which you become so accustomed to that you no longer even think of or are conscious of when you handle them ("Oh hey, right, I'm reading a book with an electronic device, I forgot all about that."), those are the ones that have clicked. I think Kindle (admittedly imperfect as it is right now) just might be on the right track to replacing the printed page. ("Horrors!" I heard `ya!)

In any case, let's not let me babble on, best to point out just the crucial points. The best being: portability. You don't have to lug your books around, whether you're going to the coffee shop nearby, your school or office, or on a long vacation or a long road trip. No need to decide before you leave which book you want to have with you - take several! It's also a very attractive selling point for those who have serious storage problems (like moi). Load the Kindle with as many as 200 books at a time. When you're done and have no more space, delete it, and have it stored by Amazon online, ready to be downloaded again (at no cost) when or if you feel like reading it again. You can also use an SD card if you want to have all your books at your fingertips.

Come to think of it, portability and convenience are its two most important selling points. Perhaps I would get one even without the extras. Which are nice to have though, mind you: a built-in dictionary, the ability to bookmark, highlight passages or clip pages, to store personal photos and documents (yo hey, you can load your own novella in-progress if you like reading it to yourself every now and then), access to newspaper subscriptions, blogs, and hah, you can even load mp3s and have background music for your reading! And I almost forgot: with wireless technology (3G technology I gather), buying a book takes less than a minute. You just go to Amazon in your Kindle, choose a book, and ting! presto! you have your new book.

All this sounds fascinating, doesn't it? Don't take my word for it though, check out The New York Times: An E-Book Reader That Just May Catch On. Also Guardian Unlimited: The Kindle Doesn't Light My Fire for a contrary viewpoint, and BoingBoing Gadgets: Amazon Kindle eBook Review which spells out some problems but calls the device "promising". And google for more reviews.

Sudden thought: what about booksignings? Will it eventually become a forgotten tradition? Eh.

Disclaimer: Yeah right, easy for me to give a thumbs up. Because I can't get a Kindle of my own I'm just rambling on without risking any moolah on it. This is just my initial impression. Chalk it all up to excitement for the idea of the thing (I admit I'm quite susceptible to that.) If and when the Kindle catches on, and if it gets to these shores, hopefully with a more realistic pricing structure, maybe I'll get back to this.


Marie said...

Wow... interesting! :) But I admit I'm pretty attached to books and I love re-reading my worn-out copies. Maybe one day they'll even find a way to simulate old paper. :)

falafel said...

Cool! But I still prefer book in hand while sipping a cappucino, highlighter in hand for those precious quotables...:) Old habits die hard...