Amazon Kindle - The iPod for Books? ~ BitterSweetLife

Friday, December 14, 2007

Amazon Kindle - The iPod for Books?

You've probably heard about the new toy that Amazon recently premiered: the Kindle. According to Amazon:

"The Kindle is a revolutionary portable reader that wirelessly downloads books, newspapers, magazines and blogs to a crisp, high-resolution electronic paper display that looks and reads like real paper, even in bright sunlight... At 10.3 ounces, Kindle is lighter and thinner than a paperback book, carries two hundred books, and includes built-in access to The New Oxford American Dictionary and wireless access to the Earth’s biggest encyclopedia,"

On top of that, Amazon foots the wireless charges, so the only additional money you spend, beyond the Kindle's $399 price tag (gulp), is for the books and articles you choose to download. Clearly, one needs to take a position on technology like this, and I've picked mine. It is: I HATE the Kindle! True, I am strangely intrigued by it...but I DEPLORE it, because it's not a TRUE BOOK! On the other hand, I wouldn't mind owning--NO, the Kindle is a perversion of all that is good and true in the bibliophile's world. But fewer trees would die. BESIDE THE POINT! I like the tactile goodness of real tree fibers beneath my fingers, the crisp sound of a REAL PAGE turning. Although you like your plastic-metallic iPod. COMPLETELY different! And the Kindle looks cool. Sleek. Hip. It could do for books what American Idol did for karaoke. SILENCE! You could carry it into class and read books on the sly... STOP! Previously illiterate high school students might start reading C.S. Lewis and Tolkien on their Kindles...Yes, you might have a point there...YES.

OK, so I'm kind of conflicted about where I stand on all this. I love my books in their physical forms. I love to stack them and color code them and write in their margins. I'll always think of books as, well, books. Not downloaded files. But I'm wondering if the Kindle and real books can coexist...maybe heavy, hardback books will even gain some extra allure; people might start collecting them like LPs.

So I'm not convinced the Kindle is a bad thing, especially if it puts quality writing into the minds of a tech-savvy generation. What do you think? Are you happy the Kindle has appeared? Would you want to own one?

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John B. said...

Books don't require batteries . . . or wireless service, for that matter. I think the allure is in the fact that it's a gadget, not that it's some actual improvement over a thousand-year-old technology that is, in its essentials, unchanged.

But then again, I have a tendency to be dismissive of technologies whose later mass adoption make me look and feel foolish. I clearly remember the day in 1979 when a teacher showed me one of the very first Apple computers and told me, "In 10 years, every house in America will have one of these," and I thought he was nuts.

I was right about Segways being dumb, though.

rob said...

Yeah, I'm torn too! Its nice to have books to reference, but this would make referencing them easier. Books would probably cost less too. I could see me using this gadget for textbooks and such, but I would still want the traditional style books for my personal reading.

Anonymous said...

It'd be very handy if you were travelling and wanted to have a few books to read along the way.

must_decrease said...

Seems to be a way to get me to REspend money on books I already own. There is also something to the piling and stacking of books around my person in the midst of not only winter, but also the trenches of semester warfare. Although, the lack of clutter would probably ease relations with Mrs. Must_decrease

R. Sherman said...

If you have an altar-call at the "Church Of 'Kindle Sucks,'" I'm the first one down the aisle, singing,

"Just as I am,
My book in hand,
No electro-gadget for me,
I'm a paper fan."


Ariel said...

@ John B. - I like your point about the self-sufficiency of books. The book is that gregarious friend, always ready for coffee and a talk. The Kindle is that high-maintenance relationship that you examine nervously, wondering whether you should commit.

@ Rob - I could see me using this gadget for textbooks and such, but I would still want the traditional style books for my personal reading.

Yeah, I seems more suited for those "have-to" read books or books you're not sure about. I don't see myself rushing out to duplicate my C.S. Lewis library on the Kindle.

@ Rodney - I think the accessibility factor is maybe the biggest one. Like I said, I could see myself smuggling the Kindle into a classroom to counteract a really boring lecture...

@ Must_Decrease - There is also something to the piling and stacking of books around my person in the midst of not only winter, but also the trenches of semester warfare.

Nice. I'm also a book-stacker. And stacking Kindles is out. Not only are they too expensive for stacking, they also only come in one size and color, which would make it pretty monotonous.

@ Mr. Sherman - If you have to put it in church terms, that makes the Kindle look like the upstart Protestant stream, books the old school Catholic tradition...which slants the argument in favor of the Kindle!

Tyler said...

I would buy it if I could upload my current library to the device - but being forced to buy my physical books all over again in digital format? For $10 a pop? Not going to happen.

Ariel said...

Yeah, forget repurchasing a library. Maybe Amazon should give e-store credit for all previous "physical" book purchases though, by way of inducement...

I notice we're a pretty skeptical crowd; there must be people out there who love the Kindle, since they're selling very well. If you're one of those happy owners, speak up!

Brian said...

I find the Kindle to be one of the best gadgets I've purchased in the last 12 months. To me it is more powerful then my iPhone, iPod's, laptops... why?

First it reads like a real book. It looks so real, that I couldn't tell the difference from paper to the Kindle eInk.

But why not have a real book, you ask? Dare I carry with me 50 books? But why do you need so many you ask? Because I'm a researcher. The reading I do is mostly spiritual/religious. I study the works of Dr. Dee, Agrippa, St. John, Sweedenberg, Kant, etc. When I want to read a book like the Kybalion, and see a word like "vibration" (in the terms that nothing is at rest) and I want to read that same coresspondence against my entire library... now I can. Not only can I do that, if I need to download a new book - I can do so anywhere (well almost) at lightspeed.

Sure it's not a laptop, but I don't expect it to be. It's a great electronic book.

some complain that *only* 150k books have been ported. um, that's a lot, and it grows weekly. On top of that, you can convert all PDF's of books out of copyright protection to Kindle format for free.

I've found, those who hate the Kindle, don't have it. Those who have it, Love it.

Ariel said...

Brian - Wow. Glowing endorsement, and you mention a point that I had assumed would not go down in the Kindle's favor: the "real page" feel, which you say is virtually identical to a real book.

I also like your point about researching and cross-referencing. I'm not a bona fida researcher, but I love reading, and, to an extent, your point about being able to pack up 50 books for that long weekend is well taken.

At this point, if I had the cash to ante up for a Kindle, I'd get one. Not that I'd liquidate my physical library--this seems like a both/and situation.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife