26 November 2007

Will the Kindle render our books into kindling?

Ever since the release of the Amazon Kindle, the new e-book reader to rule us all, I've been looking at the pictures and trying to decide how I feel about it. I don't think it'll change the course of reading as we know it, but whether you're all wired-up or a card-carrying Luddite, it's hard for a reader not to see the appeal of the thing. It holds over 200 books! You can also read blogs on it (perversely, for a fee per blog per month, but I guess someone is willing to pay that)! It's super handy!

Still, because of my twin concerns of cost and version, I won't be writing to Santa and asking for a Kindle for Christmas. The price of the device sounds about right for what it does, but as with the iPhone -- another much anticipated gadget of the year -- you have to consider the hidden costs of using it, which in the Kindle's case means buying books from Amazon if you want to read from it. I shop at Amazon regularly, and to my knowledge have never had a negative experience doing so (even the time they sent me Introductory Welding instead of Inside the PSAT, they were gracious). But I don't buy a lot of new books now, particularly new hardcovers, so being forced to buy everything I read in digital form is prohibitive. If you could use the Kindle to check out e-books -- either from the public library or from Amazon -- for a small fee, I might reconsider, but it doesn't suit my habits.

By version I mean, I'm not a classic early adopter. Certainly the first run of the Kindle is bound to have some problems that later devices might not have, apart from the dangers with any device that it might malfunction when you're out and about. (How scary would it be if your Kindle stopped working on the first day of a two-week beach vacation? And you hadn't brought any other books with you?) Amazon to my knowledge has never released its own device before, and while I'm sure they stand behind it, I want to see what its quirks are before I plunk down $400.

Still, it's fun to speculate on what the Kindle might do should it become a runaway success. Author Meghan Daum wrote in the L.A. Times this week about how the Kindle will make it impossible to tell on sight what one is reading (using the example of passengers on a plane):
Kindle will look like Kindle. You can't glance at it and see the telltale orange spine that denotes a Penguin paperback, or the foil-embossed dead-giveaway of a romance novel. And if you can't read title and author, you can't evaluate your seatmate...As Kindle could be to books, iPods and digital music files are to CDs and records: The intensity, nature and quality of our relationship to music is increasingly hidden from view.
Would you buy a Kindle? What killer feature would convince you to buy one (realistic or not)?

1 comment:

Emily said...

I always spy on other people's iPods in public places. Always. I will be more sneaky if I have to in order to judge people.