Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Amazon Kindle

I had never heard of the Amazon Kindle until yesterday, but when it rains- it's constantly thrust into your face until you have to write about it. Heading to Amazon yesterday, I saw it proudly described on the front page in a letter from Amazon's founder. Then, later in the day, it arrived on the cover of my Newsweek. Today it still commands Amazon's full front page and it's being compared to Gutenberg's press in the media. So what is this thing?

Basically, the Kindle is a small, light book reader built to be ergonomic and easy to hold with one hand. It can hold hundreds of books, making it much easier to lug a lot of books around with you. It's also supposed to have lighting that reduces eye strain. It's not backlit, and if you view the demonstration of it, the lighting looks pretty pleasant- not a blinding white but not dim enough to cause strain. The Kindle is brand spanking new, but it's already sold out and Amazon is now taking advance orders. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, seems to have a lot of hope for the device, as do the many customers who have jammed the site with orders.

At first, I frankly thought it sounded stupid. I like the tactile experience of a book. I don't care if the book is worn, I don't care if it's heavy, and I don't mind lugging a separate bag of books on a trip. I don't know if I can ever convert to some type of electronics over a physical book. But after viewing the video about it, I have to say it does sound pretty cool. It isn't just books- you can get a newspaper sent to it, and carry around as many books as you like anywhere you go. I don't know if any of that is necessary- the newspaper still comes to your house and a book can still be put in your purse or pocket, but it's a neat idea.

It's kind of the iPod for books- have access to hundreds of books anywhere you go, just like iPod people have access to their thousands of songs. Neither of these is a pressing need, but could be fun to have. The price is a but high right now, but it does come with a few perks. New-release books for it are $9.99 apiece, which is a lot less than most new releases, and the books get stored in your computer as well in case anything happens to your Kindle. On the downside, of course, it's a lot of cash. You could buy yourself a room full of used books for what this baby costs. It all comes down to personal preference- do you need to have your books with you all the time, or do you travel a lot and hate carrying lots of books? Or, are you the low-tech type who always has a handful of paperbacks nearby and wants to keep it that way? I'm definitely the latter, but if the price should ever fall by a few hundred dollars, I might be willing to give it a try.

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