Friday, February 27, 2009

Convenience at a cost

The last time I mentioned Amazon's Kindle, it was in that dismissive, mocking tone I reserve for things I don't fully understand. Basically, I was incredulous that anybody would shell out several hundred bucks for a device that seemed much less convenient than the paperback book it purports to replace.

Now, as is so often the case, I see that I was wrong. As this piece in Slate points out, the second generation Kindle "makes buying, storing, and organizing your favorite books and magazines effortless. You can take your entire library with you wherever you go and switch from reading the latest New Yorker to the latest best-seller without rolling out of bed. ... The Kindle is the future of publishing."

OK, that shows how much I know. If you've got an extra $359 around to buy one, fine. But keep reading the Slate article: the thrust of it is not how great the Kindle is, but how bad it might eventually become for this pursuit we call reading. The problem is twofold: No more reselling or sharing the e-books you buy, and everything you buy must come from Amazon.

Sounds like the Kindle has become cool and convenient enough to become the next iPod. But with that kind of acceptance, it makes you wonder what might eventually become of public libraries. Applying DRM to the printed word just seems wrong -- no matter how convenient it might seem now.

5 comments:

maxine said...

You can buy an awful lot of magazines for $359.
I'm with you - happy to be wrong so far as E-readers are concerned.

I suspect that they will pass the younger generation by, too - as they grow up they will read on iphones or games consoles (the Nintendo DS already provides many books....)

Sad. Sad.

Linda J said...

I still want that actual magazine, newspaper or book in my hands!

Ryan said...

From what I've seen, the Kindle has its fair share of glitches and annoying habits.

And also that Apple is working on something that will blow it out of the water (as they always must do).

But I do prefer actual paper in my hands. For whatever it's worth.

Grace said...

I'll put in a good word for the Kindle, speaking as a former skeptic. The biggest reason I had for buying it was the issue of storage you talk about. I didn't have any interest in it until I realized that you can store *hundreds* of books on the thing. That was music to my ears -- I'm forever annexing any flat surfaces to get more shelf space.

Another plus -- you can bookmark, highlight, make notes, and then find all of the above when you need 'em. (I can't ever find that really good quote when I need it the old-fashioned way, but that may just be me.) There are other whiz-bang features, but techhie stuff isn't my thing.

Another plus for me: damn convenient to bring on a trip. If I can't decide which book to bring, the heck with it. It weighs as much as one book and takes up less space than most magazines.

Minuses:
* the cost
* the non-sharing thing
* the screen doesn't do graphics


One in-between: I get what people are saying about wanting to feel a book in your hands. You do get used to reading on a Kindle, and it goes without saying that some things are easier -- can't tear pages, you can hold the Kindle easily in one hand, etc. etc. -- but there's a tactile element that's missing. What I've found is that I complement book- and Kindle-reading. Some things I'd rather read in a book, others in a Kindle.

Dave Knadler said...

Thanks, Grace. I don't doubt the many advantages of the device -- that's what worries me. I just dread the day when Amazon corners the market on every printed thing.