e-books and the Amazon Kindle
It seems that with the advent of every new technology, pundits proclaim the imminent demise of the printed book -- yet books remain as ubiquitous as ever (even while their newspaper cousins are going through some hard times).
The e-book may or may not be a true competitor to the dead-tree counterpart, but it has certainly received a lot of attention over the course of 2008. That's because after years of R&D work in the lab, some viable commercial e-books finally popped onto the market.
The one that got the most attention was the Kindle, designed and sold by Amazon, the online book-selling behemoth.
Our experiences at Wheaton
Of course, being librarians, geeks, and college-dwellers, R&I jumped on the Kindle bandwagon and bought one to take it out for a spin.
Frankly, we love it.
Having said that, the Kindle is best enjoyed when reading in a linear fashion -- novels work well -- rather than jumping around, such as in a reference book or newspaper. Navigation is a bit clunky.
The "secret sauce" is the display which is a delight to read under almost any circumstances - even in bright daylight (where a laptop screen is all but unreadable).
Some quick facts about the Kindle
- Like all e-books, the Kindle's screen does not glow -- it is more akin to an etch-a-sketch screen, and cannot be read in the dark. Unlike a typical laptop screen, however, it is quite readable in sunlight
- The Kindle display only consumes energy when the page changes, but requires no energy to maintain an image -- as a result, a single charge can last 5 days easily
- A Kindle can hold approximately 200 books in memory
- The Kindle downloads books via the cell phone network, so that you can download books anywhere you can use a cell phone. The cell phone connection costs are built into the cost of the Kindle itself, so there is no monthly connection fee
- As of this writing (March 2009) the Kindle is retailing for $359. The price is sure to drop.
Will it usurp the printed page? While the experience of reading a Kindle may not be exactly the same as flipping the well-worn pages of a treasured paperback, for most of us in most cases it may well be "close enough".
Our verdict? Keep a close eye on this one.