OK, I didn’t get to this as fast as I promised, but I wanted to weigh in on the great Kindle debate of 2008.
First let’s talk about cost. $400 is a lot of money. I would not have spent the money myself. It was a Christmas gift and a wonderful one. If the price is too high for you I can respect that. I don’t really want to get into a debate about whether it is “worth” $400 or not. That is really up to the individual to decide. But considering what people spend on cell phones, PDAs, Mp3 players it doesn’t strike me as ridiculously over-priced by any means.
The no brainer type for this device is an avid reader who travels a lot. If you read a lot of bestsellers or popular books and you are on the road a lot the Kindle would be awesome. You can bring an incredible amount of reading material in one handy device that is about the size and weight of a trade paperback. Plus, if for some reason you run out you can buy more instantly. As a bonus you can listen to music and do some basic web surfing. I can’t imagine why a book addict traveler wouldn’t find the Kindle a wonderful tool.
But I am not a frequent traveler, so why do I love the Kindle? Convenience. The basic advantage is the ability to have access to a wide array of reading material in a small light weight form. With the Kindle it is easy to never be without something to read.
Let’s start with books. And let’s start with a few caveats:
– Yes, not all books are available. This is a drawback. I wish more books were available. But a lot of books are available and more are being added every day.
– There are still some books I want to read in hard copy format. Books where the illustrations, the look and feel of the book, are part of the process of reading it. But this is a limited set of books so it isn’t a big problem. I don’t need to read everything on the Kindle just enough to make it worthwhile.
– I really haven’t had much trouble inadvertently hitting page forward buttons or anything else. But it does take a little time to get used to handling it given the location of the buttons. At first I thought it would be a problem, but I just seemed to get used to it.
Now on to the positives.
One of the great things about the Kindle is the instant nature of the process. Find out one of your favorite authors just came out with a new book? Buy it on your Kindle and read it seconds later. Imagine if the Kindle was around for the Harry Potter books. The moment the book came out you could start reading it. I find that cool. No running to the store or waiting for Amazon to ship it to you.
Another handy aspect for me is the ability to highlight and take notes. For those of us who write reviews or like to note passages this is very useful. No longer do you have to have a pencil handy or post it notes or whatever you use to mark passages. With the Kindle you can quickly and easily add notes or highlight a passage. And all these are saved in a clippings folder for reference; and this file can be transfered via USB to your computer for use elsewhere. You can also look up words in the dictionary or search Wikipedia.
It is worth noting how easy it is to read. It you are reading Anna Karenina or another huge book, reading it on the Kindle is a lot easier on the hands and arms. You can load up your Kindle with a bunch of fat classic novels – use places like the Gutenberg Project and it is free – from Tolstoy, Dickens, etc. and never have to carry around anything larger than a trade paperback. You can read it with one hand and in almost any position. Plus, you never lose your place and you don’t need a bookmark. If you get distracted or have to put it down the Kindle saves your place and you can immediately pick up where you left off.
And, using the web feature, you could stop for a moment while reading and check a sports score, check your email or calendar, or some other basic web function. Then you just click back to your book and start reading again. All of this with no cost to you for the WiFi. And with nothing more than the Kindle in your hand.
You can also have a variety of reading material at hand without loading up a bag or briefcase. I have the Bible, a devotional book, non-fiction books for work, non-fiction books for pleasure, and a variety of fiction for pleasure all on my Kindle. All this different content in one slim package. Want to read the Bible in the morning with your coffee? Done. Want to read a novel during your lunch hour. Done. Need to read a non-fiction book on the train home? Done. Again, the Kindle is so easy to take with you and yet can contain so much information.
Which brings us to Newspapers and magazines. Yes, the choices are limited right now, but the possibilities are great. One of the huge hassles of subscriptions is the way the back issues pile up and how inconvenient it is to take the various issues with you. Plus, you have to wait for them to come in the mail.
With the Kindle the issues are pushed to you automatically. Think about that. You don’t even have to get out of bed to read the paper. Want to read the New York Times first thing in the morning? Reach out and grab the Kindle and you have it. Automatically everyday. Time, Newsweek, Fortune, etc same thing. Even some impressive foreign papers are available. On the road? No problem. No need to mess with stopping the paper, etc. It goes where you go.
I am personally begging magazines to get with Amazon and make themselves available on the Kindle. This alone has the ability to make the Kindle worthwhile. All the great content of magazines and newspapers with no clutter and instantly availability no matter where you are on one small device.
(You can also subscribe to blogs it you want, but I have avoided this because I read blogs all day for work and so don’t really need to do it with the Kindle.)
Yes, I know that much of this is available online for free. But you have to have internet access and a laptop to be portable. And reading on a computer often kills my eyes. Not to mention the fact that you have to click through the internet with ads and all the rest. The Kindle means a true digital subscription that you can take practically anywhere and anytime.
On top of this content, you can also send yourself content and take it with you on the Kindle. I have downloaded material and sent it to my Kindle with great results. Friends have sent me manuscripts, publicists have sent me ARCS, and I have sent myself documents ranging from free books to magazines, to policy papers.
And you can listen to Mp3s in shuffle mode. Granted this isn’t like having an IPod but it works well for background music or listening to podcasts. You can even listen to audio books.
Let me wrap up this rambling tribute where I started. The Kindle allows me to carry an incredible amount of content within one small lightweight device. I can read books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, email, and more with something the size of a trade paperback. I can make highlights and take notes, search all my content, listen to music, and surf the web. I can do all of this without eye or back strain. I can read it almost anywhere. I can read it with one hand on the couch or in bed. I can read it with no hands while I am eating and never lose my place. I can read a just released book in seconds and the paper without getting out of bed and no matter where I am. To me that is convenience.
Is the Kindle for everyone? Obviously not. Is it expensive? Sure. But much of the criticism I have seen online is from those that have never even seen or used one and who are not the target audience anyway. If you are an avid reader I think the Kindle is an amazing device that will change the way content is read in the future. I can only hope more and more publishers get involved and more and more magazines and newspapers are made available. Soon my Kindle will be the one thing I always take with me as I head out the door and the “book” that is always on my bedside table.