Has everyone gone Kindled?

The Amazon Kindle is an e-book reader which is able to store sheer amounts of electronic books, but sadly enough still doesn’t deliver a high enough contrast to enable hassle-free, minimal eye-strain (black letters on white paper) reading.

As an observer sitting on the ledge looking out on the numerous Americans going berserk over a new gadget baptised The Kindle, I’m once more amazed at how frenzied some (many?) people let themselves become. Not only does it cost a hefty dime, I’m also dead sure it won’t be as portable as a good old paperback or even an iPod (for audiobooks). It might not be a fair comparison, but I just couldn’t imagine anyone accidentally sitting on their Kindle (forget about popping it in your back-pocket!), spilling coffee over it or forgetting it on some random airliner (like Leo Laporte did just recently with his Sony Reader — another piece of gadgetry).

That said, there are many appealing characteristics about this device. The Kindle might just inflict enough arousal exposure to force the other manufacturers (Sony?) to pitch in.

  • EVDO Internet (not Wi-Fi): this is included with your subscription to Amazon and allows for immediate book purchases from the device itself. It can also automatically pull down the newspapers you’ve subscribed to.
  • Long battery-life: Amazon claims the Kindle will keep on running for 1 full week on one charge — provided the user disables internet access completely (otherwise the battery-life would decrease to a mere few days).
  • It resembles a paperback, at least size-wise.
  • Free wireless access to Wikipedia.org
  • “Holds over 200 titles” [Amazon Website]
    I wonder why they didn’t bother to translate this to a more understandable notation like Megabytes? What, do they deem their users to-be tech-un-savvy? I would assume the contrary.
  • Dictionary, annotation-capabilities, semi-scalable fonts, …

That’s a lot of functionality for an e-book reader, that’s for sure. Certainly it’s interesting to have a lot disk space to play with (one could expand the capacity via SD-cards, as well) and it’s definitely a plus to use this thing when you’re not in the comforting vicinity of your computer — or — just far away from home. But also consider the following:

  • (actually) Low-contrast display (in comparison with white paper due to the current state of E-Ink technology.
  • Priceyness
  • Lag between page-flipping
  • Have a RSS feed you’d like to subscribe to? You can, if you pay for it.
  • Amazon charges for viewing of own files

Good technology, rough around the edges | All in all, the Kindle looks like a good piece of technology, though still in 1.0. Obviously, Amazon wants this thing to catch on, so I’m sure they will have evolved the technology enough by version 2.0 or 3.0. For now, it seems it’s only for the tech-enthusiasts among us who also happen to be a bookworm.

If it were available to me, I don’t think I could be persuaded in being interested.

I, myself am more an audiobook-guy and I’ll tell you why you should be that too. Everyone already carries around at least two devices nowadays: a cellphone and an MP3-player (or better yet, the two combined into one), so why lug around another? Audiobooks are often very engagingly narrated and allow you to continue your activities without needing to hold a book. I “read” books while walking to the train station, on the train itself, on my walk to school, etc.

And no, it’s not just for lazy people.

For a more hands-on view on the Kindle: ArsTechnica has an extensive review of the Amazon Kindle, here.

P.S.: I wonder where they got the name.

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