The topic of the week last week was the release of the new Amazon Kindle. Newsweek devoted their entire cover to it as well as a major article.
Though the Kindle is at heart a reading machine made by a bookseller—and works most impressively when you are buying a book or reading it—it is also something more: a perpetually connected Internet device. A few twitches of the fingers and that zoned-in connection between your mind and an author's machinations can be interrupted—or enhanced—by an avalanche of data. Therein lies the disruptive nature of the Amazon Kindle. It's the first "always-on" book.
I have to admit that the idea of being able to download a new supply of reading materials instantly, and for a significantly lower price, is pretty enticing to this reader. If they hadn't sold out within 5 hours, the Kindle might have been on my list to Santa this year. But funnily enough, despite what all the "death of printed books" pundits are predicting, I can't see it having a huge impact on printed books -- at least not in the near future.
Why? There are several reasons, and I've considered all of them pretty seriously. I have, for example, tried ebooks in the past, and though I found them useful for nonfiction because of being able to search, they're a pain in the kazoo in other ways. Like, say, when my house was struck by lightning and we were without electricity for several days. Once the battery of the reader runs out, then you're out of luck. We had another long power outage last winter, and having a decent supply of real books was critical to my survival!
Another thing is that I often read for pure enjoyment -- and that can mean while I'm eating; or sitting out on the porch sweating; or at the beach. I doubt very much that the Kindle can offer much protection against greasy fingers, sand, or sweat! Another thing I do is read on planes -- obsessively -- because I'm afraid of flying. I cannot get on a plane without a minimum of two books, and it's usually more. The Kindle would be fabulous for reducing weight in my tote bag, except you have to turn it off while taking off and landing -- the times at which my flying fears are most likely to rear their heads -- so I'd have to take at least one book too, which utterly defeats the purpose.
There was one other feature that would have made the Kindle a slam-dunk for me had it been included, but it wasn't: a backlit screen. That would have allowed me to read in bed with the overhead lights off, sparing DH some frequent misery.
I'll probably get a Kindle someday, or one of its competitors, when it has a backlit screen and a battery that can last at least 60 hours and it costs $99. When that day comes, bring it on. Till then, I'll stick with my expensive, heavy, dog-eared pages. They're reliable and they look nice on the bookshelf.