December 20th, 2007 | Trends | 13 Comments
I got an email from a writer I met at a conference in Philadelphia, Kathleen G (the G is for "genuine talent" — in a couple years you’re all going to know about her). She wrote to ask, "So what do you think of the Kindle?"
In case you’re out of the technoloop, Amazon has begun selling a new e-book device called the Kindle. It’s the size of a hardcover book, and has a lot of cool features. Many people are talking about it as "the iPod of books." Here are some things I really like about the Kindle…
First, it’s the right size. It feels similar to a book. Small, light, and it opens up with a plastic cover. Like a book, you never turn it on or off.
Second, the screen is great. It’s not like your laptop screen — it’s a black-and-white (not gray-and-white) electronic ink screen, so it’s easy to read, even outside in the sun. I happen to be a person who enjoys reading outdoors, and none of the other electronic readers (the Sony Reader, the iLiad, the Rocket, the GemStar, SoftBook, etc.) gave me enough contrast or brightness to use effectively. It’s even got a magnifier, so you can make a quick adjustment to make the text larger very easily (which I’m discovering is a nice feature, now that I’m sneaking up on 50).
Third, it’s easy to use. It uses cel-phone technology, so it’s not like waiting to log on to your PC. You order books right on the screen, and they are downloaded in about a minute using the same technology as texting. And best of all there’s NO COST to that feature. No kidding — Amazon is paying for it. (So you know, you can have your PC run on cel phone service with some companies, but it’ll cost you about $75 bucks a month.) So "free" is a good deal, since the Kindle will do some basic web browsing, some email, and can get your New York Times delivered to it every morning.
Fourth, the cost of books is cheap. Amazon currently has 90,000 books available. All new books are just ten bucks — a steal. Most older books (including classic texts) are between three and five dollars. Magazines are two bucks per month. The Kindle will hold about 200 books, which is a pretty good library to have at your fingertips. The rest you’ll have to back up on a memory card.
Fifth, there’s a significant "cool" factor to the Kindle. Small, easy to use, saves you from lugging a bunch of books in your travel bag, and sure to get you noticed on a plane.
On the other hand, there are some drawbacks to the Kindle…
First, I don’t know how else to say this: it feels cheap. I’m sure the first time I drop it, that plastic cover is going to break off. There’s just sort of a plasticky feel to it — one of the reviewers likened it to a Commodore 64 computer, and I find that an apt comparison.
Second, the design has some bugs to work out. The margin tabs on either side of the screen are huge, and since I have a tendency to hold a book in one hand, I kept accidentally clicking them and changing pages when I didn’t want to be. And one common criticism among reviewers is the fact that there’s a "Back" button, but no "Forward" button — which makes no sense when you’re on the Web.
Third, this isn’t nearly as good a screen when you get away from books. When you’re browsing the web, it’s tough to read the small print, and you can’t change the font size of anything on the web. I found it much harder to get around the newspaper than on my laptop. There are no streaming videos, no web layouts, no audio books (unless you load them through your laptop). The usefulness of the email account is limited.
Fourth (and here I’m being picky), you have to turn it off when on a plane, since it works on cel-phone technology. Bummer for those of us who travel and fill our time reading rather than thinking about crashing and burning while traveling 400 miles an hour, five miles in the air, in a steel tube. (In case you’ve never thought about it.)
Fifth, while books are much cheaper than buying the $24.95 hardcover, the cost of the actual Kindle is $400! Yikes…at that price, it’s going to take a lot of books to cover the cost. Which makes me assume that Amazon is hoping to sell this on the "cool" factor.
It IS cool, by the way. And as soon as the price drops to something much more reasonable, I’ll buy one. By then they’ll have a color screen, and the button design will be fixed, and they cover will be changed to feel more permanent. So I like it, but I’m not racing out to buy one for Christmas.
Hey, I’d LOVE to know what you think of the Kindle.