This post is going to consist of a lot of rambling thoughts that I've typed up over the last few days. Apologies for the lack of organization.
The more I think about this product, the more I like the idea -- for the most part. Certainly, if the Kindle works as advertised, it can save a fair amount of space, time, money, and materials.
One of the great advantages of this thing is the ability to change the type size on the screen. Also, the screen looks like it’s a good size – much bigger than the screen on a cell phone. That may not mean much to you kids, but for someone like me and people who are older, those are both real pluses. I shouldn’t need a microscope to read a book. (Presumably, once you set the type size, it stays that way? Or do you have to reset it each time you turn the Kindle on?)
Being able to store several novels in one device allows for a fairly large personalized library of books. For people who don’t have a huge amount of storage space, or those like my mother, who reads a book once and doesn’t usually read it again, this would allow them to have exactly the books they want. Also, you can carry around several novels or other print items (like today’s newspaper) without having to cart around a forest's worth of paper.
Which brings me to.... Less waste of paper and energy printing books. The United States was supposed to be a paperless society many, many years ago. (We were also supposed to be completely switched over to the metric system by 1980. What the heck happened? :? ) I’ve picked up a number of books over the years that I’ve read and then decided I didn’t like enough to keep. So now what? Throw them out, pass them to someone else, donate them to the library? I can’t tell you the number of books we get in donations, some of which really should have just been thrown away. (Friendly tip – if you find mold and/or mildew growing on your books, put them in the garbage.)
One of the reasons we have libraries is for the storage and availability of popular or common-interest books and materials. If you can download your own copy of things, it saves you a trip to the library, or bookstore, not to mention the cost of the book as a whole. Granted, $10 for a paperback is steep; $10 to download the latest bestseller, which would normally retail for $35, is a steal. And if you don’t like the story, you can just delete it when you’re done.
One other big advantage I can see is for use in schools. Students can have the texts of their entire required reading list on one device. (As long as they don't lose it, of course. The disadvantage, obviously, is that if you forget your Kindle at home, you're out of commission for the entire day in terms of reading material....) Presumably we will be able to store textbooks on this thing too, at some point in the future. Your entire locker, stored on a pad the size of a paperback book. No more huge backpacks, unless you insist on carting around a bazillion pencils and notebooks.
No more waiting in line or at mailbox for books, or being put on the waiting list for something. Digital copies of things can be reproduced an infinite number of times. The biggest drawback to print copies, aside from space and cost, is the availability of copies. It’s like a thread on the Internet – as long as you have computer access and the site doesn’t crash, a zillion people can be reading the exact same posts at the same time. It’s not like you have X number of copies and no more.
Preview first chapter before buying: This may or may not be a good selling point. The first chapter of a book isn’t always the best indicator of how the rest of the story will read. I’ve met some pretty unappealing first chapters in my reading career. One advantage of holding a book in your hand is that you can flip through as many pages as you want and read any part of the story before deciding to buy. (I wonder how this “first chapter only” access will change the way people write
Download of subscriptions to magazines and newspapers. This is something straight out of Star Trek
– carrying a “padd” with all the information you need. I wonder how many publications will sign on to allow you to download on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Also, if the Kindle process continues, will we see publications “bundled”, like the cable company does? (This is one of the most annoying practices in the world. I’m paying ridiculous amounts of money for 50 channels of stuff I never watch....) And how soon will some, shall we say, “enterprising individual” decide to start sending us advertising along with our books? (“Here’s the copy of Gone with the Wind
you’ve downloaded. However, before you can read it, you have to look at these ten ads....” :sick: )
Some of the questions I still have about this: how many different titles will be available for downloads? How long will you be able to download a specific title? Will things “go out of print”? Will books published fifteen or twenty years ago be available for download? What about titles that are not huge sellers? Will they still be available for the few people that want them?
Losing your Kindle will result in loss of a number of books, not just one book or magazine – expensive to replace both the equipment and “titles” (Although according to the article, Amazon.com supposedly will save a list of your previous downloads.)
Someone else probably has a better handle on this than I do, but... right now we have a couple of generations of people who grew up with books. The last two generations seem more interested in video and sound. How much will the Kindle appeal to them, and for how long?
Will print novels and books still be available as well? Will it be possible to decide you want to own something in print, and be able to get it? What about forms of art like pop-up books (which really can't be imitated on a computer screen) and children’s picture books? Are people going to have the same experience reading a Kindle to their kids as I did having parents read me a hold-in-your-hand hardcover book?
The idea of digitalizing books is nothing new. (Anyone else remember microfiche?) Project Gutenberg
was started in 1971, when its founder typed the Declaration of Independence into a computer to store online so anyone who owned a computer could access a copy. By the 1980s, the project had expanded to put free copies of the classic works of literature online as well. I wonder if that has convinced more people to read them, since they’re digitalized? I’m guessing probably not.... We still need teachers and other people who love great stories to introduce new generations to these novels. So English teachers aren't going to be out of jobs any time soon, although they may have to alter the way they teach.
I can see the price of the Kindle being a problem, although as Frapalino pointed out, the price is likely to come down in the next couple of years. (If you check out the actual listing for the Kindle, it says that all available units are sold out, and anyone who orders one is being put on a waiting list. Obviously the idea appeals to a large number of people.)
I'm still kind of tired from my recent travels, so I may have some comments to add or clarify in the next couple of days. In the meantime, people can keep on discussing this.