Sunday, November 25, 2007

MAKE BOOK ON THIS launched its new Kindle ebook reader with much
noise and fanfare this week. Among other things, there was a
long article in Newsweek which declared that it reinvented the


Okay, in the interests of truthiness, let me remind everyone I
am a bookseller by profession and a booklover at heart. That
being said, I am not a Luddite. I love my computer. Even as I
type this, I’m waiting for my mp3 player/fm radio to finish
recharging from my computer usb port. As an avid lifelong sf
reader I am excited and astounded by most new technology. I
say most. I don’t include e-readers among the things that excite

Amazon’s Kindle is nothing new. Sony released the Bookman
Reader in the 1990’s and it failed. Two years ago they revamped
it and already have gone through one remodel. It still hasn’t taken
off. One reason is the price, I believe. The new version is $299, as
is the Kindle’s price. That right there is the main problem. Most
people do not have that sort of money to spend on a gadget that
is redundant. They can buy a paperback book for $7.99 much
more easily.

Another reason is peace of mind. You can haul a Kindle around as
easily as a book, yes. But if you drop a book in a puddle, you’ve
only lost the cost of one book. You can bring a book to the beach
and leave it on your chair while you swim and not be too upset if
some sand gets stuck in it or if it’s gone when you get back from
your swim. Try doing that with a $299 Kindle.

And then there’s the kids. Sad to say, most kids only read a book
when they have to, such as summer reading for school. Will the
average parent let their kids read their book on their Kindle or
instead just buy the traditional paper copy which can be dropped,
kicked, torn, and even lost on the way to school and then easily
and cheaply replaced?

Could an electronic book reader take the place of a big picture
book at bedtime with pictures that a child stares at before
pointing at it and asking their mom or dad what it is?

Would millions of kids gather in bookstores worldwide for a Harry
Potter new release download? Or would they just sit at home and
wait quietly for it, not experiencing the fun of being with other
fans to talk about their favorite characters while they wait for the
stroke of midnight?

As a genealogist I believe there is a productive use for ebooks,
specifically the preservation of older out of print books such as
what Google is doing. But for me devices such as Kindle or the
Sony Reader cannot replace the feel of a real book in my hands,
or the memories of who gave me the book or of when and where
I purchased and read it for the very first time.

So good luck to Jeff Bezos and Amazon with the Kindle. I’m sure
there are many “first adopters” and technofiles out there that will
be ready to try it.

As for me, I’ll just stick to real books, thank you.

1 comment:

Apple said...

The price is the only thing keeping me from buying an ebook reader. I would love to be able to take a stack of books with me to work or on vacation. The feature that Kindle has that made me drool was the ability to download a book right on the beach. The price of ebooks seems out of line too. With Kindle you are stuck buying from Amazon and I don't think you can pass them on to a friend. The other neat feature, at least at first glance, is the ability to read newspapers and gasp - blog feeds - anywhere. But there were no old newspapers and not a single single genealogy blog was listed!