Oct 15, 2009

Reading Books in the Digital Age

So Gia is a gal who loves her gadgets. Loves her Mac, her iPhone (on her second one), her GPS, her XM Radio, etc... And now she has a new obsession with Amazon's Kindle, a electronic book reading device.  And a little bit more.

She really, really wants a Kindle.  And she reads a lot.  A LOT!  So it wouldn't be a waste of money in that regard.

But here's the thing. I'd buy her one, but I'm pretty convinced that the technology on the latest Kindle is gonna be obsolete sooner rather than later.  I'm not even convinced that it is the best e-reader on the market right now.  Sony has one.  Barnes & Noble's is releasing one with color next week.  And Fujitsu just released a beta-version of their tablet which is retailing in Japan for around a grand.  And all of those have limited or full touch-screen capabilities.  Something the Kindle doesn't have.

Then there is the 700-pound gorilla in the room.  Steve Jobs.  He has hinted at an Apple tablet which could be an e-reader in the past.  And he has deflected.  Saying that Americans don't read books anymore so it would be a waste of time.  A technique he is famous for while working on exactly that kind of technology.

Here is what I want in an e-reader, were I to want an e-reader (I don't):
  • A screen around the size of a paperback.
  • I want the frame to be not much bigger than the screen, so...
  • Touch-screen capabilities would be a must.
  • Wi-fi access with a simple web-browser.
  • No eye-glare, so I could use it in the sunlight.
  • A back-light (or side-light) option so I could read it at night without a lamp.
  • The ability to make notes and bookmark pages.
  • Maybe the ability to send content to another e-reader if I want.

So what to do?  Buy the current Kindle and hope it has more than 6 months of usefulness before something better (way better) comes out?  How about those other e-readers currently on the market?  Do those offer a viable alternative?  Or should we just wait for the Apple "Kindle Killer" e-reader sometime in the near or not-so-near future?

I'm asking you people because you are much more tech-savvy than I.  Or at least that's how you come across on your blogs.  You wouldn't be lying to me now, would you?  Fuckers!


Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. Me?  I like books.  Real fucking books.


Water Logged Canine said...

Apple vs. Kindle? Jeff Bezos has already begrudgingly released a Kindle application to be used in conjunction with the iPhone. In a nutshell, it allows you to read the same material that you would on your Kindle, when you don't have your Kindle. Confused yet? On the record, he believes that people will utilize the "app" while doing everyday tasks i.e.--standing in line at the grocery store. Upon returning home, he surmises they'll pick up their Kindle again. Off the record, I feel that he is hedging his bets. Even if the Kindle becomes obsolete, he still has a great marketplace for people to buy their e-books whether or not they read them on his dedicated reader.

Despite all this, you know what I say? What a snoozefest! Seriously...there's a "nap" for that!

LegalMist said...

I agree with you, I like real books better than an electronic gadget.

But a friend of mine who loves to read, but has Muscular Dystrophy and has a lot of trouble holding books open and turning pages, received a Kindle for Christmas last year, and she absolutely loves it.

She says it is lightweight and holds a ton of books (literally), is easy to read, easy to manage, and a real joy to use. She says it is simple beyond simple to download books onto it, and inexpensive besides.

Get Gia her Kindle.

Then when something "better" comes out, she can decide whether to upgrade if she thinks it would be better than the Kindle!

Verdant Earl said...

Lando - I'm sorry, was I supposed to read all that? OK, so you are recommending sticking with real books, right? No? I don't get it. ::Snoooze::

Mist - Oh, I know the pros of the Kindle. I was more looking at the alternatives and seeing if they are any better. And I know she can just upgrade, but if that upgrade comes by the end of the year or soon afterward than the Kindle right now makes no sense.

sybil law said...

Can't help - I love the feel of a book in my hand.

hello haha narf said...

chalk me up for the real book club.
although, should i ever go to the dark side and get an electronic reading device i would want the exact features you mentioned. are ya listening, steve jobs? get crackin!

regardless of what comes out in the future, i think christmas would be a wonderful time to fulfill ms. gia's kindle wish. if she loves it as much as i think she will, it won't matter what comes out in the future. besides, she could always regift it later to someone else. or sell it to me.

Mrs. Hall said...

HEY did anyone say Loser by Beck?

Because if not, i get the points from yesterday!

I absolutely chew through autobiographies/memoirs. But honestly, no other genre interests me.

but, i am thinking of getting an Itouch.

yeah, that's all i got ;)

Verdant Earl said...

Sybil - I hear ya.

Becky - yeah, the Kindle 3 is supposed to drop by Christmas. Maybe it will wind up in G's stocking. ;)

Holly - I'm not a fan of the iTouch. I understand the iPhone with all of it's capabilities, but the iTouch seems...lacking. And expensive!

Verdant Earl said...

Holly - oh, and yes...you win for yesterday's blog title. :)

Slyde said...

hey, i knew yesterdays title was Beck.. thats one of my favorite songs. since when do we have to call it out? im new here...

Anonymous said...

I've been reading ebooks on PDA-type devices for nearly a decade now, which may eliminate my opinion as I'm clearly atypical. That being said, I saw a stat yesterday that more ebooks are read on smartphones than other devices.

I think it really comes down to a question of reading environment. At home, on airplanes, etc., I read physbooks (yes, I'm a dork and I made up that word for physical books). Everywhere else, I like having books available on my iPhone so that I can read whenever the urge strikes. I just don't see myself carrying a Kindle, or any other dedicated reader, around.

So for me, ebooks do not replace physbooks; rather, they augment them. Could I see myself replacing physbooks with a dedicated ebook reader? I'm not sure. Maybe someday, but I don't see the point. What are the advantages? Because there are quite a few disadvantages (power requirements, can't trade or resell the books, *still* have to turn it off during take-off and landing).

On that last point, I was thinking that if Amazon could manage to negotiate a deal with the FAA and the airlines to allow the Kindle to remain on during the entire flight, it would be quite a coup. That might get me to buy one.

All that being said, everyone I know that has gotten a Kindle has raved about it.

Han Solo's Hot Dog Warmer said...

I've got a Kindle and I adore it more than the clouds in Sky city! My love borrows it on occasion, and thinks it's great to commute with. Imagine being on a packed train and only having to click a button rather than turn a page. See that? Efficient. Love it so hard!

New York City's Watchdog said...

I'm hot for the Kindle DX.

But at the same time, both the B&N plus the Apple factor has me holding off on the dive.

Eventually though... one will come... because they built it.

Faiqa said...

I love physical books. I collect them. I will not switch to e-books.

I will not read them.

Not a plane.
Not a boat.
Not a train.
Not with a goat.

I will not read them, Jeff-I-Am.

Verdant Earl said...

Slyde - kinda obvious that "Loser" would be one of your favorite songs.

Ren - Gia is looking to replace her physbooks (nice one!), so I don't believe that she will be carrying it with her wherever she goes.

Lando - yeah, but wouldn't a mind-activated ocular implant that you could use to read books be better? ;)

Dawg - it's funny, she doesn't want the DX because it is too big. From what I've seen the Barnes & Noble reader looks kickin'!

Faiqa - It's a good thing I never tried collecting books. They take up soooo much space. So I keep the ones that I know I'm going to re-read, or my favorite authors, but I give away the rest. Especially once you've gone through a series of moves. Those books are heavy!

Jennifer and Sandi said...

My boss bought a Kindle 6 months ago. She reads A LOT! She opened it, downloaded one book and now The Kindle is back in the box sitting next to her desk. Pssst....she isn't even used it!

- Jennifer

Bruce Johnson said...

It is funny you should post this. I have been wanting to get an e-reader for a while, but I have been putting it off. Cost is one issue, and like you state, I think they are still evolving. I prefer the Sony E-reader to the Kindle at this point.

The Kindle is being set up by Amazon to create a market for downloadable content only that you subscribe to. It is eventually supposed to take the place of your morning paper and read books (that Amazon will sell you).

The Sony e-Reader is mean more to be a device that you can load multipule formats to, and I like the design better.

My current solution is to find an old Palm Pilot. You can download and e-reader application for them for free and load books onto them and use them as an e-reader. They are pretty spiffy. I am just finishing up one novel and about to start on another. My Palm Vx hold about 20 books right now, and at a cost of about $19 in a thrift store, you can't beat the price.

Verdant Earl said...

Jenn - that's what I'm afraid of. I mean, there are worse things to blow $259 on, but still...

Bruce - the screen on those palm pilots are a little small for my liking. Nice solution, though.

marty mankins said...

For the last 10 years, I've been reading eBooks on PDA sized devices like the Pocket PC and the Palm devices (like my current Treo 755p).

While it's not bad, I've now seen these new ebook readers like the Kindle and the bigger screen is a nicer option.

But, I'm not ready to buy one yet. My ideal ebook reader needs to have a 20 hour battery life, color, an SD card slot, be able to read Microsoft Reader (.LIT format) and Palm OS pdb format books and PDF (which I understand the Kindle does read)

I have a feeling I'll be waiting a while.

Avitable said...

I didn't think I could switch over to the Kindle since I love the feeling of a book so much, and it's amazing how much the Kindle feels like a real book. I say to get it. I'm so glad I got mine - I don't regret it in the slightest.

justsomethoughts... said...

i'll be totally honest earl.
i have no clue.
kindle is something i do to firewood on those romantic evenings.
so there you have my expert opinion.
i still read books.

rachel said...

I love my kindle and they are on sale and upgraded from the one i got a month ago - GET HER ONE they are awesome.

Verdant Earl said...

Marty - I'm sure you will get all that sooner rather than later. It seems to be the new hot tech.

Avitable - duly noted.

El Duderino - I'm generally with ya on that.

Rachel - I think she decided to wait a few months to see what the market looks like then, but all the opinions have been really helpful.

Michelle said...

Nerd is the new normal. Its all i got!