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Rory Cellan-Jones

Reading the Kindle

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 19 Oct 09, 08:20 GMT

Readers rejoice - the revolution is here at last. The digital earthquake that shook the music business really began to make itself felt with the arrival of the iPod. Now a slightly larger rectangular white object threatens to do the same to the publishing and newspaper industries. The Amazon Kindle has left its US home and is going global.

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Actually, hold on a minute, let's all calm down. After trying out a Kindle over the weekend I'm not convinced it's quite the threat or the salvation which many across the printed media fear or hope it might be.

What does immediately impress is the simplicity and stylishness of the device. Plug it in, charge it, download your first book and you're away. Then subscribe to a digital edition of a newspaper and it is wired to you in the morning, via the Kindle's "whispernet" 3g connection. Just as the iPod was not the first MP3 player, the Kindle is by no means the first digital reader. I've also had a quick play with the Sony Reader, which in its Touch edition is also quite an impressive device.

But the Kindle's integration with the Amazon store is what gives it the edge, while setting off alarm bells in the publishing world. Amazon must be looking at the Apple example, with iPod users herded efficiently to the iTunes store, and hoping that its own integrated system will make it as powerful in digital text as the computer company is in digital music. Which is why the analogue text industries are in a frenzy of fear and anticipation.

Before using the Kindle, I had imagined that it was the newspaper subscriptions rather than the books which would prove the more attractive. But the opposite turned out to be true. There seems to be a pretty good range of e-books in Amazon's store, with a few big hits very competitively priced, and others rather expensive for a 'virtual' product. I bought one of the hits, the Booker prizewinner Wolf Hall, for $8.84. I should explain that Amazon is still running the whole Kindle operation through its US site, which means you pay in dollars - so the Hilary Mantel book cost me about £5.40.

Wolf Hall book and Amazon KindleWhen I started reading, it felt pretty close to the paper experience. There's no glare on the Kindle's screen, so you get simple black text on a cream background, with just enough added bells and whistles. You can make digital notes, search the text, and, if you fall asleep with the book on your face as is my wont, it will remember which page you were on when you turn it on again.

Having also splashed out £14 on the hardback version, I was surprised to find the Kindle Wolf Hall an easier read - although that may be largely due to the fact that the device weighs a mere 400g,and lugging the 1kg book around is a far more back-breaking business. What you don't get is the swappability of a printed book - I'm hardly going to lend the Kindle to a friend so they can read Wolf Hall - nor, as my wife pointed out, do you get your room furnished with attractive book spines.

Then I turned to the digital newspapers. The Kindle Store offers 51 titles from around the world, including four UK papers - The Times, the Daily Mail, the Independent and the Daily Telegraph. They each cost $22.99 per month - about £14. I signed up for trial 14-day subscriptions to the Times and the Telegraph. And was immediately disappointed. You head to the Kindle's home page, click on your chosen newspaper and are presented with a wall of text which is the front page lead story. Struggling to work out what I wanted to read, I found a sections list - Sport, Business, International - but this very dull shop window had no clue as to the precise nature of the goodies within. It all made the idea of reading the paper on the Kindle a very un-enticing prospect.
Telegraph front page next to Amazon Kindle

Suddenly I realised why a book worked on the Kindle but a paper did not. For me, reading a book is an analogue experience - I start at page one and continue until I've finished. A newspaper, on the other hand, is more random, more interactive. I scan the sections and leap from one article to another, much as I do on the web. That's what is already available to me - for free - on newspaper websites, so why would I pay for a less satisfactory digital newspaper? Newspapers have woken up rather late to the fact that they've been giving away content online which could be monetised through e-readers.

There are other reasons why the Kindle may not be quite the game-changer some are claiming. Is a device costing upwards of £200 really going to persuade many people to abandon paper for a screen - especially when you can get a netbook these days for around the same price?

And there will be questions about Amazon's walled garden, which allows some other e-books to be read on the Kindle but doesn't allow titles from its online store to be read on other devices. Other contenders - perhaps including an Apple tablet - may learn some lessons from Amazon and take digital reading to the next level.

The Kindle looks to me like an attractive but expensive niche product, giving a few techie bibliophiles the chance to take more books on holiday without incurring excess baggage charges. But will it force thousands of bookshops to close and transform the economics of struggling newspapers? Don't bet on it.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I'm worried about when they'll decide to put adverts in. Based on history, it's a matter of when, not if. Especially as it has a net connection and especially if it's carrying newspaper content! I think they could ruin the whole thing if they get greedy. We'll see...

  • Comment number 2.

    I like the idea of a portable library but surely you can achieve the same experience with a net book? The net book would also allow you the option of doing more. I think this will flop and more than likely become a software 'add-on'.

  • Comment number 3.

    I looked into getting an E-Reader before i went on holiday to read my tech books (Sony though not the Kindle becuase of the forced tie to the amazon site!). The problem i had - and ultimatly i didnt get one - is that at the end of each chapter in my book there are exam questions with the answers at the back of the book. I couldn't easily answer the questions and look at the answers at the same time without memorising what pages i was loking at so it didn't make sense for learning from books.

  • Comment number 4.

    Having read up on the available e-readers I bought the Sony one last week, and don't regret it one bit. I already have a netbook and iPhone with Stanza (which is pretty good considering the small screen) but for readability the dedicated e-reader wins hands down... you can't use a netbook lying on your side in bed, you can't read it in bright sunlight either. It still amuses my wife that I still reach for the top of the page to turn it...

  • Comment number 5.

    To Virtual_doctor: you can set a bookmark on your current page and just flip back to that.

  • Comment number 6.

    Rory, I think you mean that reading a book is a "linear" experience, not an analogue one.

  • Comment number 7.

    Isn't this product the one that deleted already purchased e-books from its customers machines without permission and without notice?

    Rather like the unavoidable 'upgrades' of Freeview set top boxes that rendered them less useful than before the upgrade (I am thinking about the recent (last year) Thomson manufactured products and 'forcing' teletext extra on its customers to the detriment of the product's previous functionality as seen by many of its users.) Also like Microsoft (or Apple) 'upgrading' your operating systems but rendering the product less useful, clunkier and slower - I am thinking of the XP to Vista 'upgrade' which is why so many people with a choice did not upgrade - but at least they had the choice!

    Generically any product that is able to be altered without the purchaser's permission and against the purchaser's wishes is to my mind suspect. When I buy a book it is mine till I choose to recycle it. However this generic class of products changes this relationship and frankly, I don't like it!

  • Comment number 8.

    The reason MP3 players have worked is because it provided a way of having lots of music at your fingertips without having to carry around lots of CDs and changing them on your CD player every few minutes. Reading a book is a different thing altogether. People don't read a couple of pages of a book and then swap it round for another one. As you say, it's an analogue experience, so once you start, you're going to be staying with the same book until you finish it, which takes considerably longer than the running time of an album.

    MP3 players provided a new way of listening to your music collection, with the ability to make playlists and skipping between albums with ease. The digital readers aren't really doing anything you can't already do with a physical book. Scribbling notes? I can't remember ever feeling the need to scribble notes when reading a novel. If I did, I'd want to do it on a separate piece of paper, and not just because I wouldn't want to spoil the book. Searching the text? Again, not something I really need for a novel. A reference book perhaps, but that would be for academic purposes. Perhaps that's the market they should be targeting? I can perhaps imagine scenarios where a student would need several books at once, and considering the size of student debts and the increasing cost of books, e-books for students may be a way to help the financial burden, assuming they are considerably cheaper than physical books.

    It's not going to replace books anytime soon, though.

  • Comment number 9.

    The big question is would you be happy reading it in the bath?

    I don't care if a £5 book gets a bit soggy from the steam, but a £200 gadget is another matter

  • Comment number 10.

    Retiring abroad to somewhere hot where the living is cheap just got a little bit closer. Assuming there's an internet connection, at least you'd be able to read any book you fancied.

  • Comment number 11.

    You write:

    "What you don't get is the swappability of a printed book - I'm hardly going to lend the Kindle to a friend so they can read Wolf Hall"

    Actually, Amazon allows you to access any title on up to 6 devices at any given time (both Kindles, iPhone and iPod touches). So, you and your wife could read the same novel on your respective Kindles and your kid could read it on his iPhone all for the price of one book. Better than paper books on this front.

  • Comment number 12.

    My worry about all of this is that it takes away some of the intuitive interaction between a user and the media they are playing with.

    I was looking up something the other day on the computer, as is my want, and I ended up wading through a PDF of some reference material.

    Not having an exact search expression to aid me, as I wasn't completely sure what I was looking for, I was having a terrible time trying to find what I needed.

    Then I remembered I had a paper book that covered the same subject. I sat there and flipped through the pages happily and easily found a whole pile of stuff that did the job.

    The human being works best when it uses a selection of senses - sight, touch, the ability to gauge relative positions, thickness and so on. Put a human being in front of an encyclopaedia, and he or she can open it at roughly the right letter, look up several things at once, glean information from neighbouring articles or be distracted in taking a complete detour - and all of this instinctively.

    In front of a computer this just does not happen. When you look at a page, you have no concept of the size of the entire work, you cannot see where the image pages are, you cannot stick your fingers in 3 or four pages, while peaking at the index, and so on.

    Not only is the experience lessened, but you are not using the incredibly sophisticated device, the human being, to its full potential.

    This is the problem with so much digital media. The designers treat the user like an "audience" and completely forget that we are a far more advanced tool in our own right than the computer software will ever be.

  • Comment number 13.

    oh, and another thing

    It strikes me that books are not a problem that need a solution.

    Therefore, there can be only one reason for this product - it is finding new ways of taking money off people and using energy.

    This is the problem with the entire digital age - it is trying to answer a question that no one was asking.

  • Comment number 14.

    What you don't get is the swappability of a printed book

    What you don't get with a Kindle book is ownership. You can't lend it to a friend, you can't sell it on ebay, and you can't donate it to Oxfam. When you hand over your money you're buying nothing, just getting a long-term loan, and one that Amazon can call in at any time as they did with 1984.

  • Comment number 15.

    Yes, what DitchVictim said about reading a book being a linear experience, rather than an "analogue" one.

    More precisely, it's novels that are usually read linearly.

    There are many other kinds of books that, as Virtual_Doctor notes, are not necessarily or even normally read from start to finish in this way. We flip through them, skim them, go back and forth, looking for particular information.

    Such non-linear reading is, as this posting observes, much easier with a traditional (paper) book.

    The only place where ebooks score is when you have a search string, and they have a decent search function. This posting doesn't mention it, but I presume that Kindle has a search function?

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm tempted by it but ultimately I just prefer paperbacks. As one poster has already mentioned it doesn't matter much if your £5 paperback gets a bit wet but a £200 reader is rather more precious. I almost single handedly keep my Oxfam shop in books... I buy cheap used copies (often 1p a book plus postage) from Amazon marketplace then either donate them to the Oxfam bin at my local supermarket or give them to friends and family. You can't do this with an e-book.

    In 4 years I'm onto my third iPod nano (mainly defective batteries) but I still have 20 or 30 year olds books that 'work' perfectly. I'm no luddite but hi-tech isn't always an improvement over 500 year old tech.

  • Comment number 17.

    As many have noted, these devices are best currently used for reading novels, and that's very much what I use mine for. As I'm frequently moving around, and a very quick reader, the ability to lug around lots of books in one tiny one is an enormous boon.

    And looking at the newspaper side, various pieces of software (most notably Calibre) will compile the free (or paid) versions of various news websites into a pdf which is automatically downloaded to your device, producing a free newspaper from your favourite site.

  • Comment number 18.

    e-book readers are useful when on holiday, where you can load it up with books to read at your own pace without having to carry around a suitcase full of books.

  • Comment number 19.

    I have 30 year old books that still 'work fine'. I don't have to worry about DRM, copyright, format - it's not like suddenly all my books will stop working because they are in the wrong format now.
    The only way to get me to try e-books would be to make them ludicrously cheap - say when I bought a new 6pound paperback I got an e-copy somehow for an extra 50p - once I had reached a 'critical mass' I may switch over... or not, I don't know. If I leave a 5pound pbk on a train - no biggy - if I leave my 200pound reader - that also contains 1000pounds worth of other e-books on it, how do I get them back? Creates more problems than it solves.

  • Comment number 20.

    I’m not sure whether it being an Amazon only product whether we will be able to upload our own data or does it have to come through Amazon. It would be ideal if I could view my own pdf documents on the Kindle. At the moment I am waiting before I buy as there are other products available, see http://www.theamazonkindle.co.uk/
    Also, why are the books so pricey - $9.99, it’s not as if there are many overhead costs such as printing and distributing.

  • Comment number 21.

    Ebooks are very handy but I think the key issue is eye-strain. With a printed book you know what you are looking at. It is a piece of paper not a screen set to a certain brightness that is illuminated in a certain way.

    I don't know about anyone else but I like reading books as a safe and pleasant alternative to 'screen-time'. It is certainly much more relaxing than using a mobile device that also knows everything about you and can stress you with work emails and the like at any moment. There is something reassuring about switching the technology off to disappear and read.

  • Comment number 22.

    Looks more and more like a desperate attempt to make money out of the gullible few before moving on.
    What is it? Well its a computer that's been disabled, for the price of a working computer that will only cost you a lot of money to use.
    I read a lot and this thing doesn't look ergonomic, or even portable in the way a book is. I can bash book around, leave it on the floor and tread on it and it still works. I regularly doze off and drop books which work when I pick them up.
    I write notes on them and fill in crosswords in newspapers. This has none of that. I can pick up a book in a bookstore and scan it and reject it and it costs me nothing. With this is will cost me $9.99 to find out its complete rubbish.
    All it has is the ability of the provider to charge a lot more for a lot less.
    This isnt for me its for them, no wonder they're pushing it.

  • Comment number 23.

    I bought the Sony a while ago as it's tougher, has a bigger screen and no lock-in. In particular, the *lack* of connectivity was a selling point - I am in total control of the reader and what goes on or comes off it.
    On holiday I took about 60 books with me. I could only read maybe half a dozen, but it gave me loads to choose from depending upon my mood. It's true that if I lost it the financial impact is far greater than losing a book, but then that very difference means I am far more careful of my reader.
    As regards the comment from hon3stly about eye strain, the Sony and others use eInk rather than the usual mobile/laptop display screens. There is no continual refresh (it updates just once per page turn) and so literally no computer-tech eye strain at all. In fact I can read far longer on the Sony than with printed material - it's actually even easier still on the eyes because it's totally flat whereas the curve on a printed book's page as your eyes approach the spine/inner margin causes your eyes to change focal length for every single line you read.
    As for MadTom1999's comment you're right about the extra damage a book can take. That's not an issue for me personally though as I'm quite precious about books. I'll never crack a spine, never fold corners, never allow damage if at all possible, so really there's no advantage gained. After getting my eyes fixed (too much CRT screen usage), this is the next best purchase I have ever made.
    For those considering, try and borrow someone's Sony first. It feels more like a book and is nowhere near as cheaply made, plus it's secure. And to be blunt, Amazon is attempting a major land-grab it would be in all reader's interests to help prevent (especially given the huge percentage cut they take on the sales).

  • Comment number 24.

    I'm quite happy to call myself a geek, have the iPhone, the PC and netbook and my copy of Windows 7 is pre-ordered. I'm not convinced by e-books and e-book readers.

    Firstly, I don't want to hand control of my content to Amazon, I fell for that one with iTunes and won't be doing that again. I have almost full control of what I do with a physical book with very few restrictions.

    Second, e-book readers are too expensive, period. Why on earth would I pay £200 for a reader and then still have to buy the content. I'm not going to digitise my book collection like I did my CD's so there is no base to start from.

    Third, I worry that e-books will devalue writing much like MP3's devalued music. A novel is an experience to be enjoyed not consumed. I think if I had a reader I'd just end up with 100 on it, most of which I would not have read or would only partly have read.

  • Comment number 25.

    So am i meant to carry a laptop, an mp3 player, moblie phone, and a reader along with me for a holiday or to work? Whats my insurance going to cost compared to me carrying a netbook alone which can perform most of the abilities of the named devices? This tech companies are running out of ideas, and so just like the sub prime mortgage borrowers stopped paying back their loans which led to the banking crises, the public will stop buying all these ill-thought devices from tech manufactures which hopefully will lead to less reaping-off to consumers

  • Comment number 26.

    #25. You don't HAVE to carry a laptop, mp3 and reader on holiday with you. When I go on holiday I make a point of not taking a laptop with me as I don't want people being able to get in touch. I'll leave the hotel phone number with a relative in case of emergency and thats it. Incidentally most home insurance gives you £1000-1500 cover outside the house so given the low prices of phones laptops etc the whole lot should be well under the cover limit.

  • Comment number 27.

    What bothers me the most about the Kindle is the keyboard. How many people take notes when they're reading a book? Not many, I'll wager, so why is there a fixed keyboard wasting so much space?

    The people that do want to take notes will hardly be writing entire essays, so a virtual keyboard would suffice in my opinion. It's just wasted space that could be used to increase the screen size or make the device smaller.

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    My wife is a publisher and uses a Sony Reader to avoid carrying scores of manuscripts around. The big advantage over the Kindle is that the Reader can cope with various document types eg Word directly, rather than having to send the document to Amazon to be converted. The new Touch would also offer the opportunity to make notes, so she is thinking of upgrading. Will they replace books? No, books are pretty much the ideal medium taken singly, but eReaders definitely have some advantages. I can see newspapers starting to offer a tailored edition for eReaders, but only if one starts to dominate the market like the iPhone is for smartphones.

  • Comment number 30.

    It's just a shame that the iphone battery life is approximately one thousandth that of the various ebook devices. I can go on holiday for a few weeks, and not recharge my sony once, but my iphone - trying to read a book on that kills its battery in the space of half a day. And any fancy animations attached to it only worsens it. That's the main problem with the idea of replacing a reader with a netbook.

  • Comment number 31.

    I won't be getting a kindle, it's too expensive, the e-books are too expensive and the DRM means you don't own them, you just get a licence to read them. Amazon have already shown they are willing to delete books (the 1984 debacle) and disable features (text to speech).

    I read e-books on my media player. There are many free and legal books out there in formats that won't stop working at the whim of Amazon.

  • Comment number 32.

    By the way, there are good reasons why the price of eBooks is so high. Remember that royalties still have to be paid. Also, while set-up and distribution costs are not the same, they still exist (I expect Amazon will take a nice commission for sales from its site), while eBook sales volumes are very low compared to real books, so the cost per unit might well be similar.

  • Comment number 33.

    There are many differences between the Kindle products and other readers as well. I personally like the Kindlea lot, but for how it stacks up against the Sony reader, check out a comparison site: ebookreader.compare2save.net. Here you will see each a comparison between different Kindle readers and Sony readers.

  • Comment number 34.

    These electronic book readers are particularly interesting to people who have vision impairment, and as in the case of Kindle 2, they appear to offer the ability to read books for you and allow large fonts which can enormously help the hard of reading.

    Could you post more comments about the review in the light of this?

    My Mother has macular degeneration, but could possibly use this device. The RNIB library of Talking Books, big as it is, is no comparison to what Amazon has and it will be with much eagerness that any comments on the suitability of these readers will be very welcome.

  • Comment number 35.

    I've had a Sony e-book reader since January, and love it! I went away for a month and had loads of books to choose from.

    I don't the Kindle is very impressive - especially since you're tied in to Amazon and you don't appear to actually own the reader or the books.

    I'm in the process of putting most of my books on the Reader - my house is groaning with them, because I like to re-read books. I've run out of places for shelves, so they're now in piles on the floor! Once they're all on the Sony Reader, I can dispose of the "real" books - and buy some more, if I can't get them in electronic format.

    I'm buying lots of "sets", eg; all Stephen King, all Dean Koontz, etc from E-bay, I think the maximum I've paid is about £6 - and it must be legal, because E-bay allow it.

    But - better still - I can get hundreds of the books I love FREE from Project Gutenburg (http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page). They're all books that are out of copyright and they've got some I've never been able to find in "real" book form. I'd already tried reading some of them on my laptop, but it's hard on the eyes - that's why I decided to get a special Reader. It's smaller and lighter than the average paper back, and I can slip it into my bag and not even know it's there.

    I probably sounds like I work for Sony or something - but I don't!! I'm just so delighted that I will be able to store thousands of books (I've added a memory card) on such a small device. Just like I've got all my music on my iPod.



  • Comment number 36.

    My $0.02.

    Can't say I'm all that impressed by the Kindle. It's clogged up with proprietary rubbish from what I gather from what I have been reading, and Amazons practices leave a little to be desired, for instance I know someone who worked for Amazon in the US and they said that whilst they can disable a Kindle when it's lost or stolen if the person who "owns" the Kindle calls them, the person who's stolen it can just as easily get the device re-enabled just by calling Amazon and asking for it to be re-enabled!

    Now I'm sorry but that's a £150+ piece of kit that is tied to an Amazon account in your name, I for one would not wish to just lose it and then have someone else using my Kindle account and run up a huge bill.

    Then there is the fact that you don't actually own the device or the e-books, you are effectively renting them.

    EULAs in video games have been like that for a long while now, and that isn't right in my opinion, when you buy something from a shop you should own it, unless it is clearly marked as a rental.

    So couple the fact that I prefer real books with the proprietary rubbish Amazon are forcing on customers with the Kindle I can safely say that e-readers are not for me (although I aware that not all e-readers are the same), that and I can't afford one at this time...

  • Comment number 37.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 38.

    I don't believe a specific e-reader is going to win out, and Amazon will eventually have to drop the "walled garden" approach or lose e-book sales to more open content providers.

  • Comment number 39.

    I recently did some research into eBooks and eBook Readers. Google Books is a great resource for free eBooks as well as the lesser known Project Gutenburg. Project Gutenburg has compiled books in mobireader format which can be read on mobile phones, Blackberry and Palm as well as Laptops.
    Before the Kindle was available in the UK I also looked into a cheap alternative. Many laptop manufacturers are producing 1Kg sub-notebooks most of which have a built-in facility to use the computer in portrait rather than landscape. This in conjunction with free eBooks gives you a kinda Kindle experience, cheaper and you also have a fully functional laptop as well.
    I am currently working on dictionary software for mobile devices, marketing them as eco-friendly alternatives to paperbacks. A tree is cut for each 120 paperbacks produced and to make each book requires sufficient energy to power a mobile phone for a year and uses 24 litres of water. http://www.bede.me/environment/

  • Comment number 40.

    Other contenders - perhaps including an Apple tablet - may learn some lessons from Amazon and take digital reading to the next level.

    Given the reason for people's ambivalence about the concept (an expensive, niche product trying to solve a problem that doesn't really exist), this sounds like an odd statement.

    No doubt though, when Apple finally copy the Kindle and put an apple logo on it, we'll never hear the end of how brilliantly innovative and game-changing it is.

  • Comment number 41.

    The elephant in the room is Apple's long rumoured tablet device. The issue with Kindle and similar appliances is that it's a single function device - many will be looking for the value added by a convergent piece of equipment. I count myself among that number.

    If Apple can get an intuitive interface onto such a device (and track record says the oods are good there) and they can bundle the right apps, like high quality eReaders, then Kindle could find itself in an already obsolete marketplace. In fact, Apple has most of the tools there alredy - PDF as a reading format, the already better than adequate Preview app extended to provide more reading functions and format support, and then a mobile device that can sync via the cloud.

  • Comment number 42.

    E-books will not be successful until they add value. In academia this means the ability to have links between books downloaded to your kindle or whatever, so when reading one topic you can get links to the same topic in other books you are licensed to access.

    Its not hard to do, and is a feature of other information systems available.

  • Comment number 43.

    What I can't get is how Amazon and other e-tailers of ebooks can get away with charging the same price as the print edition for ebooks. After all for most books it is just a case of transferring text from the authors WP to an ebook format, a process that is entirely automated. I would call this robbery. Compared to music downloads, and considering the volume of books sold, I reckon 99p for a ebook would be right and is the one way way of reducing piracy.... This is merely greed on the part of Amazon and the publishers.

  • Comment number 44.

    I love reading. I have an expensive set of Lord Of The Rings with quarter leather binding, which is a treasure, as well as some 300 books on various shelves. I now have a Sony Reader, which is a sleek, beautifully designed device, sits comfortably in one hand and so far holds 10 novels of over 500 pages each.

    Curious how all new devices, from the humble video player, the walkman, the mobile phone etc are greeted with great apprehension at first. I do recommend people try an e-reader before judging them.

    Yes, this will replace paper books for me, I can now buy and possess my next book within 5 minutes, not interested in newspapers at all, I look hungrily at the wide, wide Amazon catalogue but love the Sony and I have to fight my family for use of the little machine.

  • Comment number 45.

    These eReaders still aren't designed with consumers in mind, or rather the whole package isn't, they represent a high margin way for the publishers to distribute the content.

    eBooks should be a fraction of the price of physical books as there is a fraction of the costs involved in distributing the digital content that there is in the physical counter parts

    If books cost about 49p-£3.99 for the traditional price tags of £5.99-£19.99 of their physical counterparts then I can see the adoption of ereaders increasing rapdly, but if publishers see this distribution channel as a way to charge the same price as they currently are but pocket lots of extra margin then this will be the domain of the techie few.

    I love the feel and smell of turning pages in old paperbacks, but I would gladly forgo it to make savings on a digitally distributed product, but until I can make savings I'll stick with the physical product.

  • Comment number 46.

    I cannot see the new apple tablet affecting this market in any way because it will be a computer with a light emitting screen, not a reading device. But, neigher am I excited about the Kindle. Amazon might want to push their propriatory format that you can 'almost own'. But, as a consumer I want something like my MP3 player that I can plug in to my computer and use open formats. It bothers me that so amny people seem to think that the restrictions on the Kindle apply to other e-readers.

    www.anothergeek.biz/blog/2009/10/are-paper-books-economically-viable.html

  • Comment number 47.

    I gather the Kindle is also an MP3 player. But I assume you have to buy talking book recordings separately if that's what you want, it won't read aloud to you by itself? It could do that, but good money is made selling professionally read books.

    The display is easy-to-read "electronic paper" in black, white, grey. I think this operates by mechanically moving each pixel to show a white, black, or mixed face. It's supposed to be as comfortable to read as print on paper, and it doesn't need electric power to maintain the image. For the money you're mainly buying that display.

    Books such as the question-and-answer format demand attention. In an electronic format, since page count presumably doesn't contribute to the cost you could have each question on its own page and each answer after the corresponding question. Or If the device supports hidden text on a page to be revealed by pressing a button, you could do it that way. However, while old books from the 20th century could be computerised simply by photographing the original pages, reformatting text implies that someone has to do that work.

    A netbook computer can do more, although my touchscreen Gigabyte M912 is much heavier than Kindle and has far less battery life. And it can be easier to share one family computer and also use one of these book machines. I want classic books free, though, unless there's value added.

  • Comment number 48.

    I do most of my reading on my laptop and I do read a lot. I read at least 6-7 hours a day, 365 days a year.

    If I was to buy a portable device to read electronic documents, I'd get a netbook with a touch screen. Touch screens are foldable, can take notes, type normally, surf the net, etc. Asus EeePC T91 is affordable as well.

  • Comment number 49.

    Why do people keep saying the Kindle is closed? You can't buy books with copy protection from other stores, but since you've got Amazon, that's not a big deal (other than the books that are available only in the US, but that's a publisher thing, and there's ways around it...)

    You can download public domain books from manybooks.net in Kindle format. From Feedbooks.com and Project Gutenberg in mobipocket format (works on the Kindle), and even the Google Books epub format will work if you use Calibre (free) on your PC to convert it to mobipocket when you transfer them to your Kindle as there's no DRM on the google books preventing them from being converted. The only thing you can't read is protected ePub books (like from the Sony ebook store).

    i.e. I bought my International Kindle last week, and have bought a grand total of 3 books on Amazon (each of which was cheaper than the paper book at Amazon.co.uk), but have over 150 books on my Kindle at the moment as the rest are all public domain (in the UK at least), and were free.

    The 1984 / Animal Farm issue happened when Amazon mistakenly released the books as public domain when they're not (in the US - though they are public domain in the UK). As people hadn't actually bought the books (they were downloaded for free), it decided to remove them, and even they agree that was a dumb move.

    (The person who sued, and won, for $150,000 for the loss of his notes when they removed the book, would make me wish that they do the same to me... - after all, their own documentation says that the laws applied will be US law, and I could use the money...)

  • Comment number 50.

    The difference between the Kindle and other ebook readers is the ease and speed of getting at Amazon's wide-ranging content. It makes sense if you're already buying most of your reading material from Amazon - getting one is akin to paying the one-off charge for unlimited free postal deliveries they used to (still?) offer. I don't especially care for the size or ergonomics of the device, but I'm quite happy to read 3 or 4 books a week on it. I treat what I read on it as ephemeral - I don't expect to be keeping them in the long term. In short, it's perfect for novel addicts like me, especially if you don't live close to a bookshop or have niche interests that bookshops don't cater to well. Browsing for books on it isn't much fun, though.

    mkaznowski - yes, you can choose very large fonts, though the screen is a bit small to cope with the largest size. The lack of contrast might be a problem - the text is black on dishwater grey. I'm impressed with the text to speech function, though it is quite hard to follow until you get used to the peculiar intonation, and occasionally a word is mispronounced. It has a choice of male or female American-accented voices. If you use the built-in speakers rather than headphones it seems to eat at the battery life. Oh, and some publishers disable it.

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