After two years of reading reviews, watching products come out and compete, listening to people gripe about DRM and ebook pricing, I jumped directly into the fray and opted for the Kindle from Amazon. I am completely and utterly smitten with the thing. It feels like a magic book. No – more like a printing press. It’s got ink inside and the computer arranges the ink on the screen and it feels a little bit like you’re printing each page as you look at it. It’s wonderful. I don’t think I’ve ever read so much in a two-day stretch before. I’ve subscribed to the New York Times and Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. I’ve purchased a single Amazon ebook for $9.99 and I’ve downloaded some free books from Project Gutenberg. It all works beautifully and makes for the single best addition to my library since I acquired a two-hundred-year-old copy of Don Quixote.
The screen responds quickly to page changes and key presses. The free wireless connects to Amazon’s ebook store and lets me browse the web. I like the little keyboard. The buttons are good. The device has a sleek hominess to it that just feels right in the hand. It feels like it wants to live with books and that is what sets it apart from virtually every other e-reader that I have seen. I rejected Sony’s device for being a simple chunk of dull electronics that has never been anywhere near a book. I also rejected the new Barnes & Noble Nook for being designed and built by incompetents who thought that a 3-second delay when pressing buttons was a good idea. I dismissed Apple’s upcoming iPad because it is not an e-reader. It’s a computer. Totally different thing with very little to do with books.
This Kindle thing makes me think of books and words, ink, presses, bindings, shelves. It’s a magic book. I put mine in a nice little leather binder that I am very keen on. It has a couple of pouches for notes or whatever and it keeps my Kindle very safe. In a real sense one gets to make one’s own magic book, creating the object that will be carried each day during one’s literary travels. This is something new. Books are largely about feel. You want a book to fit nicely in the hand and make you want to open it. This is the only e-reader I have yet seen that accomplishes that.
The pricing war between publishers and Amazon is confusing the issue. I will make it simple for publishers by saying that they will not be able to sell me or anyone I currently know an ebook for more than $10. Not a chance. If the prices don’t actually start falling below $7, I will be moving primarily to reading classics available for free on many web sites. Also, the DRM issue will eventually sort out with publishers and sellers being pressured by the market into offering more open formats. But aside from all that, we are really doing something wonderful here. We are moving toward an entirely new publishing platform and reading has not seen anything like this since Gutenberg’s printing press. I’ve included a page from a Gutenberg bible at the British Museum just so you get the picture.