Archive for Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Will latest gadget replace books?

January 30, 2008

When I first heard about the latest technological device developed by Amazon guru Jeff Bezos, I thought it was perhaps a device to fake the appearance of a fireplace. The device is called a Kindle and costs almost $400, but it has nothing to do with a fireplace unless you are thinking of getting rid of your book collection.

The Kindle is a handy-dandy device that takes the place of a book or rather many books. It's a little pricey at nearly $400, but then one can tote around many books bundled up in a package about the size of a paperback book. This is a wireless electronic device which might be considered the word version of iPod's musical function. One doesn't need a computer to use it since it downloads books from a wireless connection using cell phone transmissions without an intervening computer. It operates on rechargeable battery power which lasts quite a while in between chargings-particularly if one is only using it to read and isn't actively downloading.

I don't have one of these devices and am not likely to do so in the near future, but as I'm always interested in new technology, I've done some research. In reading online reviews (on my computer Internet connection), I've found that users largely enjoy using the kindle, but have a few complaints. One reviewer liked it because it is convenient to use. He said he could sit in his easy chair, hold it in one hand pressing a button to turn pages and drink a cup of tea with the other hand. He also liked using it with his treadmill because it fit easily and he could change the font size up or down so that he could easily see it.

Others liked it because of the ease with which they could keep multiple books on hand and read them wherever they went. One medical student extolled its ability to keep his medical reference books on hand so that he could consult them wherever he went. Its wireless connection also allowed him to subscribe to various publications, do searches and download additional material when and if he needed it.

Some of the negatives I read included complaints about the cost of the device itself and of the e-books which must be downloaded from Amazon at a charge. It is not yet compatible with library downloads and one must use something called a MOBI pocket creator to translate PDF files. Another drawback is that one couldn't easily share books downloaded to the device, even though one paid for those books. When the books are erased, they are gone.

Out of curiosity, I went to the Amazon online store and looked at the marketing information about the device. Even if I were inclined to purchase it and had the $400 price in my pocket and freely available, I can't get one immediately. It is sold out with a wait list of customers. Amazon notes that they are manufacturing the devices as quickly as they can, but if one wants one anytime soon, he or she should put their name on a list.

All I can conclude about the device for my personal use is that it's simply too expensive right now. And, I have to admit to a huge prejudice against using an electronic device for my relaxation in reading. I love the feel, smell and essence of books. There's just something about a solid volume of paper that can't be replaced by an upstart machine. However, I don't know that my grandchildren will feel that way. They already are drawn to the computer as if it were some sort of rinky-dink Pied Piper. My youngest granddaughter who is not yet two approaches computers and picks up the mouse and pecks on the keys as if it is as totally natural as walking. It is a sign that bodes ill for print on paper.

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