Tweens and teenagers think nothing of standing in line to purchase the hardbound “Harry Potter” books, but some members of these techno-savvy generations don’t care to read novels electronically. Amazon is attempting to make online reading more popular, though, with the new hand-held Kindle, but can this slick new gadget change reading habits across the globe?
Electronic Books are Nothing New
Currently, Microsoft allows lovers of the printed word to download electronic books, also known as eBooks, to computers running their special Microsoft Reader software; this electronic content is easily transferable to a Tablet or Pocket PC for reading on the go. A website called eBooks.com also offers electronic downloads of over 30,000 titles, but once again, the reader must download their special software in order to use this service.
Kindle Makes Reading Electronic Content Easier
Though eBooks are plentiful on the Internet, readers who enjoy sitting with a good book or newspaper in their hands haven’t fully embraced the idea of reading books on a computer screen. Using a display method called “electronic paper,” the lightweight Kindle does simulate the look, if not the feel, of a printed page. It also fits comfortably into a backpack or briefcase, which makes it quite convenient to use on long commutes.
Kindle Uses the EVDO Network
Taking a cue from the iPhone’s wireless capabilities, Kindle uses EVDO, Sprint’s high-speed data network, to connect to the online Kindle store and download electronic content. This is a free service offered to Kindle users and doesn’t require a monthly subscription fee. Access to the online resource Wikipedia also is suppled free-of-charge.
Kindle Needs No Computer
Unlike the iPod or the Zune, which need to be connected to a computer in order to synch playlists and get firmware updates, Amazon promises that no computers or synching will be necessary with the Kindle. A USB 2.0 cable is suppled, though, that allows users to backup their content.
Kindle Can Download Books, Newspapers and Blogs
In addition to books like Stephen Colbert’s I Am America and Jeffery Toobin’s The Nine, Kindle users can purchase electronic subscriptions to popular papers like “The Wall Street Journal” or magazines such as “Time” and “Forbes.” For $.99 per month, Slashdot and other well-known blogs can be downloaded to the Kindle as well.
Other Practical Kindle Uses
Users can e-mail word documents and photographs to the Kindle for review. This sounds quite useful for business travelers who need to review a presentation on a plane trip or students who are trying to cram a semester’s worth of notes into one frantic night of studying.
Kindle is Cost-Prohibitive
With stock market fluctuations and an election year coming up, this is a bad time to introduce an expensive electronic toy like the Kindle, especially with some promised upgrades to Apple’s extremely popular iPhone coming in 2008. The Kindle, which has a suggested retail price of $399, is a well-constructed device that will surely attract some hard-core users, but like Microsoft’s Zune, it may take a while for it to catch on, if ever.
Moving Books into the Digital Era
Without a doubt, the Kindle is a slick product that takes a lot of frustration out of reading electronic content on a computer screen and an important step in making books more digitally friendly. Instead of purchasing a Kindle, die-hard readers may keeping buying bulky books until the technology gets cheaper or Apple and Microsoft jump fully onto the eBook bandwagon with upgrades to the iPod or Zune.
By distributing books and newspapers electronically, the Kindle can be considered a green product, however, saving lots of tress which would have been cut down and turned into paper. If Amazon promotes the device as a way to reduce carbon footprints, that could get the attention of consumers looking for eco-friendly holiday gifts.