Kindling Desire

Amazon has just announced the release of the Kindle 2, an electronic reading device that has taken aim at the intersection of booklust and gadget-philia in my avaricious little heart.

Three hundred fifty-nice bucks or not, I want one. I want to be able to buy books and have them appear, as if by magic, at the touch of a button. I want to be able to store as many of them as I want without having them pile up all over my house. I want to have the cool new tool and take it for a test drive.

I want...
I want...
I want... (Wiping away drool)

Or do I? Because I love the tactile pleasure of the page, the smell of the new ink and paper, the craft and thought that went into the embossing of the title's letters, the font and the layout and artwork and all the little details. I love the feeling of reading books as prior generations read them, of pulling myself out of technology's slipstream and reverting to a slower-paced world.

Also, to me, the joy of discovering a great book isn't complete until I've loaned it to a friend, and we've discussed it. But the Kindle, terrific as it it, won't allow you to pass books along to others. In a way, that's great for authors, since it lessens the chance the electronic version of their labor will be distributed far and wide for free. But it also deprives these same writers of the chance to earn new fans.

Besides, as much as I admire the Kindle's cleverness, I'm also very aware that Amazon's got itself a terrific little racket going, since Kindle users can only purchase Kindle books through Amazon. As the device grows more popular (and it's bound to, particularly since Oprah recently declared how much she loved it) what will this do to my favorite brick & mortar bookstores, particularly the independent booksellers nearest and dearest to my heart? (Sending a shout-out to my friends at Katy Budget Books and Houston's Murder by the Book, among others. You folks are what book selling's all about!)

I'm not sure I want to live in a world where cool, little stores with employees who know books and hand-sell them can't survive, a world where Amazon -- much as I love it -- and e-retailers (should you use another brand of e-reader) are the only game in town. So for the time being, I'm holding off on purchasing a Kindle.

Besides, I've decided it would be waaaay too dangerous to have my credit card on file and only the touch of a button between me and my addiction. I shudder, thinking of the book bill I'd rack up.

So what about the rest of you? Any Kindle fans here? If not, are you waiting for the price to come down, or does the idea of reading from a screen leave you cold?


Dorothy Hagan said…
I wouldn't dream of speaking against inevitable technology. But I have to admit I am glad that the price is so high. You can buy a lot of $15.oo books for that money. So hopefully it won't replace real (meaning you can pick it up and smack something with it) books anytime soon.

I wonder if it will help or hurt those still trying to find publishers. Guess time will tell.
Lark said…
I'm not even tempted buy a Kindle. That said, a friend turned me on to a free iPhone/iTouch app called eReader that allows you to download a book into your iPhone or iTouch and read it there. Sure, they're much smaller than a Kindle, but with a little self-training and some decent reading glasses, I found it an acceptable way to carry books anywhere. I use it for books I don't think I'll be compelled to pass on, but if I fall in love with something, I'm fully capable of buying a print copy to give/lend to whomever I want to share it with. I tend to load books onto my iTouch for travel so I don't drain my iPhone battery (yes, I'm so nerdy I have both), and with 16 gig of memory, it will hold books, music, even TV shows and movies. And the iPhone does even more cool stuff. I much prefer paper and ink, but as a travel or read-it-anywhere solution, eReader is pretty fabulous.

By the way, Colleen, your Christmas wishlist inspired me to get a mini notebook when my husband needed to take back my home laptop. It fits in my purse! Thanks for the tip!
Joni Rodgers said…
Thanks for that interesting post, Colleen.

I also love the feel of a hardcover book, but I had an interesting talk with the optometrist last week that is going to steer me toward the Kindle.

I told the eye doc that I wasn't reading as much as I used to because it seems like every time I sit down to read, I fall asleep. He told me that when your eyes are being stressed, the brain gets all hall monitor on you and actually sends out a chemical message that makes you sleepy so you'll be forced to close your overworked eyes. The more strain to your eyes, the sleepier you feel. This made so much sense! Night driving, long days at the computer, even the Sunday morning paper -- I realized the sleepiness I've been blaming on other factors really could be chalked up to eye strain.

E-book readers are easier on the eye, I was told, because the physical back and forth distance is less, so your eye muscles aren't working as hard. Also,the built-in light is consistently at an appropriate level.

It made a lot of sense, but I'm feeling a little bit old-dog-new-tricksy about it. I'm just not sure I can love reading as much without the book feel. We'll see. I'm certainly willing to give it a try.
Do I think e-books will one day replace the real thing? No.

But if a kindle were less expensive, I'd be first in line. As mentioned, I can buy a lot of books (and other things) for that kind of money.

I know I'd enjoy using one for my workout at the gym every night. No, not for my exercise! I'd use it to read while working out on the elliptical or treadmill. I don't like being limited to large-font books. And it's no fun stopping every page to reposition my fancy-dancy page holder (a paper-clip-like device worth its weight in gold and sold at The Container Store).

Once I break down and buy my first kindle, I'll probably say what I said after buying my first microwave and my first i-pod : "How in the world did I ever live without it?"

Hmm. I might have to leave a note for the Valentine's day fairy...
Yes, Joni, the font size could be a terrific feature. The Kinde is not backlit, however, as that contributes to eyestrain. You can purchase a Kindle light (an attachable booklight) to help with that.

If you do get one, I'll be interested to see how you enjoy it. Those "converts" I know are delighted with theirs.

And definitely, when the price drops, I'll be more inclined.

Btw, my agent uses an e-reader (I think it's the Sony version) to carry manuscripts, partials, and the like wherever she goes to read them. I think you can do the same with a Kindle. Now that could come in handy.
jennymilch said…
leaves me cold. sorry! i LOVE books in book form. i am a walking cliche. the smell, the feel, the look, the gloss. i want my children and my children's children and their children and on and on to know what it is to walk into a library and smell must and see the smudges and touches of a thousand readers who came before. i want bookstores to browse in for the rest of this planet's days. i'm glad people have kindles if it helps them to read more or addresses certain issues, like joni talks about, but please, book in book form, never die.

(ESPECIALLY not before i've gotten to see my own stories between cloth ;)

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