Amazon Kindle – One Hurdle to Digital Print

I’m debating about adding the new Amazon Kindle ebook Reader as the top item on my holiday wish list. It’s about $100 more expensive than Sony’s Reader, but it seems to be better thought out by including an EVDO connection for downloading more content without a computer and supporting several more formats, as well as having the biggest bookseller on the planet behind it. A number of popular blogs are tied into the service, daily newspapers are available and a large library of books. There’s one thing Amazon does better than anybody on the planet: distribute the printed word, so I see every reason to think they may be the first company to really get the digital book right.

I know one of the key reasons book readers don’t like the idea of digital readers is because the screens have traditional been harder on the eyes than a printed page. For ages it felt too much like sitting at a computer screen to read. Both Sony and Amazon use digital ink technology (or as Amazon calls it, electronic paper), which doesn’t feel like you’re reading a screen at all. I already read a great deal of text on my Palm Treo 750, but even that starts to wear on my eyes. The electronic paper has none of the harshness of typical LCD displays.

A second key complaint I’ve heard from people who prefer paper to electronic reading is weight. Laptops make us think all portable digital screens must be heavy. Amazon got this right too, with a 10.3 ounce total weight for their Kindle device. As someone who constantly tries to trim weight from my travel bag, trading my often 500-1000 page reading material for something that is both thinner and lighter has huge appeal. Sony’s Reader is even lighter at 9 ounces (before you put on a necessary protective cover). Both weigh in at about the same as or slightly less than most paperback books.

The one thing all ebooks fail at is my take off and landing test. There’s approximately a combined hour of my time from the time I get on a plane to takeoff and from the time they make you put stuff away to landing that an ebook is completely unusable because electronic devices are not allowed. A paper book or magazine doesn’t suffer this limitation and until the FAA changes rules about flying I’m not likely to be able to completely go paperless for all my reading, even if Kindle is otherwise almost perfect.


  1. As long as there are newspapers, books and magazines, there will always be a place for the printed word, albeit a fairly small place. Young road warriors like yourself are the ideal target for digital media, but those of us who are more “grounded” love to hold books in our hands, turn the pages ourselves, skip from chapter to chapter without always having to click on a screen, which becomes harder to see when we get older. Of course, the potential to store media digitally is a great incentive; why should you have hundresd of pounds of books when they can be accessed electronically at-will? I-pod for books?

  2. As a print publisher of an automotive trade journal, I just dropped from a bimonthly to quarterly issue. However, that’s more because of tightening belts by my advertiser prospects than anything.
    In any case, I believe for trade journals, shop owners and service techs are still going to want paper and ink for several years to come. It’s easier to trade, and store, magazines. Plus, they’re great as reference in a group condition (as in “here, look, see this!”)
    John Hess

  3. As long as I can buy a paperback for $7 or $8 that will last for years and be tradable, I have a hard time parting with that kind of green. Make it under $50, and then relieve my fears about DRM. I want to store it on a CD for the future. Of course, for under $50, I could read all of Project Gutenberg. But at the current price, no way….
    And, I don’t need to pay for wireless if I can hook up to my PC or laptop and download a dozen or so books before leaving on a trip.

  4. I have been reading free books and books I bought for years on my Palms and PPC’s and love it. I can read them anywhere and at anytime by just slipping it in my pocket. The only thing that keeps me from purchasing one of these new readers is that they have no light. I read at night in the bed a lot and with the light on it keeps my wife awake. On a Palm that’s not a problem. I do think there should be a way to have a wee bit of light on these readers without draining the batteries down too much. I do understand that the electronic paper is not the same as the screen on a Palm, but until I get a light, I won’t be buying one. I have heard that the cover on the Kindle is a bit loose. They need to fix this.

  5. I’ve been reading e-books on my Palm T/X and Treo 700p for the past two years. I love being able to pull the “book” out anywhere and read it. Will paper books disappear, I don’t thinks so. I still read hard copy books. There will always be a market for both kinds of reading material. I may go with a book like Sony or Kindle when they get back lights. I also enjoy reading in bed or at the movies waiting for it to start.

  6. The e-book I use is an old one that works great for me. It works in the dark is light and doesn’t cost so much. The ebookwise, from “”
    It is 1/2 vga grayscale and at $140 it doesn’t break the bank. The book only reads its’s own format so you need to spend another $15 for the converter program “ebookwise librarian”. The other ebooks read more formats, but I can’t get past the price of them.

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