I got an Amazon Kindle for Christmas this year, and it has been really enjoyable to use. It's as light as a small paperback book, the screen has the visual characteristics of regular novel paper, and it can store quite a bit. For someone like myself who frequently has a few books on the go, the Kindle makes it easy to have them all with you in one slim package. (I'm currently reading Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, and The Night's Dawn Trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton. I'd like to say I'm also reading Jens Schroeder's dissertation on the Kindle, but he only sent it to me in PDF and that type of document doesn't display well on the device—sorry, Schredd.) Add to that the convenience of being able to very easily add books to your collection (I went on a $50 spree in about five minutes when I first got it), and it makes for a nice little package.
Some of the other features I like about it are the ability to quickly search through the text. Although this isn't a mind-blowing feature, I can definitely see myself using this when it comes to writing a blog post on a few books I've read recently, and I want to find key passages. Similarly, you can very easily add notes to yourself and browse them later, a feature that may come in handy for those doing reviews or research and not wanting to do all their reading on a computer screen or with a notebook in hand.
As a very avid Blackberry user, I find the keys on the Kindle are spaced a little bit too far apart, making the keypad difficult to use. Since the Kindle is mostly for reading and note taking for me is rare, this is a minor gripe.
The lack of other flashy features that something like the iPad might have is something of a feature in itself. With the Kindle, I'm able to focus on the book I'm reading without being tempted to switch into other programs, or check something else.
I've also been letting my roommate Annie borrow it now and then. Annie's job is making clothing for the puppets on the TV show Glenn Martin, DDS. She also makes leather purses, and although she always buys the latest issue of Wired Magazine (normally the UK edition), she rarely reads it online. She never wants to own a Blackberry, and when I told her what I did for work, she asked me if I was a spin doctor.
Her thoughts on the Kindle? She feels self-conscious using an expensive piece of electronics in public (even after I pointed that the Kindle probably isn't high up on the must-have list for thieves).
The two of us also agree that until everyone has a device that can handle e-books, sharing books is a pain the ass. She has a few books downloaded on the device, and so do I. With one device, it means only one of us can read our books at the same time. I've been pretty good at sharing with her, but I know there are sometimes when she wishes she could read it on the train on the way to work while I'm already out of the house with it, having a coffee and reading my favourite book.
"I think there will always be a place for paper books and magazines", Annie said when I told her I was writing this blog post. "They'll just be a lot more special, like those Phaidon art books."
I tend to agree with her when she says that, and I said as much in a blog post about the magazine industry a while ago. Just as MP3 players have made it easier to share and enjoy music while increasing the demand for box sets and live music, I think e-readers will do the same for literature. While everyone will have freely available articles and books on their devices everywhere they go, true collectors will spend hundreds of dollars on super-glossy, limited edition runs of books and magazines.
But that's really all an aside... at the end of the day, the Kindle is a great device.
How long until we read everything on e-readers? Have you got one? Will there still be a place for books and magazines?