When I first heard about electronic book readers I was determined to hate them. I love books. Their design, their typeface, their smell, their covers. I love everything about them. And so when people started talking about books becoming redundant and electronic readers taking over I vowed never to pick one up.
And then along came Kindle. Launching initially in the US, I kept stumbling across blog posts and articles on its functions and capabilities. Lightweight design. Stores 1,600 books. Paper-like resolution. Download a book in 60 seconds. 60 seconds! I was intrigued. I read more and more and couldn’t wait to get hold of one.
The UK launch was quiet. Either that or I was too buried in work at the time to notice it. And so when I received a Kindle for Christmas last year it was a complete surprise. The first thing you notice is the size. They’re lighter and thinner than a typical paperback and therefore easy to fit in your bag. I’m a bit paranoid about getting mine scratched and so a case is a good idea. Of course the real benefits of size and weight are realised when you’re going on holiday.
Another great feature is the ability to annotate and make notes using the QWERTY keyboard. As it’s digital notes and clippings can be exported. You can also consult a built in dictionary which appears without the need to navigate away from the page. A nifty search feature can search either a specific book or your whole library.
What else? Oh yes. Downloading. I’ve been dying to read Helen Dunmore’s new novel, ‘The Betrayal‘. Rather than having to schlep into Manchester I downloaded it onto my Kindle in less than a minute. I know we’re used to downloading music and videos but to have immediate access to thousands of books is exciting to me. Unfortunately, not all books are available in Kindle format but as the device becomes more popular I expect their book store will grow.
One of the main concerns about e-readers is the display. I could never sit at my laptop and read a novel. It wouldn’t be comfortable. The glare and resolution would hurt my eyes and it just wouldn’t feel right. This is where the Kindle’s E-Ink ® electronic paper display comes in. The display renders like paper. There’s no glare and strangely it’s more like reading from a book than from a screen. It’s very difficult to describe. You really have to experience it for yourself.
I think the best compliment that I can give the Kindle is that you forget you’re reading an e-reader. When you’re reading a book you’re not conscious of the book itself, you’re engrossed in the story. The same is true of Kindle. The only small niggle is the tiny click that the reader makes when you press the next and previous page buttons. I’m not aware of this myself when I’m reading but I expect if I was sat next someone else doing this, I would be.
For most of the books in the Kindle Store you can ‘try before you buy’ with a free sample. I wonder how much this will change the way we write? Intriguing opening chapters are not new. But as we use e-readers more and more and become tempted by free samples, a good opening is going to be even more important to hook the reader and persuade them to buy the full book.
And so where does this leave books? Will they become redundant? Personally I don’t think so. Nothing can beat browsing a book shop or flicking through an old Penguin paperback. And if I read a book that I particularly like then I’d probably buy it in both formats.
‘This is the point. One technology doesn’t replace another, it complements. Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators’. (Stephen Fry, Twitter, 11 March 2009)
Kindle – www.amazon.com/kindle
Video Demo of Kindle – www.amazon.com/gp/mpd/permalink/mWJ3HFOKDNYGT
Jakob Nielsen on Kindle – www.useit.com/alertbox/kindle-usability-review.html
Helen Dunmore – www.helendunmore.com