Kindle and other E-readers

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John Gruber weighs in...

So the Kindle proposition is this: You pay for downloadable books that can't be printed, can't be shared, and can't be displayed on any device other than Amazon's own $400 reader -- and whether they're readable at all in the future is solely at Amazon's discretion. That's no way to build a library.

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Hey, Amazon's never dun me no wrong. I bow to its supeiority and generosity (free shipping!).

I'm also easy to please, generally -- and easy to take advantage of.

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I was playing Ticket to Ride with some friends last night at the local coffee shop and one of the mentioned this. She and her mother just--out of the blue--started a book business a few months ago, and have since gained around 10000 books from various sources. They're doing well selling them (mostly on Amazon and Half.com); she makes more in a day than she did in a week at her last job as a part-time secretary.

She probably brought it up partially because of that dread that seeps in when you realize your livelihood is possibly threatened, but we both agreed--we love the feel/smell of books in our hands! And on our shelves....

But then, I'm sure some guys hundreds of years ago said things like, "I love the smell and feel of SCROLLS in my hand! Damn this newfangled book," or "I don't think those scrolls will ever take the place of these wonderful stone tablets I've etched upon...."

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This blog rounds up a few early reactions.

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Two of the key things which are attractive about the Kindle for me, in contrast to both ordinary dead-tree books and the Sony Reader, are the ability to search within a book to quickly find information and the ability to easily interlink (especially useful in an index or table of contents).

I dearly wish I could afford one. Maybe I'll need one after I graduate in May, when I don't have access to the excellent Washington Research Library Consortium anymore.

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I dearly wish I could afford one.

You're not alone, David. Salon.com:

I've been using Amazon's Kindle e-book reader for about a week now, and I like it quite a bit. Here is a truly novel gadget, a device that delivers a fantastic service -- thousands of books anywhere, on the go -- in a pleasant, mostly hassle-free package.

If you're on the fence about the utility of an e-book reader -- if you doubt that reading e-books can match the experience of reading "real" books -- a few hours with the Kindle will do much to change your mind.

Still, there's a great deal Amazon could improve on. Its $400 price tag, its zany user interface, and some of its sillier restrictions make the Kindle a non-starter for all but the travelingest, readingest early adopters.

But before we get to the cons, let me dig into what Amazon got right: ...

Watch a brief online ad, and you can read the rest of the story.

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I share a lot of that reviewer's concerns. I would never subscribe to a newspaper using the Kindle - going online just seems so much easier, and the paper version also has the advantage that it comes in different sections so you can do the classic "you get the front page, I'll take the book reviews, and little brother gets the comics page" deal. (Oh wait, there aren't any comics with the Kindle version anyway! Forget that . . . ;) ).

But that doesn't hold a bookworm like me back from wanting the Kindle just for book's sake. I read a LOT.

I'm sure they'll implement an option to rent full books (either for free or for a reduced cost) at some point in the future, and that would really push my somewhat-interested into full I-must-have-this.

Edited by David Smedberg

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Megan McCardle loves her Kindle, and the commenters share their likes and dislikes.

I'm beginning to think I'll own a Kindle before I ever purchase an iPod.

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Megan McCardle loves her Kindle, and the commenters share their likes and dislikes.

I'm beginning to think I'll own a Kindle before I ever purchase an iPod.

Sounds nice. I've been toying with the idea of getting a Kindle for a while now. To be honest, if it was backlit I would have gotten one when they were first released... but that single thing has really put me off.

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Wow!

Initial skepticism about Amazon's Kindle is being replaced by euphoria: Citi's Mark Mahaney, who was already bullish on the e-book reader, declares that is indeed going to be Amazon's iPod.

In practical terms, that means that Mahaney has gone back and revisited his original estimates from this spring. He now thinks Amazon (AMZN) will sell 378,000 units this year, double his initial guess. And he thinks instead of being a $750 million business that accounts for 3% of the company's sales next year, the Kindle will be a $1.1 billion business that accounts for 4%.

EDIT: Hmmm... Just read it and see that there are a number of big assumptions in this projection.

Edited by Christian

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E-Books Start to Take Hold

The $359 Kindle, which is slim, white and about the size of a trade paperback, was introduced a year ago. Although Amazon will not disclose sales figures, the Kindle has at least lived up to its name by creating broad interest in electronic books. Now it is out of stock and unavailable until February. Analysts credit Oprah Winfrey, who praised the Kindle on her show in October, and blame Amazon for poor holiday planning.

The shortage is providing an opening for Sony, which embarked on an intense publicity campaign for its Reader device during the gift-buying season. The stepped-up competition may represent a coming of age for the entire idea of reading longer texts on a portable digital device. ...

So far, publishers like HarperCollins, Random House and Simon & Schuster say that sales of e-books for any device

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My blog on Kindle 2 vs. real books.

Nardis, I'll be interested to hear how your mother gets along with the device. I know someone who has had the first gen. model for about a year and liked it pretty well, particularly for travel convenience.

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My hope is that now that ver. 2 is out, ver. 1 one will plummet in price to below $150. Then maybe I can contemplate getting one.

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Tyler Cowen:

Old People Love Kindle

So many users said they like Kindle because they suffer from some form of arthritis that multiple posters indicate that they do or do not have arthritis as a matter of course. A variety of other impairments, from weakening eyes and carpal-tunnel-like syndromes to more exotic disabilities dominate the purchase rationales of these posters. Which in turn explains Amazon's pseudo-statistical case that e-book purchases are incremental/additive, rather than cannibalistic of their print sales. Countless people report being able to read much more with Kindle because it overcomes physical obstacles or limitations that had made reading difficult for them previously.

I would not have anticipated those findings, but they're exciting. Who would've thought the older generation would embrace the newest technological "toy"?

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Tyler Cowen:

Old People Love Kindle

So many users said they like Kindle because they suffer from some form of arthritis that multiple posters indicate that they do or do not have arthritis as a matter of course. A variety of other impairments, from weakening eyes and carpal-tunnel-like syndromes to more exotic disabilities dominate the purchase rationales of these posters. Which in turn explains Amazon's pseudo-statistical case that e-book purchases are incremental/additive, rather than cannibalistic of their print sales. Countless people report being able to read much more with Kindle because it overcomes physical obstacles or limitations that had made reading difficult for them previously.

I would not have anticipated those findings, but they're exciting. Who would've thought the older generation would embrace the newest technological "toy"?

Do they offer downloadable drivers' ed manuals for the Kindle? That would be nice.

Edited by popechild

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I dearly wish I could afford one. Maybe I'll need one after I graduate in May, when I don't have access to the excellent Washington Research Library Consortium anymore.

Woo-hoo!! ::w00t::

I got an email yesterday informing that I was one of the winners of the "10 Days of Google Books" essay contest. They were offering a few Sony Readers for essays (really blurbs of 50 words or less on) what the experience of reading will be like in 100 years... so now I will get a new e-book reader which otherwise there is no way I could afford! Oh, I am very very blessed. :D

I'll be posting updates about what my experience is like, and maybe I'll ask a friend of mine who has a Kindle if we can swap for a few days and see which experience we like better. Do you think I should split off a new topic, or post in this one and so we're talking about e-book readers in general?

Edited by David Smedberg

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That's great news, David. Congratulations! I'll alter the thread title to be more encompassing of e-readers.

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Cool news David! Congrats! Looking forward to your comparisons.

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So, I've had my Sony Reader PR505 for enough time now to get used to it, and I have to say I like it.

It does not have wireless access, but the only thing that I miss about that is being able to download the morning newspaper plug-free... not a big deal, really.

It is a huge boon for my internship at a publishing company. I receive huge digital files of manuscripts and often would like to carry them with me, but printing them and carrying them unbound or in binders is unwieldy. The Sony Reader (like other e-book readers) lets me take .doc or .pdf files and read them like I would any other book, within minutes! It's great. B)

The battery life is good so long as I don't listen to music. If I do, the battery life goes down dramatically. The software that comes with it is pretty intuitive, and the ability to download free e-books using Overdrive's partnership with DC Library is utterly fantastic. Now my library books get automatically returned, without any danger of late fees!

The next step, I feel, would be for Borders to allow me to browse their shelves of printed materials and then buy e-books/magazines using a port there in the store. I have a Borders a block from my workplace, I would do this All The Time if I could. But this is probably a decade away.

The Sony Reader isn't really gaining any popularity right now, what with the Kindle and the new Nook. But the e-Ink screen is a huge bonus. I would NOT recommend trying to read eBooks on an LCD screen like some people are apparently thinking they will on an iPad. This is a recipe for slow-cooked headache stew in my opinion.

Edited by David Smedberg

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Do you ever use Calibre? I've never tried it, but it claims to allow you to download content from a number of periodicals free. This is good for me, because I love reading Politico but they don't have a Sony Reader version yet (they do have a Kindle version). So I can get a somewhat clunkier version through Calibre until a fully-supported (paying) version becomes available...

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I am thinking of saving up for one of these e-readers. Probably the Kindle but I am looking into the Nook as well. I don't plan on purchasing too many new books, nor do I desire some device that tries to do everything, and, consequently, does nothing. I don't want games or videos or chatting or music or cameras or anything else. Books--just give me books.

Mainly I like the idea of reading the many free or almost-free older books available from Google books, Project Gutenberg, etc., even taking into account the textual problems with some of these versions. The idea of having the Summa Theologica at my fingertips, along with such treasures as Samuel Johnson's Rambler essays, various Chesterton works, and Constance Garnett's translations of Anton Chekhov seems wholly irresistible. I believe the one benefit of the Nook in this regard is the ease with which these Google Books are available directly through Barnes and Noble. With the Kindle I understand you have to exert a little more effort involving file conversion, or something. Nonetheless, at this point I am leaning toward the Kindle.

Edited by du Garbandier

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