Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What's Not On My Christmas List Yet

One of the gadgets that I am seeing advertised a lot this Christmas is the e-book reader, like this one from Amazon. It sounds like an interesting concept, to be able to store so many books on one little device. The thing works like a cell phone, without the access charges (yet) for browsing and downloading books.

I'm not sold yet. I love the feel of a real book in my hands, the smell of the paper. I still much prefer to browse a real bookstore to an online one. It takes so long to click on all the links to get a good feel for an unknown book, and browsing online takes so much longer than scanning a shelf at the store. Plus, Amazon doesn't have a coffee shop, and most bookstores these days do. Besides the physical difference between paper and e-books, I have a few questions on their usage:

Why is it so expensive? Amazon is charging nearly $400 for theirs, before the cost of books, most of which run $9.99. I think I average spending $10-12 on a book, maybe less (I love the bargain book section)--that's going to take a long time to recoup my costs.

Can you create your own e-books to read and pass around? I didn't see technical specs on file formats. Is this going to cost several hundred $ for special software, or will the things accept a pdf file or a word document.

What do you do when you're done with a book? Can you loan them to a friend? Sell them to a used book store? Hide them from your parents? Will libraries be able to offer e-books? Amazon's website talks all about getting books *on* to the device, not how to get them back off again.

Can you really dog-ear pages? Sure, you can bookmark a page. But can you really really bookmark one so that the next person to pick it up knows immediately where the juicy scenes are?

If you plan on becoming a serial killer, is there a way to completely disable the built-in cell-phone like wireless? After all, we're all familiar with the police tracking cell phone signals. It would be terribly embarrassing to be caught because you stopped to download the latest Stephen King after burying the bodies.

How will we ever hold a decent book burning? Somehow, the image of a circle of right-wing activists holding book readers, thumbs poised as the leader says "On the count of 3, everyone click Delete together" just doesn't hold the same appeal as a massive bonfire.


Amanda said...

Wow look at all the nifty story ideas. :)

Sarahlynn said...

Of course, I'm a hardcore real book fanatic and will probably never change. That said, the Amazon Kindle does some nifty things. You can search the electronic document, of course, which can be very handy. (What do we know about this character already? Did I already read something about this?)

And the Kindle not only accepts other types of documents, you can *email* the device and it stores your emails in your library along with your downloads and attachments (until you choose to delete them).

The font size is easy to change, which is a nice feature for the farsighted, and, perhaps best of all, the idea is that ALL books will soon be available, even those that are currently out of print.

You can subscribe to newspapers, magazines, and blogs on your Kindle, and access Wikipedia. You can not only bookmark a page, but also highlight and write margin notes. It's priced like the original iPods, not coincidentally.

I still prefer paper books, but the Kindle is a pretty neat device . . . I just don't want to read novels on it.

Kristi said...

Actually, I agree that the things look pretty neat. I read the description on Amazon, as well as most of an article in a recent Newsweek (I think it was Newseek...it was by the microwave at work...) They would be ideal for a college student (that would have been exceedingly helpful when writing papers..), or someone like an editor who has a lot to read.

Besides my silly questions, I didn't read if anyone had considered the library/resale issue. Nor is there any way to "rip" books you already own onto them (like you could with an Ipod). I'm not about to spend another $10 a pop for any book off my own shelf that I'd want to read and manipulate (that's a scary amount of money when I look at how full my bookshelves are at home...). I also haven't read anything about supporting other languages or not (maybe 1/4 of what I read is in Spanish..at least it's mostly the same keyboard, but there are still differences).

If/when paper books start coming with a "free" download of the e-book version, I might consider something like the Kindle. For now, I'm waiting to see what happens with them before buying.

Then again, I don't have an Ipod/MP3 player yet either....

flatflo said...

I am an avid reader, also, with books overflowing my shelves. I do like the idea of this reader but have a few concerns of my own.

Can you hold in one hand comfortably without fatigue?

Is it waterproof?!? I read in the bathtub and have dunked a couple of books, but they dry out (a little worse for the wear, but readable.)

I have bought a couple of ebooks to read from my laptop, but there is no easy way to curl up on the sofa or read in bed with that bulky thing.

Would need to do some research on battery life and rechargability and warranty before seriously putting on my wish list.