So it’s now been over a month since I got my Amazon Kindle, and I love it more than ever. In fact, the main reason for my low blog output lately is the Kindle. I find that I don’t spend as much time surfing the Internet as I did before, which has lowered my inclination to blog. So why, given my low blog output, am I posting yet another set of observations about the Kindle? Well, because the more I use it the more I think that it’s a serious ‘game changer.’
First, let me say the Kindle is not for everyone. I like it because I have always enjoyed reading, partly to learn about new things and also to acquire new perspectives on things that I think I already know. When I was a kid I got bored with school and as a result did poorly through most of grade school (I somehow pulled myself together in 12th grade). But even as I was skimming near the threshold of grade point acceptability I was reading a lot, usually a couple of books a week. After law school I found it harder to read novels for various reasons, but I did read magazines and short pieces. Then the internet came along and gave me free access to an unimaginable output of commentary. I relished the rise of blogs as a way of getting at ‘new perspectives.’
Lately, though, the luster of weblogs has worn off. A lot of what is put forth by bloggers suffers from the rush to get things up before others do. Getting things down in writing is not hard for bloggers. But editing and contemplation apparently are. Up until recently I found it easy to overlook this flaw in the blogosphere (no doubt contributing to it myself). But, no longer.
Now I have discovered the Kindle.
The other day I was watching the Charlie Rose show (pretty much the only program that I ALWAYs find interesting no matter what the subject, or who the guest is) and George Will was on. He has a new book although he didn’t spend much time discussing it. Even though his conservative views don’t exactly reconcile with my worldview, I find George Will to be a very thoughtful man. His opinions are carefully drawn. So I decided to download a sample chapter of his book onto my Kindle. After reading the sample chapter I ordered the whole book (this is happening a lot with the Kindle). His observation about ‘new media’ (which obviously includes weblogs and the Internet) is something I totally agree with:
“for all the fascination with new media, I believe that books remain the most important carriers of ideas, and ideas are always the most important news. Hence, books themselves are often news.
And the big news about the Kindle is simply that it makes reading books a lot easier, at least certain kinds of books. Merlin Mann, a new media personality that I regard highly, recently got a Kindle and was highly impressed. And if you have a Kindle (or if you get one) you should read his tips on getting free books onto the device.
A lot of people are starting to figure out that the Kindle is revolutionary. I probably have not done an adequate job of explaining why this is so. Read Andy Ihnatko’s blog post for additional perspective. Also, read Paul Krugman’s editorial in today’s New York Times (which I found ironic, since I came upon it in my Kindle). And lastly, consider this email that I recently received from one of my blog readers:
“I just wanted to thank you for introducing me to my new love, my Kindle. I knew about this electronic book reader, but had a visceral, that isn’t for me, reaction. so, cruising your blog a few weeks ago, I was reminded of it and because you raved about it, I took a 2nd look. And then i got it, and now I love it – to death. I love so many things about it, but most of all, I love reading books on it. The thing I thought I would never like. It is almost graceful the way you soundlessly pour through a book. I am completely hooked. I may never buy another regular book. So, Thanks, a lot. never would have looked again but for your post.”
This comment hits at the heart of what makes the Kindle so amazing. It’s not much of a tech device, except as to make it easier to read books, and other well edited content.
Bloggers who have panned the Kindle because it lacks the latest ‘social networking’ capabilities miss the point. The Kindle is not ‘ADD-enabled’ for a reason; the idea (strange as it may seem to some) is to engage in thoughtful reading—something that has never been a mainstream pursuit. The Kindle will never replace books, or make them entirely obsolete. It will simply take its place alongside books as a tool for inquisitive people to expand their minds in startling ways.
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I like the idea of Kindle, but not the fact that it’s a proprietary Amazon thing.
Thanks for the interesting post. I’m facinated by the idea of the Kindle (or something a generation or two later) doing for my book collection what the iPod did for my CD collection — freeing up a bunch of space in my house. And my carry-on. I’m concerned, though, that it will lead to a spending spree on books, much as the iPod did for me on music.
“After law school I found it harder to read novels for various reasons, but I did read magazines and short pieces.”
This happened to me, and a bunch of my classmates, as well. I went from a novel a week to a novel a year. I haven’t quite figured out why yet, though. I suspect it may be that my brain too often clicks into reading novels like reading cases, which both a) makes my reading slow *way* down and b) makes suspension of disbelief very difficult. I’d love to hear your reasons, someday.
There is a company that puts textbooks in digital format, but it is all proprietary. It is a company called Vitalsource I think, and there are many medical textbooks sold. They have a pilot program at the institution I attend, and we were given a trial of the textbooks we use for the radiographer program. They make it difficult to copy the material digitally, and it would be a hassle for most people to convert it for a reader like the kindle. DRM is holding back widespread use of these devices, in my opinion.
If my law school textbooks were on it I would definitely buy one. I think I might give it to myself for a graduation present.
Thanks for the post. It’s about time.