August 28th, 2009

Kindle 2

To Kindle or Kindle 2, that is the question

A while ago, the New Yorker ran an essay by Nicholson Baker in which he describes his experiences buying and reading on first a Kindle and the an iTouch with a Kindle app. The essay got a lot of attention (I mentioned it on my blog) because a) it's the New Yorker, and b) Baker went into a lot of detail on what he did and did not like. Most of what he didn't like was the Kindle e-ink screen. Kindle detractors gloated over every complaint.

I missed the fact that the New Yorker also ran an "Ask the Author" online chat where Baker took questions about various features of the Kindle and of ebooks in general. It was interesting to find out that Baker actually bought both the Kindle and the iTouch just to write the essay. Neither Amazon nor the New Yorker subsidized his research.

One of the other things that came to light was that a Kindle 2 (or a DX) were both very helpful for people with dyslexia, because they can turn on text-to-speech (unless the publisher has turned it off!) and read on screen as the Kindle's mechanical voice (Baker compares it to the robot song on Flight of the Conchords) reads to them. This is good practice and helps decrease frustration.

A lot of the commenters/questioners had their own agendas and their own prejudices (accusing Amazon of destroying book publishing, calling Apple "infamous," endorsing eReaders because with one, no one knows you're reading erotica), but Baker was pretty even-handed and seemed to have no platform except to relate his real-life experiences with ebooks. When asked if the Kindle spelled the printed book's doom or was merely another way to read, he came down on the side of eReaders being just another way to read.

One thing Baker didn't go into much was the "book crack" nature of the wireless connection, the feature that turns the Kindle into a crack pipe for book junkies. I have a friend who recently bought a Kindle (after seeing mine). She got a free fantasy book, the first of Greg Keyes' Briar King series. She read the first one, and then immediately turned on the wireless and bought the second one. She's on the third one now, with one more to go after that, and she's getting seriously sleep deprived. These are doorstop books, and she's reading them with no break in between.

Could be worse. Could be Robert Jordan.

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