A New Page: Can the Kindle really improve on the book?

There’s a great article by Nicholson Baker in the August 3rd issue of The New Yorker about his experience trying to like the Kindle entitled A New Page: Can the Kindle really improve on the book?  It’s a well thought out, interesting read.  One of the things that made it especially interesting to me is that it is coming from a writer.  This guy is a recognized, well-respected producer of the content that we consume on the Kindle, not just some flack with an opinion.  Also, as with most articles in The New Yorker, it’s an mélange of great writing, great research, and fascinating tidbits.

A few of the things I found the most interesting or quotable:

"The success of the ebook is being fueled by the romance and erotic romance market," Peter Smith, of ITworld, reports.

The problem was not that the screen was in black-and-white; if it had really been black-and-white, that would have been fine. The problem was that the screen was gray. And it wasn’t just gray; it was a greenish, sickly gray. A postmortem gray. The resizable typeface, Monotype Caecilia, appeared as a darker gray. Dark gray on paler greenish gray was the palette of the Amazon Kindle.

E-Ink was originally though up on a beach by an MIT scientist named Joseph Jacobson.  He wanted to call it RadioPaper.

Give the article a read, maybe on your Kindle, maybe on paper, but give it a read one way or the other.

Side note: Have you noticed that many book titles these days seem to take the form Here’s My Point: And Here’s What My Point Really Is.  Are we all out of original book titles without colons?  My business partner, Pete Sterpe said to me, "I don’t know. But if I did, I’d entitle my explanation: The Two-Part Title: Why We’re Addicted to It."  That is evidence of the one of the reasons I work with him!

Damn: the Kindle DX

I’ve just gotten pretty used to my Kindle 2, and Amazon goes and comes out with something better, the Kindle DX.  I should expect these things, but still, it’s irksome.

I got the news over at Blog Kindle, which is a nice blog to watch if you are Kindle crazy.  There are even some Kindle hacks which are documented over there if you are bold.  (One which I would love to see is the ability to switch fonts – I get tired of the same old.)

From Blog Kindle:

2 major differences in Kindle DX compared to Kindle 2 are: 9.7″ 16 shades of gray eInk screen that runs at 1200×824 resolution and native PDF support. Other notable new features include iPhone-like auto-rotate and  flash-memory upgraded to 3.3 gigabytes.

Here are all features and specifications of Kindle DX that I could dig up so far:

  • Size: 10.4″ x 7.2″ x 0.38″ (Kindle 2: 8″ x 5.3″ x 0.36″)
  • Display: 16 shades of gray eInk 9.7″ 1200×824 pixels (Kindle 2: 6″ 800×600)
  • Weight: 18.9oz (Kindle 2: 10.2oz)
  • Storage: 3.3GB (Kindle 2: 1.4GB)
  • Battery life: 4 days with 3G modem on, 2 weeks with modem off (really it’s limited just by the number of page turns). This is pretty much the same as Kindle 2
  • Connectivity: 3G wireless modem, USB 2.0 port and 3.5mm audio jack

Kindle For iPhone and iPod Touch

Tip o’ the tam-o’-shanter to the folks over at Blog Kindle for letting us know that there’s a Kindle app for the iPhone.  Take a look at the Kindle For iPhone and iPod Touch post.  If you read my recent post about my new Kindle 2, you know that I mentioned that I wouldn’t be using my Kindle for Web browsing because I have an iPhone.  Well, now that I have the Kindle app on my iPhone, do I need a Kindle?

Yes, certainly.  If I was hitting the ‘Next Page’ button a lot on my kindle, I’ll be swiping through pages on my iPhone at an alarming rate, even though the smallest font size is very clear on the iPhone (as almost everything is).  Since the iPhone has a real (albeit small) color browser, it’s a better place to read something which has a lot of links to Web sites (like, paradoxically, the very useful The Complete User’s Guide To the Amazing Amazon Kindle 2: A Kindle Owners Toolkit Of Over 500 Tips, Tricks, & Links (For Amazons Revolutionary e-Book Reader & Free Wireless Web Browser).

What won’t work well is reading for a long time.  The iPhone battery will be sucked up pretty quickly while the Kindle lasted through an entire book and quite a lot of fiddling around over the course of 4 or 5 days.

So the iPhone and the Kindle both have their advantages, but I think I do need both.

My Technology Arsenal: To Kindle or Not to Kindle

I inherited the early adopter gene from my father, who had a digital calculator in the early 70s that must have cost him hundreds of dollars.  He’s given me things over the years that were very cool: a briefcase stereo that played albums (remember albums?), tapes, and radio in the late 70s; a Canon XapShot digital camera in about 1985; and more.

Now that my technology junkie budget is my own, I try to be a bit more circumspect in my purchases.  So, what are the most important things in my technology arsenal?  You might think that I’m positively a Luddite, but here’s the list:

  • Dell Latitude D820 laptop running Vista — It’s a little old, it’s a little clunky, but it gets the job done.
  • Apple’s iPhone 3G — This is my most recent acquisition, and the latest "How did I live without this?" item.  It’s not really a phone: it’s a computer that fits in your pocket and makes phone calls.  I can surf the Web from anywhere, get directions, find out what song is playing by pointing it at a speaker, my son can manifest his love of light saber play, and on and on and on.
  • TiVo HD — This is my second TiVo platform, after my old Series 2.  If you don’t have TiVo, GET ONE.  It changes the way you think about the idiot box in a positive way.  We don’t just watch TV very often anymore, we watch TV we want to watch.  That ‘500 channels with nothing on’ complaint doesn’t totally go away, but it doesn’t come up as often.
  • iPod Touch 20Gb — Another old model, but, hey, it holds more music than I can listen to and it works.

What prompted me to write this post is that my wife "bought" me an Amazon Kindle for Christmas.  I put bought in quotes because you can’t actually buy one of these things. The current shipping delay listed on the Amazon site for the Kindle 1.0 is 8 to 10 weeks, almost an eternity in tech.  My wife presented it with the permission to say no if I didn’t think I’d really use it.

The Kindle promises to revolutionize reading in the same way that the iPod revolutionized music.  I’m a big reader, so it seems to make good sense, but am I ready to give up paper?  I look at my book collection (along with my CD collection) as a sort of journal.  I remember when and where I bought many of my books, whether they be shallow "airport books" or tomes that changed my thinking in some way.  Can that happen with a digital file?

The Kindle 2.0 is expected anytime, too.  So should I wait for it before taking the leap?  From the pictures I’m seen and reviews I’ve read, it isn’t significantly different, but isn’t the new model always better in some way?  And what about generation next?  One of the big content areas is magazines, but would magazines read well in black and white or is it worth waiting for a color version?

I’m not sure what my answer is going to be, but on the assumption that there are people out there reading my musings, I’d be interested in thoughts about the Kindle.

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