For a brief second, I wonder why this wireless device doesn’t have a built-in email client—and then it dawns on me why I’m enjoying the Kindle so much: I’m completely absorbed in the experience of reading without any distractions from email or IM. It’s very book-like.
To my absolute shock, I’m also enjoying the audio book I downloaded: Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone (hey, I never got around to it). The experience is not unlike listening to a lecture. I suppose this is what it was like listening to a radio serial back in the day. On my iPod Touch, the book is easily found in the special spot reserved for audio books, so I don’t have to flip through my entire music collection to find it. I was delighted to find that the book picked up where it left off if I switched to music and then back again. It even saved my place during a firmware update. While I much prefer reading, an audio book is perfect for a road trip. I’ve actually been listening to The Hot Zone at the gym, which has been great—who’d have thought treadmills and virus-ridden exploding monkeys were so compatible?
The Kindle is certainly amazing. It’s reanimated the corpse of something I’d long thought was dead: my love of reading. These days, most of the reading I do is done online. But, the Kindle has helped me realize how much I miss sitting on the couch or on a park bench to read. Coupling books with its ability to snag newspaper headlines and blog posts, the device strikes a nice balance between the offline and online reading experiences. The iTunes audio book is whole other animal completely, but an animal that has its place.
The paperback still has them beat, however, and for some very basic reasons. An iPod might survive a trip to the beach, but I would never bring the Kindle near one. It’s not necessarily a fragile device, but its exposed ports all beg to be invaded by sand. Plus, I never have to worry about a book melting if I fall asleep in the sun.
While we’re on the subject of durability, let’s be honest about where a lot of reading takes place: I’d hate to see what would happen to the Kindle after an accidental swim in the toilet.
Air travel is another leg up for books. I’m one of those people who likes to read while the plane is taking off, as if to somehow distract myself from the fact that I’m leaving the safety of the ground in a 300-ton metal sarcophagus. Point being: I can’t turn on a Kindle or iPod until we’ve reached cruising altitude, nor can I have it on while we land.
The final advantage for books is that they’ll never run out of batteries. It’s so simple, but so true. No matter how cool, well designed or technically advanced a gadget is, a gadget is still a gadget. It is still subject to power failure. A book could never leave you hanging like that.
What are your thoughts? Are electronic books the future or will Gutenberg always be king? Has anyone out there had any experience with the Sony Reader? Share!single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.