People love their new Kindles, and I understand why, but I must say I love $359 a little more.
Granted, that’s the up-front cost for something that downloads entire books for less than $10, but when you buy the new Kindle you’ve spent the equivalent of about 25 paperbacks, and, as I understand, you still have no book.
While I’m one of those young fogeys who says Ain’t Nothing Like a Book in Your Hands, I think e-readers are something to be embraced — when the time is right. Given enough development, I see almost no beloved trait of printed books that cannot eventually be simulated or surpassed by e-readers.
- If you’re like me and and can’t resist defacing your books, the new Kindle already lets you save your highlighting and marginalia.
- The actual print on Kindle 2.0, I’ve heard, is even more crisp and readable than what you’re looking at right now, let alone a printed page.
- The controversial Text-to-Speech feature lets your title double as an audiobook… kind of (the voice isn’t bad, but it isn’t Grover Gardner reading The Sound and The Fury, either).
- Throw in an onboard dictionary for defining words on the fly, and you already have something very tempting.
But the current price tag blows this to hell for all but the most compulsive technophiles. Also, you’re reintroduced to the iPod problem: if you tend to misplace things, it’s no longer “Crap, I lost my book,” but, “Crap, I lost my hundreds of books.”
Actually, e-readers suffer from another iPod problem: rapid obselescence. This early in the e-reader game, the technology will move at a speed that’ll dismay many Kindle owners the way it did people with their bulky, white first generation iPods once they saw the Mini and the Nano come rolling out.
Once the market grows over the next five to ten years the prices on the hardware will start coming down. At that point, I think some wonderful things might happen. Writers will thrive with the obstacle of printing costs being obliterated (which is bad news for that segment of publishing, unfortunately). It’ll be all the better for readers, too, who will have an almost overwhelming level of access to books of all kinds, many of which were previously out of print or print-on-demand. Good times.
Then there’s the question of whether publishers can follow suit, perhaps learn from what electronic formatting has done to the recording industry.
And if they don’t, you’re going to hear at least one person say
“Dude, I just pirated a copy of A Thousand Splendid Suns!“