by Florrie Binford Kichler
Reflections on the Kindle
We hope you’ll quickly forget you’re reading on an advanced wireless device and instead be transported into that mental realm readers love, where the outside world dissolves, leaving only the author’s stories, words and ideas.—Jeff Bezos
Kindle—light (a flame); set on fire. 2 arouse (an emotion).—Compact Oxford English Dictionary
I had already decided to hate the Kindle.
After all, I fell for the RCA E-book Reader, now in its second and final life as a doorstop. Touted as the device that would persuade the reading public to instantly empty shelves of all print, it didn’t take long to tumble into technology purgatory, joining all the other e-book readers that have imploded in the last 15 years.
The Kindle, I thought, was just another in a long line of techie toys for geeks and nerds. Twelve hours a workday reading on a screen was plenty, so why would I want to spend my leisure time cuddling up with yet another screen? Still, in the interest of market research, I determined that I owed it to my personal development and my business to see what the fuss was about. So I coughed up the $400 and made the purchase, sure that in a few months, there would be a second doorstop in my future.
I was wrong.
Why I Love the Kindle: A Reader’s Perspective
789 pages in 30 seconds.
“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
“It’s so dreadful to be poor,” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.
For those of us who spent their formative years reading and rereading Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, those opening lines of Miss Alcott’s magnum opus are as famous as “Call me Ishmael.” But would they convey the same emotion read onscreen as they did in my musty-smelling ©1947 dog-eared Illustrated Junior Library edition?
Thirty seconds after setting up my new Kindle, I had purchased and downloaded to it—wirelessly—789 print pages of The Works: Louisa May Alcott. Not only did I have Little Women, but I now had nearly all my favorite Alcott novels. All in 30 seconds and without leaving my chair. Cool.
Multiple functions. I knew that the Kindle had wireless built in, but what I didn’t realize is that I can not only download electronic books and audio books—and have newspaper and magazine subscriptions delivered while I sleep—but I can also browse the Web, check my Web-based email, listen to MP3 music files, and even load my photos on the device.
The keyboard is a little awkward but functional. When I Googled “Louisa May Alcott,” the familiar screen of results popped up, and I was able to choose one of many biography sites—who knew that Louisa wrote under the pseudonym Flora Fairfield?—to learn more about my heroine.
So while I’m reading Little Women, I can visit the Web to find out more about the author, send an email to a fellow Alcott fan, listen to background music, and look at family pictures. Not that I would necessarily want to do all those things at the same time, but while sitting in an airport, it’s especially nice to have a choice (without having to pay for wireless access!).
Weight. The Kindle weighs about 10 ounces and will hold approximately 200 books. Compare and contrast: 789 pages (maybe two trade paperback books) weigh about 2.5 pounds.
Why I’m Wary of the Kindle—A Publisher’s Perspective
Imagine a world of no returns, no distributors, and no manufacturing.
That’s what early e-book proponents promised us a decade ago, and while we may get there eventually, my prediction is that it will take another generation to do so. To date, the major sticking point of the e-book readers—including the Kindle—is that they have been limited to a proprietary format available from only one vendor. Until a universal reader appears that accommodates all content file formats and vendors equally well, the reader’s consumption and purchase of electronic books will be restricted—as will the publisher’s profits.
Whether you convert your titles to the Kindle format now or wait until it proves itself for the long haul is a business decision only you can make. What I recommend is that you position yourself now for the e-book future. [See “Will the Kindle Set Publishing Ablaze?” in the March issue.] At the very least, convert your books to the most universal electronic format available, check your older publishing contracts to ensure that your electronic-rights clause reflects the reality of today’s marketplace, and begin thinking about a new way of marketing where pixels replace paper as the prime method of content delivery.
In the End . . .
Jeff Bezos was right.
Whether onscreen in my 2008 Kindle or on the pages of my 1947 edition of Little Women, the words “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents” still work their magic and “dissolve the outside world,” carrying me instantly back to the 19th-century lives of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.
Content is what counts—the delivery method should rightly fade into the background to leave only the author’s words, thoughts, and vision. In theory, that means the Kindle and all e-book readers beat the printed book hands down in terms of the number of ideas per square inch.
But can the Kindle really replace that 60-year-old book with my name written on the inside cover in an eight-year-old’s shaky script?
My virtual door is always open. Please share your comments, thoughts, and ideas by emailing me at email@example.com.