Steven Johnson on eBooks

Steven Berlin Johnson in the Wall Street Journal on eBooks and eReaders, which is large part another paean to the Kindle:

On another occasion, I managed to buy and download a book on a New York City subway train, during a brief two-stop stretch on an elevated platform. Amazon's early data suggest that Kindle users buy significantly more books than they did before owning the device, and it's not hard to understand why: The bookstore is now following you around wherever you go. A friend mentions a book in passing, and instead of jotting down a reminder to pick it up next time you're at Barnes & Noble, you take out the Kindle and -- voilĂ ! -- you own it.

While I can't disagree that the wireless downloads are part of the Kindle's special magic, there's one thing that I noticed whilst sitting outside with my Kindle and pulling my fiction pud with a little Conan this weekend: The best thing about the Kindle is that it isn't a computer. It has the convenience of wireless internet, but the calm of a proper book. Sure, it has a web browser and a dictionary, but I so rarely use them because of the shoddy interface and slow refresh of the screen that I don't conceptualize the device in my head as a computer, but just a fancy book.

That's actually going to go away here soon enough, with fast, color epaper wedded to better touchscreen interfaces. I'll then have to train myself to do something herculean like turn off the wireless. But in the meantime, I enjoy having a pleasant reading device that doesn't whoop and bloop every five seconds with email and IM alerts.

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  1. What a perfect way of explaining the Kindle. All of it so very true. I’m so tired of reading Kindle bashing in the comments posted. I hope that the people who don’t own one of these niche devices will keep their negativity to themselves.

  2. I love reading books on little electronic devices. Just yesterday I felt the urge to buy an ebook.
    Then I jumped online (on my iPhone) to buy it and found out they were trying to charg $25 (yes, USD 25) for a regular novel in ebook form. The paper version is also $25 as it is only out in hardback yet. In hardback form it is a collectable item. In ebook form it is just a bunch of words that will be deleted when I finish reading. I cannot give they ebook away, re-sell it or show it to my kids, unlike the hardcover.

    So what did I do?

    Said screw this, lets find the torrent. Took a shorter time then finding it through legal channels.

    They have to realize that selling a convenience item is not equal to a collectible item. The value is not equal to the consumer. The cost is not the same to the manufacturer either. Although a hardcover enjoys significantly higher profit margin than paperbacks it is still nothing close to the killing they would make if anyone paid this for an ebook which costs nothing to produce, almost nothing to store (no warehouses) and very cheap to transfer to its destination. This kind of hare brained business does not help the consumer, the artist or the publisher.

    And if you read this mister Jim Butcher, please talk to your publisher. I was in the store with my credit card out. Then I exited. I think you and others are worth my money. But $25 is just plain silly.

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