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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