In the darkness the trees are full of starlight (henwy) wrote,
In the darkness the trees are full of starlight
henwy

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Kindle the conflagration

I've been looking at those portable e-book readers lately. I've never really given them much thought in the past, being a devotee of good old hardcopy. Besides, when you buy a hard or paperback book, you can at least be sure you're helping to kill trees which is surely pissing off the hippies. I think of it as an underappreciated fringe benefit of sorts. All of that aside though, I recently thought it might be interesting to have a device where I could load all my books and have them on hand without needing to shuffle through my incredibly overstacked bookshelf. It's pretty ridiculous having to search for a particular book as it is. I practically have to pull all the books off it row by row since it's packed to 4-5 times normal capacity and 3 rows deep.

So it was with this in mind that I set off to take a look at portable readers online and just about had an apoplectic fit when I saw the retail price. $3-400 dollars? WTF? I know I must be missing something fundamental here, but people have been reading text documents and the like on crappy cheapass palm pilots and PDAs for years. It's not like I'm asking these devices to also play movies, cook me dinner, and provide a happy ending. It's just supposed to display freaking text, right? So why in the world does it cost more than some laptops? If someone with some know-how can actually answer that, I'd appreciate it.

After goggling at the price, I spent some time looking at the specifications for the two main contenders out on the market right now: Amazon's Kindle and Sony's Reader. I can't see how either is really all the special from a tech point of view nor do I understand why both of them hype the fact that their screens 'look like paper'. There's nothing holy about paper, is there? Certainly not enough if you have to spend hundreds of dollars more just to create the faximile of it. The only standout detail was the Kindle's wireless whozit which uses the Sprint network and allows you to transfer books to the system from any place in the US (barring Alaska and Montana). For all that convienance, page turning still seemed pretty slow on both systems and far from instantaneous which sort of baffles me. I'd have expected a level of responsivity equal to hitting the page down button when in a word or text file.

The thing that really killed the idea for me though is the price of the books. It's fucking ridiculous. I figured that most books would be half their cover price at the most, with the grand majority being even cheaper than that. Instead when I browsed the amazon and sony sites I found that when the prices weren't indistinguishable from normal paperback prices the discounts tended to be on the order of 20% or so. Considering the tremendous savings in production costs, I can't believe that both companies are still gouging people and having them pay $6 or $7 for a glorified text file. At that price, I can't imagine anyone not simply choosing to get the paperback instead. At least you can sell the paperback when you're done with it and recoup some of your losses. Doing so with either the Reader or Kindle violates their terms of service.

So in the end, it was a nice idea for a while but I just wasn't able to find any upside. It's expensive, the tech seems relatively primative, and the books are pricey as hell. Why the frak would anyone be buying this crap? Does anyone reading this actually have either a Kindle or a Reader? Care to try to defend the product or at least explain why it isn't just a barrel of suck? I'm really curious at this point.
Tags: book club, book club: ebooks, electronics
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