25 July 2011

Kindle Pro and Kindle Con

Yes, I bought one.

And then Borders announced they'll close the remainder of their stores. Commentators said this is related to the rise of on-line retailing, of which eBooks are fast becoming a significant portion.

I have very mixed feelings about all of this.

I was buying most of my books used, before I bought the Kindle. And since I bought it, probably 99 percent of the books I've put on it were either free or 99 cents. So it's not clear that moving to Kindle, for me, has impacted the paper book market (yet).

One Kindle, though made out of plastic and powered by electricity and probably bound in (environmentally toxic) leather, is probably still an environmental lightweight in comparison to printing and shipping the 3500 books it is supposed to hold (and theoretically unlimited books, if you remove books from the device as you finish reading them).

I can see that as technology evolves and improves, I'll be able to upload, read, and annotate books, pdfs, articles, whatever, rather than printing everything out and scribbling notes in pencil and hoping I'll be able to read them a week, or a decade, hence. (No joke: the tiny notes I wrote in books I read in grad school? Today, I need a magnifying glass.) I won't need yards and yards of bookcases to store the books I've read, and I won't need to dedicate living space to book storage. These are also environmentally beneficial aspects of the Kindle.

But browsing for books in an actual store -- holding actual copies of books, leafing through them, reading portions -- is still, for me, a far more satisfying experience than searching for books on an on-line retailer's web site. For The Offspring, it's up there with visiting the library, though after a trip to the bookstore he's likely to own a book, frequently paid for out of his saved-up allowance.

I suspect by the time The Offspring is an adult, eBooks will be fully integrated into his reading experience. But what might the unintended consequences be?