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How to Read Books in 2009

February 9, 2009

How can you read books in 2009? It’s quite simple. Buy an Amazon Kindle.kindle-2

I want to quickly dispel what all of you iPhone owners are thinking: I can read and download books on my iPhone. I don’t need a Kindle.

Please, please. Human eyes aren’t made to look at backlit computer screens or touch screens. It will–and probably already has–harm your eyes.

The Kindle uses e-ink technology that makes the page look like real paper. Maybe someday there will be an e-ink iPhone, which would be awesome.

I’m writing about the Kindle today because the Kindle 2 was announced this morning. It’s lighter, thinner, prettier, and faster (many people complained the the original Kindle screen didn’t refresh fast enough. Now it’s 20% faster).

It also has a feature that I discussed in a blog (sidenote: I find it extremely ironic that the spellchecker on WordPress, a website made to provide people with blogs, informs me that “blog” is not a word) entry way back in 2007 (before Obama existed): The Kindle 2 will read books to you. This is a key difference between a paper book and an electronic book. Is this feature perfect? Not really–it’s still a computer voice, so it would be annoying to listen to for long periods of time (unless it’s a female voice with a British accent). But it’s a huge step forward.

The K2 also has a better design that ensures that you don’t accidentally turn the page as much as you do with the original, the scroll wheel has been replaced with a joystick, searching for words in the built-in dictionary is now much easier and more intuitive, and because you only use power when you’re turning pages, the battery charge will last 2 weeks. Wow. That’s ridiculous. I think the iPhone can stay charged for 2 hours before it dies and needs a battery replacement.

With print publishing dying, the Kindle 2 will rise above all others. It will replace books. It is your future.

Don’t buy one.

What’s that? Don’t buy one? Yeah, that’s right. Don’t buy a Kindle 2. Instead, hop on over to eBay and buy a first-generation Kindle. $250. Unlimited, free monthly internet. 200 books in your pocket (if your pocket is HUGE).

Why am I saying such a thing after lauding the new Kindle? Frankly, the old one is just as good as the new one. You don’t need the extra memory or the new design or the extra battery life (the current battery life lasts a long time). It’s already so easy to hold, you don’t need it to be any lighter. $250 ($110 less than the K2) isn’t that bad for the future of books.

Or you can hold out until Jeff Bezos reads this blog and adds the following three features to the Kindle:

  1. Touchscreen. This is actually the least important of these three, but if you want the Kindle to disappear in your hands like a book, you should be able to physically flick a page over (or even give it a good hard flick and shuffle forward or backward in the book).
  2. Renting books. Most books on the Kindle are $10. Not bad. And I love that you can sample a few chapters of any book to see if you really want to buy it. However, I still use the library all the time for book club, because I don’t know if I’ll like to book enough to own it. I really wish there were a way to “rent” a book–say, for a dollar a week. Any book. I’m sure Amazon could come up with some way that the book would disappear from my Kindle after a week. After that, I seriously would never read a book in any other form again.
  3. Kindle-ize Amazon. If you’re a current Kindle owner, you understand my frustration. You go to Amazon to look up a book that just got a good review in the Times. You look for the button on the left that says “Send a sample to my Kindle,” but it’s not there. Instead, it says, “I’d like to read this book on Kindle.” So to remember that you want to check out that book sometime in the future, you wishlist it, and you forget about it. What Amazon needs is a button that says, “E-mail me when this book becomes available for my Kindle. That’s it. It’s not that hard. 

There you have it. The Kindle 2 is fantastic, but we’re in tough economic times. Just buy an old Kindle and make it your lover.

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