Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Guest Blog: The Kindle 2: More Than a Geek’s Dream?

Okay, I'll admit it. I like my books. I like the way they feel. I like the way they smell. I like all the shelf space they consume in my room. Peruse my shelves and you will see rows of paperbacks with near-perfect bindings and others that have been read so many times that even an anal freak like myself can't keep them from showing wear.

So why on Earth would I ever consider -- gasp! -- an e-book?

Well, I haven't. Not yet at any rate. But I gotta admit, the Kindle 2 is piquing my interest.

Now, most of you don't know me, but I'm a tech geek. So, in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I'm a bit biased when it comes to new technology. But still, that new Kindle, she looks smoooooth. She's got free wireless. I can sit in my comfy chair, shop for a new book, and then read it without ever having to get up. (Is that a good thing? That's probably a different blog post…) She can run for two weeks on a single charge, and she can hold 1500 books.

That's geektastic, folks.

But do I actually want one?

To be honest, I don't really know. I think it might be one of those things that you really have to try out before you decide if you like it. Even so, I experienced the same existential conflict with my music. I adore my music collection just about as much as I do my book collection. But now, two iPods later and with slew of DRM free music at my fingertips, I buy more music in electronic format than I do on CD.

My suspicion is that there are still a few hurdles to overcome before e-books go mainstream. First is the right reading device. The Kindle 2 may be the bees knees but $359? Ouch! Availability and variety of books is another thing. Sure, I can buy a book from my comfy chair, but according to the advertisements there are only 240,000 books available for it. Yeah, I could never read all those, but do I actually want to read any of those? (Let’s see… sci-fi/fantasy section… Dune? Read it. Neverwhere? Read it. Kurt Vonnegut? Not my thing. Halo? Huh?)

Now, here's where things get interesting. Technology is just beginning to break in to the publishing industry and you can already see signs of the major publishers acting the same way their movie and music brethren did. The Writers of Guild America has already come out strongly against the Kindle’s text to speech feature (that is a different blog post). And publishers? Offering up 240,000 books isn't exactly a firm embrace.

So what do you think? Readers, have you sworn on your copy of Ender’s Game that you'll never buy an e-book? Writers, do you have / want to have books published in e-book format?

Geeks like me want to know!

PS. Hi! Thank you to Lyda and to the Wyrdsmiths for letting me squat on your blog! (That's an odd image.) Assuming I don't get too many flames, I hope to bring more geektastic commentary in the not-too-distant future. Until then, cya!

PPS. Lyda requested a bio, so here it is. Hey all, I’m Shawn Enderlin. I’ve been writing off and on for almost ever but in the last few years it has turned into an obsession that is beginning to interfere with my day job (IT). I have taken classes at the Loft Literary Center with both Lyda and Kelly and am a member of the [UNTITLED] writing group along with four other fantastic up-and-coming authors. I am currently finishing up my first novel, To Kill the Goddess. You can find me on the web at http://twitter.com/seamusspeaks and at http://embracethedoppelganger.blogspot.com/.


Chris said...

I think that we're still a year or two out from a really useful ebook reader. The proprietary format aspects of the Kindle bother me a lot. The blogs Dear Author and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books have both had good articles and comparisons of the Sonys and the Kindles in the past couple months.

For now, I'm hoping that my Palm Tungsten E2 holds out for a while for those books that aren't available in print.

Jon said...

I don't expect to ever want to switch from reading actual books to using a kindle, not until it looks a little more like the electronic paper in Firefly, at least... or I become a space smuggler, whichever comes first. However, should I ever get published, I will happily accept money from the people who do wish to read my book on one.

Also, Shawn, isn't our group called "These Precedes Knees" or did that not stick? Because if not, I'd like to put: "Sparkle Motion: The Deathenators" back up for nomination.

Kelly Swails said...

I'm sort of a techie girl by nature, so I've been eyeballing the kindles and sony e-reader. However, I'm also cheap, so I'll probably wait until they go down in price and the selection is more diverse.

Shawn Enderlin said...

Chris, that's a good point. I would expect that Amazon will eventually adopt a more open format (that's just the inevitable trend of industry/technology) and i would HOPE they would let you convert your old media to the new format. If not, well, that would just be mean.

Jon, LOL! I almost listed our group name as [REDACTED] instead of [UNTITLED] because, well, isn't it obvious? :-)

Paul Lamb said...

I think ereaders are the future, but I'm not sure the Kindle is it. I've heard it described as the VHS tape of the ereaders: good for bridging the gap but ultimately not the standard.

I also don't like their marketing model. If I understand it correctly, you can only buy the books through Amazon, which is just too much like monopoly to suit me.

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Mark said...

Nice post. I work with a few folks who have Kindles and they are very sexy (the Kindles, not necessarily the people). I have not decided to make the investment myself, but think I would like one, eventually.

mousewords said...

I'm a writer, and also go all "Oooh shiny!" over new tech gadgets. So, do I want a Kindle? Definitely. Will it replace my beloved printed books? No way. But it's just so dang cool. :-)

I'm including Kindle with the formats for my book, just in case other people think the same way. ;-)

Douglas Hulick said...

I was talking to a web/publishing person a few weeks agao about this, and he is under the impression that the sleeper reading tech of the future is electronic paper. Basically, it is bunch of electronically charged ink specs imbedded in a page that be remotely flipped "on" or "off" (think O's and 1's for the computer literate out there) to completely change to print/image on a page. The page is actaul paper, sheathed between a couple of protective layers.

Apparently, electric paper is being tested in some JCPenny's in Florida and elsewhere. New sign displays can change in an instant and, I am guess, new books could be "loaded" onto a page as well. If something like this could be perfected, I suspect it would kick the Kindle's butt because it combines the "old" feel of paper and books with downloadable goodness.

Kelly McCullough said...

I'm pretty much in agreement with this. I think I'm more or less on the upper edge of the digital generation demographic (43 this year). While I love my books, I'm perfectly comfortable reading text on a screen and delighted that I can resize it or change the font to suit my tastes. I don't actually prefer electronic display for pleasure reading because my laptop is only really comfortable sitting up in a chair, but I do prefer it for writing or editing.

If you give me a comfortably hand held reader with decent screen quality that's cheap and durable enough that I don't have to worry about it when I throw it in my luggage or read at the beach I won't hesitate for more then a few minutes about switching over. The advantages in terms of storage and convenience for travel and shelf/wall space are just too big for me not to make that transition. If you add in capabilities to allow me to read in the dark without keeping my wife awake, make the text searchable and annotatable, and market it in an environmentally friendly way, that'll really help push me away from paper. As a reader, so would making it DRM free or DRM invisible so I can make backups and not have to worry about losing my books.

I won't make hard predictions as to time horizon for a device that fits all my criteria but I'd guess no more than fifteen years and probably closer to five.