Reader’s report from the final frontier


I’m like a kid with a new toy, because… well, because I’m emotionally stunted and have a new toy. As mentioned Friday, through the generosity of Hunter Baker, prize-winning author of The End of Secularism, I’m the proud owner of an Amazon Kindle (the picture above shows what I’ve actually got, the new one. The picture I posted in haste on Friday was so last year).

The new Kindle can hardly fail to delight any reader (perhaps not any book lover, if he’s emotionally attached to the smell of paper and the feel of binding). It’s smaller and lighter than a paperback book. Shockingly small, to be honest, about the width of a pencil. Thousands of books are now available for this platform, usually at below hardback prices (and comparable to paperback if you figure in shipping and handling, which you get to bypass completely here). Downloads take no time at all (I downloaded a free version of Heimskringla, a book more than two inches thick, in about five seconds). The display is clean and clear (not backlit, but neither is a traditional book), and you can select your font size and other display options. If you want to read it sideways or upside down, you can rotate the image. Just to sweeten the deal, the Kindle also operates as a web browser (in black and white), and an MP3 player.

My only criticisms are minor. The controls are small and a little fussy, especially for web surfing. My great fear remains that I’ll drop mine, but I’ve ordered a padded cover which ought to cushion any shock.

Owning a Kindle opens up to me, not only the growing inventory of books available for sale in electronic form, but the riches of free public domain download collections, like Project Gutenberg. I’ve only actually paid for one book so far (Meadowlands by Thomas Holt. I’ll let you know how I like it), but I’ve downloaded several free tomes, and have my eye on more when I have a few minutes to play with it.

The main downside is that I think I hear the death knell of my campus book store.

5 thoughts on “Reader’s report from the final frontier”

  1. Is there a major difference/distinction between a Kindle and an “e-reader” such that one would choose one or the other? Sorry for the dumb question, but I’m even further behind than you are, Mr. Walker. I’ve just discovered the joys of inter-library loans.

  2. I think that printed and bound books, like the poor, will always be with us.

    That said, I am a happy Nook owner, and I think that ereaders (of many brands) have many benefits. The ability to tote a sizable library in one hand being one of them.

    Ebooks seem like a good choice for academic publishers–particularly in science and technology–who are frequently issuing new editions of textbooks to keep up with new developments in the discipline. (That leaves aside the textbook publishers who churn out new editions in order to short-circuit the used textbook trade.)

  3. I fear Lars with his new “toy” might recluse himself even further

    back into the misty hinter-lands of Minnesota where we would be at a loss to find him… No longer would we see him snow-blowing out his drive-way.

    If we peered into his house windows might we see the man bent over his little electronic monster, shaggy of hair and beard, (more than he is now…), mumbling and mouthing the words as they are supplied to him on that infernal machine?

    And what would we do without the shy Viking and his talented writings? I know for one…I would be at a great loss! Someone, quickly! Steal that thing away from him before he is lost within!!

  4. ebook readers are a fast developing technology that at this time is distinctly different from tablet pcs, but that distinction may soon change.

    Tablet pcs are actually tablet shaped laptops that try to do both ebook reading and everything else. Apple iPad is an example of the this. Amazon’s Kindle is not a tablet pc, although it is shaped like a tablet, but it is only designed for reading primarily text print. Barnes & Noble has the Nook which is an ebook reader, but now has a color Nook that is like a tablet PC. Next year the distinction between ebook readers and tablet PCs may decisively change. Until then.

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