Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Technology Review: Amazon's Kindle.

Late last year, Amazon launched an e-book reader named "Kindle." They call it a "Wireless Reading Device."

An early-adopter, I received one in January (as there was about a month-long backlog at the time). After several months of use, I offer the following review organized according to Cost, Conveniences and Critiques.

1. Cost. At $399, the Kindle isn't cheap. However, if one is a heavy book-purchaser, the savings would eventually pay for it. For example, say a physical book costs $19.99. Since Kindle books cost no more than $9.99 through Amazon, one would save $10 on each book. Obviously then, about 40 books into the process, it would pay for itself.

2. Conveniences. Books can be ordered from the Kindle itself or online. The downloads consume all of a minute or so. No more waiting for the smiling-face cardboard box to arrive. Amazon doesn't charge for the download time or wireless access, just the book itself (again, no more than $9.99). Kindle offers excellent portability. You can tote along the equivalent of 200 books at the weight of 10.3 ounces. Say you were planning on reading a few books on vacation, this feature makes it especially suited to airline or other travel. Because it is an e-book reader, you can enjoy other conveniences that paper books do not offer. For examples, you can (a) manipulate the font size to larger or smaller text; (b) bookmark and annotate pages for later review; (c) search terms in the text; and (d) look up words via the built-in dictionary, among other things.

3. Critiques. Pagination isn't the same as paper books. Instead, the Kindle offers "locations," which are not convenient for citation. Amazon's founder, Jeff Bezos, sent me a personal (ok, not so individualized) greeting with the Kindle in which he stated: "Our top design objective was for Kindle to disappear in your hands...." While I generally laud Kindle (see paragraph 2 above), I wouldn't characterize this as a hallmark of the device. Because the sides are filled with page turning buttons, it's far too easy to inadvertently turn the page simply by grasping it. Thus, it's not disappearing in your hands; you have to be very mindful how you are holding it. Finally, Kindle doesn't offer the range of books that Amazon otherwise offers. For instance, Justice Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner have just produced a book called Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, which was featured on a recent 60 Minutes show. However, as of this writing about a month after Making Your Case's release, it's not available on Kindle. This unavailability is more common with older books.