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I Have A Kindle Now. But I Won't Read A Book On It. Discuss.

By - November 29, 2009

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I had a birthday a few weeks ago and to mark the occasion, my wife bought me a Kindle.  

OK, yes, I’m a pretty digital guy, and despite writing my 1992 Berkeley Master’s thesis on “The Future of Print in the Age of Interactivity” – a thesis that celebrated the rise of a digital tablet fed by a world wide network – I didn’t run out and buy a Kindle as soon as they came on the market. In fact, I was rather suspicious of the device, with its cultish clan of devotees and its somewhat insidious approach to purchases (Whispernet is free – just use it to buy stuff!). I actively demurred my wife’s consistent implorations to buy one – much to her frustration as a card-carrying member of the aforementioned cult.

I couldn’t explain why, but something about the Kindle just struck me as wrong. (Well, the lack of an open development system is one big Why, but it wasn’t the elusive Why. I’m getting to that….).

So when my wife handed me an Amazon box to open on my birthday…well it was awkward. I’ve already purchased two Kindles – both for her (she had to have the second version) – so I knew what was inside the box. But I have severe reservations about the thing, so pretending to be thrilled was difficult. We’ve been married over 16 years after all.

Then again, my wife was clearly thrilled with her Kindle, and her enthusiasm carried with it the whiff of a movement . Now thanks to her, I owned a ticket to Seeing What The Fuss Is All About.

So we fired the thing up, set up my account, and I began to poke around the Kindle store.

And that’s when it hit me, in a very visceral and almost reactionary sense: I never, ever, EVER, want to read a book on this device, at least as the device is currently set up. Perhaps that’s a bit too sweeping: Put another way, I don’t ever want to read a book that I would ever want to share or keep – one that I’d want to put on my shelf in my library at home.

It was as if I was paralyzed: I literally couldn’t even imagine purchasing a digital version of a book, downloading it onto this device, and then reading it there. Newspapers and magazines? Sure – I immediately got the New Yorker, the NYT, and the WSJ, and plan on happily consuming these periodicals and more as time goes by. I might even take a few blogs – but then again, it seems rather silly to pay for something that comes free over the web (wait….oh never mind.)

But books? No way.

Why?

I imagine you have probably figured it out – I was stuck in a physio-digital dilemma – my attachment to the physicality of books was affronted by the idea of digital long-form narrative.

Now, I’ll be honest here and say this was a rather uncomfortable place to be, given my career as a producer of texts about the future of digital. What’s wrong with me? Am I turning into my (grand)mother? Am I hopelessly out of date? Will I soon be muttering under my breath about how my kids are texting too much and failing to have “real” relationships with their friends?

Yikes. (David Byrne doesn’t have this issue, so what is WRONG with me?!)

So I got to thinking about what was wrong with the Kindle, from my point of view. Now, I’ll grant that my point of view isn’t consistent with most (or even many) folks out there, but I think it bears airing out in any case. And as I pondered why, really, I don’t like the idea of reading a novel on the Kindle, it became quite apparent it had to do with the book’s physical nature, certainly, but more importantly it’s social nature – the infrastructure of our culture that supports a book’s social identity through its physical transport. (Countless books have been written about this mystery of the book as artifact, of course…)

It was clear to me that the Kindle breaks just about every one of the unwritten mores of how we, over hundreds of years, have honored books socially. (If this has been said before, endlessly and better by others, please forgive me, and leave a link in the comments…) And as a writer and lover of books, this makes the Kindle nothing more than a glorified Netbook – without the Net.

A few examples:

- You can’t share a Kindle book with anyone else. That’s just nuts. The sharing of a book is perhaps one of the most intimate and important intellectual acts between humans, ever. I’m not stuck on whether or not that sharing is physical. I’m stuck on the inability to share. It’s a crime.

- You can’t declare to anyone (including, importantly, reminding yourself) that you’ve read this book – an obstacle I’ll call “the library problem.” I love being surrounded by books I’ve read, and I love the fact that people who come to my office or my home library can see the books I’ve read. Yeah, part of it has to do with status. And does digital mean that status is going away? I don’t think so.

- You lose the serendipity of reading in public (and judging, as well as being judged for what is read in public). This issue has famously been pointed out before, and I do find it rather compelling. A Kindle suffers from a kind of social blindness – no one knows what you’re reading, unless they ask. Something important is lost when no one knows what you’re reading on the subway, the airplane, or the park bench. The opening salvos of countless relationships will no doubt be lost (though I suppose any number of romances have been kindled by the exuberant declaration of one’s love for the Kindle…).

Now, before you consign me to the Luddite woodpile, let me state that I don’t think any of these obstacles will stand, over time. We’ll figure out how to share books as digital objects, how to quicken The Book into the mercury of digital social relationships.

But I’m deeply disappointed with the Kindle’s current lack of understanding of this critical aspect of a book’s meaning in our culture.

And I’m pretty sure that ten years from now – perhaps sooner, if Google has its way – we’ll look back at the first Kindles as important but ultimately flawed “fish with feet” in our ongoing evolution as a culture that honors what a book truly is. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying my free three week trials of periodicals. We’ll see if they convert into paid subscriptions….


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57 thoughts on “I Have A Kindle Now. But I Won't Read A Book On It. Discuss.

  1. Dominic says:

    but.. anything for the trees…

  2. Glenn says:

    Useful thing is that the new Kindle 2 firmware update allows you to display native PDFs. Which means you can buy open-source or unprotected books in PDF form (like the Take Control book series that I write for, sellers of about 200,000 ebooks), and just move them over via USB.

    So you can have your Cory Doctorow and eat your Kindle, too.

  3. David Smith says:

    John
    Carried the Kindle on a recent trip to Asia. Saved me a lot of weight. AND, both my wife and I read more books because of the ease of use. AND I could share them with her by buying them both under my name. There are lots of books I want to read that I don’t need to keep. And some that are just plain too heavy to carry around. It is great to have a book with me at all times. The Kindle makes that easy.

  4. Alex says:

    John, I have had a Kindle for six months now. I have purchased one book on it. I may purchase more. I agree with all your points. Let me add one, as well. Whispernet coverage in my area, Tam Valley, is horrible. I actually blew out a battery because the device kept decharging so quickly whilst constantly looking for a signal. Maybe this is a mere quibble, but it sure negates the supposed value of the Kindle, which is anywhere, any time, any book. The one big plus factor I put in the Kindle’s favor — variable type size. I sometimes forget my reading glasses. I can still read a Kindle. Can’t read an analog book.

  5. jean/NOTCOT says:

    John, SO happy to read your post! I’ve had a 1st gen kindle early on (gift) ~ and Dan had borrowed mine for a while and quickly upgraded to the 2nd gen as soon as it came out.

    I’m not a fan of reading newspapers/blogs on it. And i completely agree with you that it takes away the from the serendipity, judgments, and spontaneous conversations that pop up around reading in public.

    I LOVE book cover design and well laid out text… fonts matter! And yes i’ve been known to buy versions of the same book in other countries for the cover designs…

    That being said ~ i have found that i like the kindle for those books that i might not want people to notice i’m reading, and that i don’t necessarily want on my bookshelf. It’s nice for travel, definitely saves space in my purse. I don’t mind sucking through a novel on it.

    But this week, its been driving me insane reading through a biz/marketing book where i miss flipping pages, jumping back and forth between stories and conclusions, even the ability to scribble notes along side pages. I’m ready to buy the print version to finish it up! ok ~ sorry for the mini rant ~ you post brought out the kindle issues i’ve apparently had bottled up this week! :)

  6. Michelle says:

    I don’t care. I like my kindle. And, I’ll still read a stodgy book every once in a while. You’re just mad because you can’t sneak a peek at whatever that person next to you is reading.You can’t feel intellectually superior or (much more rarely) impressed. And NO – you can’t strike a conversation with her (or him)!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/31/nyregion/31bigcity.html?sq=kindle%20train&st=nyt&adxnnl=1&scp=6&adxnnlx=1259558203-ODp9DeGttE0BNF0NxgDwFA

  7. Jeff says:

    John,

    I’ve been a big Kindle fan through version 1 and version 2. I completely understand your concerns, especially around the social aspects of books. Certainly the Kindle is not perfect. But life is about trade-offs, and on balance I have gotten much more from my Kindle than I’ve lost. The ability to have all my books with me all the time without killing my back is probably the most important. And that has caused me to read more, because I can read anytime, anywhere: NYT, WSJ, Economist, three books I’m reading are always with me.

    On the social aspects, the problem isn’t that what you want to but how you think of doing it. For instance, you think of people seeing a book in your library or in your hands. But that’s a pretty limited set of people. Why not share the information on Facebook (there are Facebook apps for that), or your blog. Then you can engage a broader community in the discussion about what you’re reading.

    I tend to agree with you about sharing a book. But the ability to buy a book immediately, wherever you are is equally powerful. I’ve been talking to people several times when they’ve said “you really have to read X”, and I just pull out my Kindle and buy it on the spot. No more forgetting, etc. Just do it.

    We’ll figure out how to better replicate some of the social aspects of physical books. But in the meantime, I’d rather have a less-social Kindle than a more social physical book.

  8. Steve says:

    I own and have mixed feelings about the Kindle. The hardware controls are terrible, but it’s fine for papers and magazines. (Except the NYT’s which I read via their great Reader software.)

    The internet pipes have ruined my book reading, so I can’t judge books on a Kindle. Mainly I give it my 11 year old daughter when we’re out and she’s bored. She’ll blast thru a book in one sitting.

    So I have thought for a long time that the killer app for the Kindle would have been textbooks. We all worry about our kids carrying those huge backpacks. The Kindle would be a great solution if they offered textbooks, but they don’t yet as far as I can tell. Should have started there…

  9. air max 90 says:

    So you can have your Cory Doctorow and eat your Kindle, too.

  10. Sriganesh says:

    Wow, now you must have really delved deeper within yourself to have come out with the reasons. Many of us may not actually be able to articulate.

    I agree with all the points and I think it would take sometime before Kindle or digital book reading evolves.

    For any disruptive technology, the consumer’s existing behavior has to go through drastic change. That we are now comfortable reading online news rather than paper-based has taken a long time. Consumer behavioral changes and the development of technology happens over a period of time. When it happens, then we can say that the technology has come to the Main Market (Geoff Moore – Crossing the Chasm).

    At this point of time, Kindle probably is in the Early Adopter (or Visionary, like you) stage.

    I am very sure all the points you have raised will be surely be addressed. For example, if the other side of Kindle displays the cover of the book while you read the content in the airport will give you the ‘show’ element. The advantage with technology is that unlike printed books, Kindle’s page can display different cover pages. And that too dynamic ones. :)

    Like you, even I like to be surrounded by books I have read and like to share with friends. Now, the problem is that the space we have at home is limited. How many books can I store at home? Some point, I will donate them to friends or a local library. Kindle might solve the problem of space, I guess.

    No, I haven’t bought or even used Kindle. And despite bringing out points in the defence of Kindle, I would like to read printed books, for some more time. But I guess, e-Book is where we all will go. :)

  11. video says:

    I’ve been looking at the House and Senate Bills, and, on antibiotic resistance, they’re not bad. Both bills would evaluate hospitals on hospital-acquired infection rates (although there’s no mention of nursing homes, which are a significant focus of infection). This is good.

  12. Zeno Davatz says:

    Have you heard of the Software Calibre? With that Software your Kindle doubles in value! Check it out. It is for free. Like that you can share thousands of free books or other information.

  13. John,

    You’re not alone in your resistance to the Kindle. And in the closedness of the platform you’ve hit on a reason to be wary — the Kindle still feels a little bit proto, and the books that you buy and accumulate on it, stuck in a proprietary format, can only come to life on this device or on software that Amazon chooses to provide. That’s a valid concern when we’re talking about any kind of data, and books aren’t just any kind of data (at least not for those of us “of a certain age”). There will be a standard eventually, and it won’t be closed — so Amazon’s current standard is by definition temporary.

    As much as I agree with you on those points, though, six months of Kindle usage (~25 books) and several years of audible.com usage have made me feel just as strongly that I never want to have the physical copies of books and audiobooks again. Data should be weightless and spaceless and should go with me where my devices go — whether that’s to the gym, in the car, on a backpacking trip, wherever. I want to sell my bookshelves, clean out the boxes of aging books that I’ve carted with me for so long. I want to be able to search it all, instantly, bring it all with me.

    If I want to share a book, I’ll buy a digital copy to share (or a printed one if need be). And more people have picked up my Kindle and learned about my literary taste in the last six months than had come into my office or living room in recent memory…

    The Kindle isn’t perfect (neither is audilbe), but they both represent a step forward, and I’m wouldn’t be enthused about retracing that step back to where we were before.

    -Eric

  14. Adrian says:

    There is Kindle as hardware, and Kindle as a service/application. I’m not interested in carrying around an extra device, and my wife used to carry around a book to read at all times, but now we both use the Kindle app on our iPhones. It’s a smaller screen, but it’s the same words. I don’t have any problem reading books on the small screen, and I no longer want to buy the dead tree versions of books. I want to pick a book and have it ready to read a few seconds later, and have it in my pocket for reference at any time. I have paper books at work and at home, and when I want them they aren’t at hand. I use the Newsstand iPhone app to gather less permanent feeds and blogs etc. My (non-technical) wife is constantly reading on her iPhone, mostly Agatha Christie novels. We both contribute to a large library of books on display at home, but don’t seem to have the same issues as John…

  15. Piaw says:

    You’re confused. My 2 brothers and 3 other friends have been sharing Kindle books forever. You and your wife just have to share the same Amazon.com account. The minute I bought one, both my brothers and a couple more friends bought one just so they could benefit from my reading library. It works great. At this point, the pooling of costs model has saved us the cost of the Kindle several times over.

  16. dış cephe says:

    You’re not alone in your resistance to the Kindle.

  17. Rob says:

    I agree, the swapping of books and information is one of *the* most vital drivers on human growth and learning.

    I had hoped that this collective drive for openness would lead to increased and accelerated learning.

  18. Kaspar says:

    I love to read books and used to have filling that papaer book would be newer replaced by e-book, at least for me, until I’ve bought Sony PRS-600SC . Now I’m in opposite camp :) Very convenient.

    BTW: “The Search” is excellent book. Thank you

  19. techpops says:

    Some interesting points and commentors seem to agree but it strikes me that you’re overthinking it. I mean, I can’t believe you sat there on your first use of this device and complained it wasn’t social enough. It’s almost like you had to search for reasons to dislike it.

    Looking at music for a moment. We have an even more social animal there. People love collecting music and stacking it on shelves, showing off said collection to friends but this is a very small matter that hasn’t stopped the masses of music lovers taking to mp3’s and enjoying the idea of having their entire collection in their pocket. In fact you can share more easily your tastes with playlists and giving your ipod or whatever to friends to look through.

    The same is true with these digital book readers. Nothing to stop you giving it to someone to look through. And being such a digital savvy person, nothing stopping you from singing your literary loves online, building collections of what you have there and exposing that to even more people than would surely ever pass you by on a park bench.

    I’m not sure what your real reason is for disliking the Kindle. I suspect its more to do with having a love of the book itself and having this bulky plastic thing is always going to be second best to a real book. I say this more because you seem to have no trouble reading text that was always digital to begin with and its only the stuff that only ever lived on paper you’re having trouble with.

    I like the idea of the Kindle, I just don’t think its quite there yet on the tech front, price front and its way too closed a platform too.

  20. cleondann says:

    I love my kindle from the very first day i get it… it’s awesome and i m fully satisfied with its looks and functions…

  21. mrg says:

    ironic – the same thing happened to me when my wife announced what was in the box. DIdn’t even open it; just sent it back.

    For an ADD reader and surfer, it’s antithetical to put yourself in the KindleCarcel. Google will shortly figure this out with something mindblowing that melds G-books and G-tube and G-news and G-music and G-maps and and and…

    Maybe something called chrome on a netbook?

  22. jenkins says:

    blame Jeff bezos. He is so self-centered and could care less about how real people use books.

  23. Ron says:

    I agree with these drawbacks, but I don’t think it’s an either-or decision. The Kindle is great for traveling, for two reasons. First, you can carry multiple books easily in your briefcase, without actually carrying multiple books. Second, I can’t count how many times I have been stuck in an airport without a book, the flight is delayed, there’s nothing good in the airport bookstore, and now there’s a two hour wait plus a 5 hour flight with nothing to read. In that instance, it’s easy to turn on the Kindle, buy a book, and problem solved.

    I use my kindle for books that look decent enough to read, but that I wouldn’t want to keep in my personal library. Books I expect to keep are purchased on paper. This way I have something decent to read when traveling, while still having real books at home. It’s not a perfect solution, but if you travel a lot, the benefit outweighs the cost (my opinion).

  24. Shirley says:

    Hello, I already sent you a message to your twitter account , I will be direct if you do not appreciate the kindle, please give it to me. I have been saving money to get one. right now I am not working because I am studying a course in communications and multimedia. I hate to carry heavy books around. I hate to see when I finish a book that it sits there collecting dust in the mausoleum that has become my bookshelf. I already try giving some books to the public library; however, they do not want all and sometimes I tend to forget some at the bus stop or the train..so another person would have the chance to read it
    I would pay for the shipping and handling charges if you decide to get rid of it and give it to me.. I promise I will treasure it!!

    Doesn’t matter the answer thanks for reading my pledge!

    Take care!

  25. Andy M. says:

    So happy to see this post, and I couldn’t agree more with your point about tangibility.

    I’ve always been a fan of the “physicality” of books, and as time goes on, I’m slowly building up a library of my own. (I think I may be an oddity in that regard – I’m only 21.)

    While magazines, newspapers and the like are easily replaced by the web, books are timeless.

    Even as they age and become worn and cracked and stained, it just adds character.

    Ron has some good points, though. The Kindle, in terms of usefulness for mobility, is quite handy.

  26. Dan Lewis says:

    Hi John:

    I responded, in part, at http://dlewis.net/2009/11/30/the-used-book-store-in-the-cloud/ but will summarize here.

    I think the real problem is the disintegration of the First Sale Doctrine, and I don’t think that is necessary. What you really want is to not pay for the non-consumption value (having the book on your shelf, etc.) that you don’t gain from an e-book; and you also want to be able to do things in cyberspace that you can do in “meatspace” (e.g. share, rent, borrow). *Both* of those problems are solved by applying current legal doctrine (the First Sale doctrine) to e-books; that way, publishers can (artificially) create some level of scarcity by partnering with device manufacturers and distributors (Amazon/Kindle, B&N/Nook) to create a rental economy.

  27. Antonella says:

    While all you say is very true, and while the DRM part utterly annoys me, I am as your wife an avid Kindle reader.
    But I do not see the Kindle as a replacement of the old book experience, as much as a new experience.
    New things I can do with a Kindle:
    -carry more than one book with me
    -access any book at any time, as I need
    -annotate books and have digital notes
    -highlight portions of a book and have them in my notes
    Things I wish Kindle would do:
    -easier ways to share a book (to your point)
    -make my notes and highlights sharable
    -allow others to comment on my notes
    -make my notes/highlights searchable
    -remove DRM…

    Also, I do confess the fascination of the bookshelf myself, and that it is indeed a way to know someone, and let others know you. But I admit that way too many books are read just once. E-readers like the Kindle could help us in reducing the number of physical books.

  28. Wenzel says:

    It interesting… I like the idea of being able to take notes without destroying something.
    But I hate the idea of another thing to take out of my briefcase when I travel and another power cord.

    I like writing on the Economist. I think it helps me absorb things better. It would be good to take every Hemingway book with me at one time.
    I don’t think it could be a replacement for books, so much as a proxy; kind of like the iPod. I still buy discs, but I put them on my iPod because it’s more convenient to haul them around.

  29. Thomas says:

    There’s something about holding a book in my hand that’s comfortable. And just as I did with vinyl LPs, back in the day, I enjoy book cover designs.

    For me the kicker is that I love having shelves bursting with books. Even though I may read them just once the not open them, just seeing their spines makes my brain burst with ideas.

    The Kindle? It just seems too clean and sterile. It also looks like a en eggshell colored 1983 era IBM 8086.

  30. Onar says:

    Have you checked out the Barnes&Noble Nook reader? Looks closer to what you want.

    It lets you share books with friends, supports open formats such as epub and also allows for easy viewing of regular PDF documents (not limited like the Kindle).

  31. Ras says:

    John – I enjoy reading your thoughts on many issues but I think you missed this one by a mile. In general it appears your problem with the Kindle is not related specifically to the Kindle but to the concept of electronic readers in general. Your overwhelming preference to be seen with broken-in manuscripts of literary greats obviously can not be duplicated with any eReader – they simply do not have the same currency as a fashion accessory.

    BTW, do you always wear a pocketwatch and monocle?

  32. ras says:

    John – I enjoy reading your thoughts on many issues but I think you missed this one by a mile. In general it appears your problem with the Kindle is not related specifically to the Kindle but to the concept of electronic readers in general. Your overwhelming preference to be seen with broken-in manuscripts of literary greats obviously can not be duplicated with any eReader – they simply do not have the same currency as a fashion accessory.

    BTW, do you always wear a pocketwatch and monocle?

  33. Todd says:

    You could certainly lend your kindle to soneone else in order for them to read a book. and just like a real book you would be without it until it was returned. :-)

  34. Greg says:

    I agree with Techpops. Your points are good ones, but I get the impression that you’re rationalizing your dislike of the form factor versus the traditional book. Of course Kindle won’t have every feature one could ever want. However, something like Facebook does offer a much better way of being social around reading.

    As a tech writer, you should give yourself the homework assignment of buying a book, reading it (the whole thing!), and then reporting back on whether your impressions have changed. ;-)

  35. Sigi says:

    Dude you are such a sad person oO…

    You have to be at least 30 or something and still materialist?

    I read books for my fantasie not for a nice shiny cover…

    Serious why do you have a bookshelf? For you? For books you will read again? Or just to show off?

  36. Apurba says:

    Thanks John for the much insightful post.Sharing with you some of our consumer behaviour related observations on books and book readers :

    1.Unlike listening to music, where an user is passively engaged, book reading calls for active engagement.While you can continue listing to music & do your favourite work at the same time, but our book reading habit prevents us taking up another work at the same time.In today’s multitasking life, devices in general are poor replacement of paper books. In addition, we fold books & that’s a part of our entire reading experience. How do we do that with devices/kindle?

    2.Size does matter. While relatively small multipurpose devices aptly fits our pockets,can as well be showcased as a fashion accessory when required. Book reading on small screen is often strain on eyes. A comfortable screen size that may be suitable for reading books could be that of a small netbook. However if the device/kindle screen is as large as a netbook – why not its a netbook?

    3.Paper based books are an integral part of our home furniture accessory. We love to flaunt our wooden bookshelf, mostly or some of those will be unread books.Books on devices can not fulfil that aspirational value or fashion quotient.

    To conclude, way back when Kindle was released we published our research findings on Kindle as a book reading device & challenges ahead.

    http://www.trendsspotting.com/blog/?p=367

    Thanks

  37. Beth says:

    The serendipity issue is a big problem for me – both with books and newspapers, and one of the reasons I shy away from the Kindle. Newer isn’t *always* better – look at architectural history.

    Likewise, the joy of browsing in a bricks-and-mortar bookstore and making new literary discoveries will also be lost if the Kindle becomes the new standard for transmitting the written word. While Amazon provides me with new book suggestions, that lack of surprise somehow detracts from the richness of experience and makes us less interesting. And readings by new authors? Gone, too. Guess there will be a few used bookstores left to pick up the slack for us old-timers ….

  38. Beth says:

    To get really picky about it, I’d much rather read a novel set in or about the past in 10 point Monotype Times on yellowed, crumbling paper than in 12 point Arial on a brand-new digital device. In this case, the physical medium itself adds to the quality of the user experience because it lets you connect to the past, while reading a contemporary potboiler wouldn’t benefit as much from this tactile reading experience. Call it the “Papyrus Effect”, if you will – words seem more timeless, authentic and authoritative when read on an ancient tablet or parchment.

  39. Daniel Serra says:

    More or less the same things could be said about mp3 music and headphones.
    1- You cannot share the discs.
    2- nobody knows what you’re listening to.
    3- you cannot be surrounded by physical discs.
    etc.
    C’mon, I’m sure most of your books had being read once and put back in your library. At least that’s my case. A total waste of paper and ink. I think the kindle is a great thing (specially for those of us that live at the end of the world with limited US books available).

    Daniel from Argentina

  40. Daina says:

    John,

    I am with you. I love the smell and feel of a book — particularly a novel. I too, have been swayed by the idea of a kindle for a year now — especially for industry/work books that I tend to lug with me while traveling. I hate the weight. I also like the idea of some things the Kindle should do — like being able to highlight and the device actually annotating sources during research. Today I take notes using my PC and document bibliography. The Kindle should be wonderful for that purpose — and would save my arm, hand, shoulder and back from the briefcase I carry loaded down with books.

  41. Adam says:

    I was considering giving this as a gift to my father (almost 70 years old). This has confirmed that it would have been a bad idea. He loves books but the technology would be off putting and therefore I think that he would read one to humour me, but not really enjoy it.10

  42. Thanks @Zeno Davatz…the software you have told about is really great and about John’s kindle sharing I have to say its great to have some clear ideas on Kindle…

  43. Amelia Vargo says:

    Hi,

    This is the exact same reason that I don’t want a kindle. I love books, I love the physicality of them, turning pages is great! I love the variety of the covers. I just love books!

  44. Kimba Green says:

    I am in the same space as you are. I love my library of books but I do understand the travel, the less weight and so on. But I love technology! But I love my books! So torn! For now no Kindle for me unless my husband buys it for me!

  45. Lori says:

    I love my Kindle. I don’t care if anyone else can see what I’m reading. I’ll happily talk about the books I read without having them on display. I love saving space and trees.

    I’ve had mine for less than a year and read about 50 books so far. The only downside is how easy it is to download and read them – I have to curb myself or I’ll read us out of house and home.

    Give it a chance – you’ll find that your “reasons” for not reading books on it will crumble the first time you try it.

  46. Scott says:

    Agree with a lot of your visceral issues. Some of my observations on the pros / cons are here: http://worldpointx.com/2009/05/my-kindle-experience/

    But in short… If you commute by train or – as I know you do – travel with any frequency, this is simply an amazing device. I’m finding I’m reading much more, faster and with the ability to tag content for later usage or to pass along, it’s great. Yes, sharing a book is a great thing. But how often did you used to photocopy or pass along individual passages worth sharing? Now that’s easier.

    True enough, even with the DX, things like textbooks are more fun and – I think – more effective to physically markup with both highlighter / pencil. And it’s amusing to see what now seem archaic page reference numbers as the multi-platform nature of the delivery is still nascent. And there’s other negatives as well. (Among those you mentioned.)

    I also FEEL a bit of a disconnect SOMEtimes. Example: I own some older books passed on to me that were carefully designed; fonts, bindings, paper, etc. (Sure, all books are, but these are finely crafted, old, expensive volumes that were truly well done.) There’s no questions there’s some kind of emotional appeal to these when reading in certain environments. But for day-to-day travel? Once you’re into a text and fully immersed, it’s all about the information, not the form factor. (Except when it gets in the way with lousy image rendering.) The fact that there’s some odd feeling of futureshock communal loss that others can’t see what I’m reading and vice versa is made up for by the smiles/nods from other kindled spirits. (Sorry, I really couldn’t help that one.)

    I think you’ll find if you give it a fair shot that the Kindle, like any tool, has it’s uses and places and offers serious value. Maybe just not all things to all people just yet.

    Meanwhile, how come you haven’t gotten your publisher to make sure all your books are available for Kindle?

    Scott

  47. Alex says:

    I see your point though the near future for books might be:

    * purchased on Google Books though many would be free, available in the public domain.

    * read on an improved version of Google Reader. This later would have cool sharing abilities which will attempt to solve the points you’ve addressed. For example you’d be able to recommend a book or share comments with the readers of the same book. You’ll basically socialize around books.

    * stored on Google Bookshelf which is already a feature of Google Books I think. It will give you the highly needed feature of searching your bookshelf whether it is digital or physical. Your bookshelf will also be featured on your Google Profile. This might resolved the “library problem” you’ve addressed.

    * run on a netbook or tablet pc designed just for reading (just like the kindle or eBook). These devices would have wifi and also be used for news, blogs and web reading.

    * and of course powered by ChromeOS.

    Alex

  48. Thomas says:

    You’ve articulated my thoughts exactly. The techie gadget loving side of me wants a Kindle badly, but I also have second thoughts about not owning the physical copy of the book. Is it the hubris of wanting to display the books that I have read? The social aspect of reading and sharing books? The physical memory aspect of knowing where a passage is through its position in a book? Probably all of them.

    Your thoughts about connecting with someone based on the cover of the book they are reading reminded me of a New Yorker cover from a couple years ago. It is of the top of an open double-decker tour bus in Manhattan. Tourists are gawking, but one girl is engrossed in a paperback of Franny and Zoey by JD Salinger. How do I know the book? Just a few lines identify the semi-iconic cover. The cover says everything about her and I identify with her. That could not happen if she was reading her kindle.

  49. Marie-Axelle says:

    I totally agree with you. Here in France, we don’t see Kindles, or electronic books very often, but i guess it will come soon.
    Books are such a great thing, a great object to share,annotate and look at !
    Even if it’s the future of our society, with the evolution of technology and the rise of web 2.0, with the Kindle we lost a lot of the charm of reading.

    By the way, your blog is great !

  50. Tom F. says:

    John, I agree with all of your points and think you underestimate the number of other people out there who do too. Your point of view “may not be consistent” with most of the people who read your blog, but I bet it’s consistent with most un-techie people out there who just like to read books. There’s just a visceral connection people have with books, the paper pages, covers, etc. that aren’t (yet?) replicated by an electronic device. But I also agree that we’re still in the early stages and many of our objections may yet be overcome by future enhancements. So for now, I’m with you, great for newspapers and magazines, but I still prefer to read a real book.

  51. Jenelle says:

    It’s nice to hear someone state the same concerns I have with the Kindle. Everyone is so excited and full force about them and I know for certain I will resist them for as long as I possibly can. I’d like to add that you also lose the physical feeling of holding a book and the smell of the pages and the feel of the book in your hand. More importantly, you lose the ability to reference back within a text as easily by just looking at where in the depth of the book it was, or where the book is most dog-eared, or where the spine is broken. There’s no physicality to it. I just can’t get behind it.

  52. Chris says:

    Obviously, I guess it depends on how you view books and reading…

    I don’t generally lend books out to friends. I’ll share them with my wife… Maybe my kids or other family members… But that’s about it. And there’s no reason I couldn’t do that with an ebook – all we’d have to do is register the Kindles/nooks/Sonys/whatevers under the same account.

    I also don’t have a problem with purchasing physical books in addition to digital ones. Much of what I read is enjoyable, but just not that outstanding. Certainly not outstanding enough that I want to keep it on my bookshelf for years to come. And if it is that good, I don’t have a problem buying another copy of it… Hell, I’m usually buying a paperback the first time around, and then a hardcover if it is good enough to keep.

    As for the social aspect of being able to see what someone else is reading… Personally, I love this about my new nook. I can load it up with erotica, or bizarre science fiction, or fringe magazines… And I can actually read them in public without having to worry about people judging me.

  53. Schmidt says:

    A solution to the serendipity problem: Kindle should have a second display on the BACK of the device that would show the cover of the currently read book. Wouldn’t it be nice.

  54. Dan says:

    The Kindle. Hmmm. Nice and thin and light and handy–but, as opposed to what is intimated by its (British only?) advertising campaign, is there anyone out there dumb enough to put the thing in their hip pocket? I think not. (Forget its there, just once, and sit down. All you can do then is thow it away.)

    Size: despite the above, the Kindle seems to have been designed specifically to fit in a bluejeans hip pocket. It’s certainly too big for a shirt pocket–or inside-jacket-pocket. (Any of mine, anyway; not without force.) And yet its screen is decidedly smaller than any paperback–any one of them, btw, being universally renowned for their ability to survive hip pockets.)

    Personally, I expect to see the usual seventy-two characters by thirty-nine lines in 11pt font–which, unless you shrink the font down to a size that demands a magnifying glass, will not fit on the Kindle. I find that truly annoying. To fix that problem you have to fork out for the (oddly, far too large and) much more expensive Kindle DX–more of Kindle’s answer to the iPad, really. For me, the correct screen size is right in the middle, as I said: a screen that will accommodate 72×39@11points (plus a decent margin: at least a centimeter).

    What I find most irritating, however, is the “color” of the screen. Granted, the text is as clear as clear can be–but the print, which is not actually black is, rather, a dark shade of gray. Add to that, the background is far from either of the two colors anyone expects to find in most any book: white or crème. Thus, contrasting the dark-gray print is an ugly grayish shade of “white” that reminds me too much of the sole of an old sports sock. Sorry, but as handy as the Kindle is, I just can’t bear to read off that miserable gray-on-gray screen. It actually depresses me.

  55. raluk says:

    the reasons you stated for not liking the kindle are the ones i like the best about my kindle. :) i hated when people could see what book i’m reading, i like a little privacy, and put paper covers on my books, also it was a bit annoying when i used to borrow a book to a friend and they gave it back much later that they should have or in not such a great shape. a + for using the kindle is the fact i can read even books with 500+ pages and not have to carry around such a heavy book. also i like to have on my kindle stories so i can read them to the kids at the kindergarden where i work. my kindle just made it easier for me to read, because i didn’t have the space to put all the books i wanted to read, or the time to go at the library to read them there, and it allows me to read books in english(not my native language) which i can not find in the bookstores. i looooveee my kindle!

  56. venturer9 . says:

    I realize that this article is long past, but I will add just a little to the conversation in case someone picks up on it. I do not own the Kindle, but a Nook. The Nook has one major improvement over the kindle and that is that I can put my books on a mini SD card, share them if I want or change them in just a minute or two. BUT the main reason I bought the Ereader was that my eyes have given up on me and I can read the Digital books much better due to changing of “Brightness” or ‘Shade” as well as increasing or decreasing the Font size and type. I have several hundred Hard and Soft bound books in my library and LOVED them when I could read them, but now just look at the covers once in a while… LOL….
    Consider that I just recently got a book at a yard sale which I really want to read, but it is 917 pages of size 6 font……………….IMPOSSIBLE for me to read, let alone lug around from place to place as it weighs just shy of 3 pounds….