Article yesterday in the NYT about the Kindle...while there may be some legitimate debates about how Kindle will change publishing--and some of those changes maybe not so much the better for authors--the NYT hand-wringing seemed to be mostly over the fact that books on Kindle can't be used as status signifiers (tho' the Kindle itself, of course, it somewhat a status signifier since it ain't cheap)...after all, how will people know you are so cool and read Melville or Sartre if there's no book cover to inform them of such? It's true that as far as being used as a wing-book, the Kindle is useless...but...full disclosure:
Devilman got me a Kindle and it's pretty cool. Actually, Devilman got US a Kindle, and although I was skeptical at first, he's now not been able to pry it out of my hot little hands. I'm pretty smitten. Now, I wouldn't want to read every book on the Kindle, and I wouldn't buy a book on the Kindle that I had any expectation of wanting to add to my library, but for a swift read it's pretty sweet how you can download a book in seconds from wherever you are and begin reading instantly. This has caused me to buy books that I might not have otherwise, based on the instant gratification principle. If I had to write the title down and go to the bookstore I might have lost interest in the book before I even got out the front door.
I particularly like reading the newspapers on the Kindle. We used to take the NYT, the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal, but we only ever read the FT weekend edition, and the newsprint did add up. It seemed as though I was always carrying scads of paper to the recycling, or stumbling over pilesin the living room. Now, we are paper free, and don't have to deal with spreading out huge pages on the breakfast table or the living room. Plus, I tend to do most of my reading now whilst satisfying the voracious appetite of the Captain and his grabby hands make books and newspapers problematic. But I can easily hold the Kindle out of his reach and turn the page with one hand, and that works great. You don't get the easy browsing function you do with the physical paper, and the Kindle editions don't have the entire content of the paper edition but it's good enough for casual reading.
A couple of drawbacks: firstly, the Kindle ain't cheap, as mentioned before. I'm sure the price will come down and by the time Captain Jenks is old enough to read Gogol he'll probably wonder why anyone would read books printed on paper, oh those silly old folks. By then, maybe they'll be giving Kindles out in cereal boxes. (I am ancient enough to remember when digital watches cost over $100 bucks and were giant clunky things; you could order them out of the Sears catalog--if you were rich!). But right now it's an investment.
Another drawback: you lose the lovely physical quality of a book. No graphics, and if the book had pictures in it, usually they are ommited from the Kindle edition. I just finished GO DOWN TOGETHER, a bio of Bonnie and Clyde (what absolute pathetic losers--so sad), and I would have liked pictures to go with my text. Luckily, google pics provided illustrations but that's not the same as flipping to the middle of the book. Plus, no cover art, or interesting fonts, etc. Just stripped down utilitarian text. For those of us who like books as objects, that's a drag. But as I said, if I really want to keep a book, then I'll buy it for real.
Last drawback--which could be a MAJOR one for those of us with no self-control. To buy books you set up an automatic account. This means when you click buy on the Kindle, the credit card information is already in the system--which makes book buying SEEM easy and almost FREE. If you aren't careful, you can rack up some serious charges quickly just by hitting BUY BUY BUY. This may be great for the publishers and impulse buying but can get you into fiscal hot water rather quickly. Like with donuts, one must learn to exercise restraint.
However, over-all I am pretty happy to be Kindling...