I got some birthday money this week and was at an impasse as to what to spend it on. Michelle suggested a Kindle. I had been saving up for a tablet of some kind. Not the iPad, but maybe the the Cruz or Samsung's Galaxy. Michell and I talked it over and cam to the conclusion that a tablet is nothing more than a light weight laptop for people who have simple communication and media needs. This describe neither Michelle or myself. We both do a lot of heavy duty writing and desktop publishing. Michell does scientific work on hers. I do software and system development plus will probably do a fair amount of statistical work in the future. We both need fully featured laptops. Tablets are what we used to call "thin clients" back in the 1990s when Network Engineers and Application Developers like myself were trying to imagine the networked information appliance that the masses would use once we got Last Mile Connectivity figured out. Michelle and I need thick, very thick systems indeed. So, what did I want a tablet for? I wanted to read books without adding to my already overloaded bookshelf. I also liked the idea of a general purpose information appliance. Wait, that's my laptop. So, I want to read books without buying a paper object. That's the mission of a kindle. Why not a Nook? Price. The Nook is a crippled Android based tablet. Sure I can unlock it, but that voids the warranty and requires opening the device up and flipping a dip switch, IIRC. I have a hard enough time opening my laptop and working around inside it. I don't want to crack a tablet to get the functionality that Barnes and Noble should've given me in the first place. So, I got a Kindle. It has a very limited functionality and that turns out to be just fine by me. This thing is definitely a disruptive technology. E-ink readers will definitely change how we read, especially once the various platforms open up for unlimited commerce. That motive, I believe, will drive currently closed devices to open their formats and stores. As it is, Amazon has an awful lot of the books on my wish list in their Kindle format. And I like obscure scientific and academic books. Not only that, but I can put all my PDF documents in the reader. I think aside from graphic novels, I probably bought my last paper book sometime in September. Here are the advantages of a Kindle or similar device over our traditional books:
- Takes up very little space. Even the kindle DX is only the size of a notepad. If you ever fill up your Kindle, you can archive your books or documents in the cloud, on your laptop or an an external drive. Can't impress visitors to your home with your scary bookshelf, but so what?
- E-ink means you don't consume anymore resources over what went into your reader.
- Never need to print up an academic paper again. Man, that really works for me. I have binders full of old papers that are organized for crud. No longer!
- E-ink is very easy on the eyes. And, I can resize the print.
- You can make notes in the margin without actually marking up the book and you can erase them.
- E-books cost half the price of paper books or less. Without the hassle of printing, the book vendor has much less cost. Still dunno how badly the vendors are sticking it to publishers and authors. I know a couple of my favorite sci-fi authors have become their own publishers due to crappy deals. However, that's also empowering as well. The author can become their own press. Marketing is a pain, but it can be done.