Okay, it’s official: the bound and tattered book is dead.
For me at least.
I know the book is dead because when my Kindle 2 broke (my bad) I had to go ten days without it and ink-and-paper books made for a clumsy, lumbering substitute. I know this is heresy but so was the personal computer, the Web, and the cell phone. Heresy is now doctrine and you don’t need another falling newspaper tree to see it coming. Tell the truth, the only things I can see wrong with the Kindle 2 is that it’s black-and-white and you can’t use it in the rain. Otherwise, as a brain-feeding device it is seriously superior to anything in print that has come before.
There’s the sheer convenience. The New York Times downloads to my Kindle automatically every day and The New Yorker does so every week (for just $2.49 per month). Fantastic. With the device you can buy books with a single click from the Amazon Kindle store, and the Sprint wireless network is always on unless you say otherwise. You can download books — 265,000 in the database — and sometimes they are cheaper than the print versions. One important wrinkle: you can adjust the size of the font size up and down and that’s crucial. The battery lasts all day and beyond.
Perhaps most important of all: you can carry all these newspapers and magazines books around without lugging the weight of the material with you. Those of you (like me) who have lived life burdened by the weight of knowledge will feel light as a feather.
You can do a few other things on the Kindle 2 that are still of secondary importance: you can “clip” and “mark” stories and sections you like and you can annotate the text with the cute little keyboard that’s part and parcel of the Kindle. You can search text and use a dictionary that comes with the device. You can also get on the Web though the command is still sequestered in the “Experimental” sections.
There’s something else going on here that is borderline profound. Because the Kindle presents all material in much the same way, the packaging and presentation of the cover and book diminish drastically in importance. The only thing left is the text — good, bad, and ugly — because the wrapper has all but disappeared on a level playing field. Words matter, and these words have to stand and fall on their own.
Nothing’s perfect — wireless reception can be spotty where I live — and you should make sure you should buy a portfolio from Aspen that protects your Kindle at all times because it can be fragile. But these are quibbles. Long live the Amazon Kindle and all generation-next attempts to re-invent reading on any and all electronic devices. I have seen the near-future and it works near to perfection.