The future of reading


Well, I am a lucky girl. Among the many, many other Christmas presents I received, Santa brought me a kindle!

There is nothing better than reading a book – the smell, the feel, the beautiful illustrations some of them come with, but I wanted a kindle after I realised it can hold around 3,500 books in the weight of a very slim paperback. No longer will I struggle on holidays with tonnes of books, some of which may not be as fun as promised by the front cover or the blurb on the back.

Don’t get me wrong – it is strange reading a book on the kindle. I keep looking for the other half of the book, which is testament to how good the text looks on it. It does look just like a page of a book. It’s also easier than a book as you don’t need to use both hands to keep it open, and the previous/next page buttons are on both sides. This means that basically, you only need a finger to read a book. Perhaps a thumb.  It’s the lazy person’s way of reading, and if it makes it easier then who am I to argue?

Amazon’s information on the kindle includes some stuff about wanting the kindle to fade away and for the reader to forget that he or she is reading a book on a kindle at all. They have definitely achieved this, but I would like to see it slightly prettier. I know, I’m being very girly, but I like my gadgets (and my books) to be a bit sparklier than matt black. I suppose in theory I could customise it myself. This leads me on to my next point.

As tough as it is is, it still has a big screen which is liable to get scratched after being carted around for a little while. A quick google on kindle covers revealed that….they are all pretty expensive and again, not very pretty. There were some that were cute, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy something that’ll cost a fifth of the price of the kindle itself.

So I made me a cover instead. It’s very basic – made out of black felt with sparkly bits on, blanket stitched together and with a toggle sewn on to keep it closed.

I know, get me. I blame the Hobby Craft that’s just opened. Incidentally, that leads me to my new year’s resolution – to use the sewing machine my mother bought me a while ago, sans manual. I really will get on eBay and see if I can buy a manual, or even get one from the manufacturer. I also need to spend a bit of time trying to thread the thing – tried to do it ages ago, but got frustrated and gave up.

The digital ink on a kindle looks amazing, just like a real book. Well, nearly like a real book. It looks so real that I’ve found myself trying to touch the screen like you would an iPhone. The battery life is also astounding – it claims to last for a month without constant 3G and/or wireless connection, although as I haven’t had it for a month I can’t confirm or deny this. Nevertheless, it makes the kindle even more convenient – download your books at home using your own wireless internet connection, then read to your heart’s content for a month without worrying about battery or chargers.

Besides  how pretty it is/isn’t, I’ve had it for a good three weeks now and haven’t paid for a book, despite downloading a number from the kindle store. This is great for kindle owners but potentially disastrous for kindles – why pay for a book when you can get the classics for free, which will take months to wade through and keep you occupied until the good books are available? There are two points in this – the first is that the books are almost off-puttingly expensive and the second is that the available books aren’t the ones I want to read on the kindle.

You can get an e-book for around the same price as a real life, tangible copy. This is partly down to the youth of the technology (the profit margins are smaller as fewer people are buying) and the realisation that e-books are taxed, unlike print books.

The books that I’m willing to pay a fiver or more for are, sadly, the ones I’ve read already and know I’ve enjoyed. This includes “The Time Traveler’s Wife”, Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy and the Garth Nix Abhorsen series. None of them are available yet on kindle.

This basically means that I won’t shell out for books until they either come down in price or better ones become available, and this won’t happen until people shell out for books – the profit increases and publishers can see the audience available. A conundrum indeed, although I’m sure this will sort itself out in the next year or so.

The technical specifications and the functionality behind the kindle far extends what I’ve described in this review, but it’s meant to be a preliminary explanation based on user experience.

The kindle will not replace books, but will enable owners to carry their library around with them for the weight of a novella. In the future, there might be colour screen kindles that can support complicated textbooks and graphic novels, or the software to scan a copy book directly onto the kindle itself, like we do with CDs already. eBooks might come as standard when you buy the hard copy – for 50p extra, you get a code which gives you the digital version. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing it unfold, and going on holiday without packing ten books and still reading Catherine Cookson in desperation…


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