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Review: Amazon Kindle – Books Were Just A ‘Gateway Drug’!

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For those who may not know what the Amazon Kindle is, it is, in short, an eBook (electronic book) reader. eBooks provide users with the same content as dead-tree versions (with some exceptions on illustrations and footnotes, depending on the conversion). The Kindle, which sells for $359.00 on Amazon, is one of many such readers on the market. Several features set it apart from the others:

1. Amazon's 130,000+ Kindle-format books are priced around $9.99 (some higher or lower).
2. Built-in wireless (called Whispernet) downloading is also free with purchase of the Kindle.
3. Form factor: the unit is shaped something like a book and is tapered on one side to make it easy to hold. The machine does make it very easy to read for long periods of time without the fatigue you get in your hand from holding a book open and up while reading.

The two major upsides to eBooks are presently: generally lower cost and ease of transportation. A book addict like me can literally carry hundreds of books in a unit the size of a typical small paperback. Another benefit that may not be obvious at first is privacy. How many times have you found yourself in a waiting room, an airplane, or other public places and wished those around you could not see what you were reading?

My only real complaint is not an original one and is directed to Amazon's DRM (Digital Rights Management) policy. To briefly illustrate, imagine you want to share a book you've purchased with friends. Here's how it currently works: When you buy a Kindle eBook from Amazon, it is marked with DRM tied to your account and will not work on other people's Kindles. There is no way (yet) to transfer ownership of a Kindle book. I don't think it's all that technically difficult to limit the ebooks to one reader at a time, just like you can only loan a book to one person at a time.

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  • Cale,

    I love my Kindle and overall I have few complaints, but I think you raise a great point about book sharing. I also don’t think it would be difficult for Amazon to develop a system in which Kindle users could share a book with one friend.

    Another change I’d like to see is if I preview a book and then decide to purchase that book, I’d like to be able to continue reading where I left off in the preview, not start the book from the beginning (or scroll through to where I left off). It’s not a big deal, and it’s not terribly time consuming, but I think it would be a nice feature.

    I also think I need a cure for Kindle thumb – but clearly that indicates that I enjoy my Kindle and use it daily.

  • carol lombard

    A possible legal technicality about book sharing relates to copyright laws, which can be open to argument, but in which there is a presumption that a person who purchases a book of any kind only paid for their own right to access it under copyright law. Of course this is not enforceable with paper books, so its overlooked. In the case of ebooks, where there is the possiblity of preventing sharing, the publishers and authors probably welcome the ability to put that aspect of copyright law into practice.

  • G. Reilly

    Maybe Phil Gramn was right, we are a nation of whiners.

  • ron

    Wow, you can’t share books? I have been sharing and trading books since childhood and I am old. I guess it never occurred to me that I was breaking the law. I guess we should track and reconcile with all the mafioso librarians and every excited kid who ever shared a book with his best friend.

  • Cale

    Ron, I wonder the same thing. I do question those who feel a shared book represents a lost sale. I can’t begin to count the number of books I would NOT have thought to buy or read had someone not loaned me their copy first. I doubt I am the only one.

  • steve c

    Can someone buy a book for someone else’s Kindle?

  • Bob Albertson

    What I hate about the Kindle and maybe ebooks in general is the lack of good books, well maybe just the books I like. While it may be due to copyright laws, ereaders will not become very popular if there is limited content. Also just holding a paper book feels right while holding a kindle feels awkward.

  • addi

    i love my kindle and i agree with bob. what about MY BOOKS THE ONES I LIKE TO READ!!!