Review: Kindle – The Future Of Reading

Finally the Kindle makes it to Aussie. Charlie Brown gives it the once over to see if it’s been worth the wait.

Make: Kindle
Model: N/A

by Charlie Brown

Part of my business includes a weekly spot on Steve Price’s morning show on 2UE. As well as talking about the latest technologies and gadgets, I take questions from listeners about problems they are having, or advice I can give on what gadgets to buy. This year in particular, there have been quite a few questions on the ebook reader, the Kindle. Up until now, it has not been available in Australia, but Amazon, who produce the device, has made it possible to buy one in Australia.

And I managed to get my hand on one.

First of all I’ll say that I was a little skeptical about such a concept, but it’s amazing what a little mucking around with a gadget can do to your preconceived ideas.

Out of the box, the unit is out 10 millimetres thick and about two centimetres bigger around the edges than a normal paperback book, or about the same size as most hardback books.

You turn it on via a little switch along the top spine. Interestingly, it is in a state of perpetual sleep mode when it is not on. This can cause some concern for airline staff as one acquaintance found out recently when the purser insisted that she switch it off. It took some explaining, but the staff member concerned was finally convinced that it would not interfere with any of the airplane’s avionics.

So what does it have under the ‘hood’. Well, it has been said that it is very popular and I can see why. It’s so simple to use, it’s almost silly. You just switch it on, look through an easy-to-use menu, find a book you like, and download it. Of course you have pay for the book by registering and setting up an Amazon account.

Once you download a title, it’s your to keep (unless you run out of memory, which is a reasonable 256GB). And don’t for a moment think about file sharing, your Kindle is registered to you and you only, so unless you’re some sort of uber hacker, you can’t swap cyber books with anybody.

It size is a bonus, too. No bulky books to carry around in your bag – War and Peace, The Winds of War, Lord of the Rings, or any other epic that levelled a small rainforest in the Amazon – are now reduced to a series of 0s and 1s. You could argue that it is eco-friendly, but I have no idea how much carbon is used to power a Kindle up, or break it down at the end of its working life. But, another bonus is it battery life, which goes on for a week or so.

I was worried that reading a book on a mini computer might have been a bit disconcerting having been brought up on the paper variety, but I need not have worried. As you get lost in the prose of a good book, you forget that you’re reading an ebook.

A down side is the lack of titles. Sure, there are over 200,000 available at the moment, but that is drop in the ocean compared to the number of tomes that have been published over the past couple of centuries.

All in all, an enjoyable experience, and one that I would recommend. There will be the “bah, humbug” brigade or yearn for the days of old, but that is to be expected of any new piece of technology.

In saying the above, I am a fan of the bookshelf as being one of the more interesting pieces of furniture in the house, so I would rue the day it disappeared from the family living room altogethre. Is the Kindle the future of book publishing? Probably, but the humble paperback will be around for some time to come.

Oh, and you can also get subscriptions to newspapers and magazines.

Pros : Very easy to use; store a tonne of books on it; great for travelling; books usually quite a bit cheaper than tangible versions
Cons: Sometimes a bit slow when clicking to various fields; reasonably expensive to buy; lack of titles

4 out of 5 shacks