Kindle 3: The Book as Bong Hit?

Kindle 3: e-book readers come of age

Have you been debating the best e-reader to buy? Wondering if this is just a bizarre fad or the future or reading? iPad, Nook, Kindle? Here are a few choice samplings from Ars Technica’s review of the Amazon Kindle 3.

During a stint in California, I once wandered into a ramshackle San Diego bookstore and began browsing the back shelves in search of dusty treasures. After some time, the owner—who appeared to be an aging hippie—popped up at my side like an apparition, giving me a terrific start. He talked at me about his store. “I don’t sell books,” he said, leaning uncomfortably close. “I smell books.” To prove his point, he took a volume off the shelf, pulled it to his nostrils, and inhaled deeply, lovingly, bibliophilically—the book as bong hit.

It’s not all good news. The Kindle interface still feels like something that escaped from 1985 and time-traveled into the future. Text-based interface with no mouse or touchscreen? Black-and-white screen? Small delays between issuing commands and seeing their results? Check, check, and check—and if you try to do much with the Kindle beyond straight, front-to-back reading, these limitations will feel… limiting.

All the same words were there, but the experience was strangely sterile. My California booksmeller would have understood. Whatever e-books are and however useful they may be, they aren’t “books.” Instead, we get the content with little to no attention to form and to design. Everything about a book is distilled into odorless words; all else is waste to be thrown away.

Perhaps the reader of the future won’t look like a Kindle, but more like a multifunction tablet (think iPad or even the new Barnes & Noble Nook). In either case, both classes of devices are now good enough, and the content is finally varied enough, that it’s possible to envision the wholesale shift to digital texts. Plenty will be lost—including the smell—but so much will be gained… Book lovers will mourn the change and carp endlessly about typography, design, cover art, and the facing page format, but music and movies have already showed us that people will make the switch to digital convenience even at the expense of quality.

via Ars Technica

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