I Saw A Kindle!

For those of you that don’t know, this is a Kindle.

Amazon is selling these (in the States only) but someone came to my shop with one (husband bought it there and filled it up with books before coming back).

I must say I am thoroughly impressed by it.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I touched the future.

What makes the Kindle special is that is uses ePaper (or eInk some call it).  Effectively you need to think of this as a plastic sheet embedded with thousands of tiny balls, black on one side, white on the other.  When current is passed through it you can arrange the balls to appear black or white as needed.  Like pixels (and indeed, a color version of this would be possible in the future).  But unlike a computer screen, this requires NO backlighting.  It is as easy to read as paper, and I do not exaggerate this in the least.  You look at a Kindle screen, you might as well be looking at a printed sheet.  I can’t emphasise this enough, because no matter how good a PDA you’ve seen in the past, it’s just not the same.  There is no comparison between epaper and any backlit screen.

This has many other ramifications, however.  The very nature of this technology is extremely energy-efficient.  It only uses power when a page needs to be changed.  In fact, if the power was lost entirely the page would stay fixed on its last image forever.  A two-hour charge can last for one week of constant use.  Let me repeat that: ONE WEEK.  Consider the environmental ramifications when epaper extends to the world of PDAs and Laptops.  This is the most environmentally friendly high-tech gadget I’ve ever come across.  It weighs the same and is the same size as a thin paperback novel.

You can store hundreds of books on it, and more if you insert a flash memory card.  Some of what is impressive about it has to do with the nature of its marketing.  For example, it has a built-in connection to the cellular network that allows you to access the Amazon website for free, no monthly subscriptions or anything.  This means wherever you can use a cellphone you can download a new book.  Any book you purchase this way is remembered on your account, so if you delete it later you can re-download it for free any time you want.  You can subscribe to newspapers so that they are automatically uploaded to your Kindle every morning.

Now, one thought I had after seeing this is – wow, this might put me out of a job someday.  I mean, who wants to go to a bookstore when they can have a whole library in their pocket?  However, as I admired the Kindle and discussed it with the woman who was kind enough to let me play with it, another man joined in.  He was up on the technology and had an interesting story to tell.  Apparently BAEN books (mostly publish SciFi/Fantasy) have in the past few years made many of their novels available free online for download.  Normally this would be the first in a series, the idea being to hook them in so they want to buy the rest.  To their surprise they found a huge upsurge in demand for the first book, the one they had available for free.  People wanted to buy hard copies of books they already read for nothing.  BAEN was backlogged for months trying to catch up with demand.

I suspect this will be the eventual future of the book industry.  Even if epaper takes over the world, hard copies will still be produced/sold, simply because people like to own things.

God bless capitalism!