Keywords: Reading, books, technology

Title: Amazon Kindle

Manufacturer: Amazon


As a confirmed and fanatical bibliophile, the thought of using an e-reader has never been particularly attractive. They've always had a similar attraction to reading a book as a PDF on desktop or laptop. Sure, you'd do when you needed to, but it couldn't compare to the convenience, comfort and sheer pleasure of a book. And the early generation of specialist devices did little to change that view. Why spend time looking at a screen when you could look at a book?

However, Alan Jacobs in his 'The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction', made a good case for the Amazon Kindle as the device that changes all of that. Here clearly was a man in love with reading and with books, who could outline a case that reading with the Kindle was decidedly not like reading off another screen. It was not just the technical details about e-ink technology or the comfort of reading the Kindle screen. It was not just the ability to store hundreds of books on one device. Nor even the chance to search the text. No, what made the Kindle different, according to Jacobs, was that it provided all of the functionality of electronic devices without the distractions.

It's almost a perverse argument. The Kindle is good because it makes the things that act as distractions to reading - like surfing the web - difficult. Sure, the Kindle has got a primitive sort of web browser, but it's slow and not very functional. The screen is great for text - clear and legible - but it's black and white and less than ideal for web pages or full colour graphics. It's got lots of functionality, but the focus is on reading pure and simple.

As an argument it's not one that would be appealing to most people, but to a reader it's about as compelling as you can get. Could the Kindle really be the device that entices hard-core readers to consider an electronic device?

I have to admit that I'm hooked now. I have the 3G and keyboard version and find it ideal. I have surfed the web at times, but it has to be an emergency. Mostly I pick the Kindle up and read. I don't get side tracked playing with gadgets and games. I read and I enjoy it. It's comfortable, easy and I can take it with me when I'm on the move. It does what e-readers always promised to do, and it does it in such a way that it doesn't detract from the reading experience.

Sure, it's not perfect, but then what is? The pricing of eBooks is often odd - I mean why would electronic versions be as expensive or even more expensive than the paper version? Even accounting for the fact that eBooks incur VAT (another stupid decision that we can thank the European Union for), the fact that there's nothing to manufacture and nothing to post suggests that the price ought to be lower, but it's not always so. There's something about owning a physical item (a book, CD or DVD, for example) which makes you feel better about paying a higher price for it, but when it's just data it feels like the price ought to be lower.

But that's an aside, so far the device has been a pleasure to use. And it has to be said that Amazon's customer services mean that even when you make a mistake and download an absolute turkey, you can 'return' the eBook and get a refund.

To conclude then, if you haven't seriously considered an e-reader in the past, now is the time to take a long hard look at the Amazon Kindle.

Contents © London Book Review 2012. Published January 23 2012