The Kindle has been a good gift. Since Sara bought it for me for Christmas, I've probably bought thirty books for the device. I've already owned some of these before (The Hitcher-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, for example) but many are new. I'm currently reading the Jack Reacher novels by fellow Brit Lee Child. His real name is Jim Grant and he used to be part of the UK TV industry.
The novels are popular, no doubt. Harmless popcorn thrillers, the kind of thing I would never have imagined enjoying. But they are easy reading, good company when I'm bored, and the words just flow by. I can't complain.
I read War, by Sebastian Junger, while I was on vacation. It was sobering, and reminded me of Chickenhawk by Robert Mason (a book that Lee Child obviously read as he was writing Tripwire).
The Kindle has done for my reading what iTunes and the iPhone has done for my music listening. I will hear a song or read a review and immediately download a song to check it out. It's just 99 cents. Then I may end up downloading the entire album. That's happened a lot over the last few years, and if I have any taste for modern music, it's thanks to how easy it is to dip in.
The same is now possible for books. I read a review of Lee Childs' lastest Jack Reacher novel in Entertainment Weekly and downloaded a sample of the first book. I liked what I read, so click-click-bang, I had the book on my little e-reader moments later. I finished the first novel on Vacation (I read most of it on a sunny Thursday morning on the beach) and I was able to immediately buy the second book right there on the beach.
Shocking. Just far too easy.
I've seen the iPad, obviously, and it's probably pretty decent for e-books. I cannot imagine a better technology than e-ink for reading. My eyes get tired if they are staring at a screen, especially with the immersive concentration that a really good book demands. E-ink is amazing and really is like reading an actual piece of paper. The iPad has it beaten hands-down for magazine browsing, though - I sometimes read the New York Times on the Kindle, over breakfast, and it's a dull experience. The same subscription on the iPad is astonishingly interactive.
It's not an argument that's going to go away. I think the Kindle has a small chance of surviving the next couple of years, but the iPad is just so persuasive that I suspect e-ink readers are going to have to really step up their game to survive.