Wed, 19 Oct 2011
Literati Electronica

I'm the proud owner of one of Amazon's new Kindles, received as an early Christmas present.

First impressions are that it's easy to read from, with a screen (e-ink) that mimics paper very well. Turning pages takes some getting used to but you get the hang of it fairly quickly. In this age of the touch screen, it can feel strange not pressing fingers to the screen to manipulate the page, or a menu. But again, this particular lack of interaction starts to feel almost natural.

Typing in any text (e.g. search the store, password etc.) is the most painful part of the thing, but the on-screen keyboard is simple and well designed, so it's not as bad as I expected. The Kindle Keyboard keyboard takes some getting used to as well. This form factor might be almost perfect for reading, and the software it runs is easy to use and gets out of your way, letting you do the thing it's designed for: read.

It's very easy to buy a book, either via the Kindle Store a menu item away, or through the web site. It's downloaded to the device automatically, within a minute or so. So, I have Tess of the d'Urbervilles (free) and Niven and Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye (paid).

The odd thing is that I have the Mote as a paperback already, and was about 10% of the way through it. I bought it last week in Leakey's Bookshop, Inverness (a wonderful second-hand bookshop, with no web site it appears!). I wanted to finish the book of course, but also utilise the Kindle. So, maybe this is the way it goes. Purchases become so easy, in the internet jargon, frictionless, that I'll start buying more. This will probably be the case - you can think of a book, find it, buy it and download it, and be reading it within a minute. To a person who likes reading, this is a beautiful thing. I'm leaving aside some e-reader negatives for the moment mind you, negatives that include freedom (e.g. to share a book) and corporate power perhaps. That's for another post.

As I was writing this post, I came across another that mentioned this phenomenon. This Business Week article Amazon, the Company That Ate the World says :

Tablets represent a huge opportunity for Bezos, not only to sell a new kind of device but also to entice people to buy more stuff. Even with only 28.7 million iPads sold, e-commerce sites say they see an increasing amount of traffic coming from tablets. Forrester Research reported this summer that online purchases made on tablets now account for 20 percent of all mobile e-commerce sales, and that nearly 60 percent of tablet owners have used them to shop. Bezos says tablets “are a huge tailwind for our business.” Amazon once saw spikes in traffic during the workday lunch hours. Now traffic is more evenly distributed as people pick up their tablets anytime of the week, buying the books and albums they see on television and making impulsive decisions about replacing their dishwashers.

The same will be true of the Kindle.

Unfortunately for my Kindle reading experience, right now I have a stack of un-read books taller than me waiting. Lots of classic style books (i.e. paper) to get through and I'm not going to buy them all fresh again ...