Sunday, April 27, 2008

Digital text vs. printed text

I just read two books from my Amazon Kindle (George Soros' thought provoking The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 from the Amazon store and the excellent World Voyagers from husband and wife Smashwords authors, Phil and Amy Shelton, and have found myself thinking more and more about the future of the printed word.

For years, pundits, know-it-alls and nay-sayers have been preaching a gospel that digital ebooks will never catch on because nothing can match the pleasurable look, feel and experience of print on paper. I think the conventional wisdom is wrong.

Will Kindle do for ebooks what the iPod did for digital music? Not the current version.

Although it offers a better-than-expected reading experience, it certainly isn't a must have reading device, at least not yet. The screen, while acceptable, still doesn't match ink on paper. The screen is a bit dark. The crisp black letters lack contrast against the too-dark gray background. To call the user interface clunky would be an understatement. It's difficult to hold the thing without flipping pages by accident.

On the plus side, it's easy to adjust the Kindle's font size for more comfortable reading, and the wireless download feature is superb. I bought my first book from the Kindle store while sitting in the sand on Waikiki beach. Imagine having thousands of books to sample or purchase, at your fingertips, anytime and anyplace. That's powerful and you can have that today with the Kindle.

I see a clear path for Kindle or its competition to achieve greatness with a couple more iterations. If you've got an extra $399 sitting around and you love to read books, buy a Kindle, you won't be disappointed. Otherwise, hold off for another year or two because we're that close to the killer, must-have ebook device. And in the meantime, you can still have a good ebook reading experience on your smart phone or laptop.

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