On Kindles

The internet doesn’t need another Kindle review, and eBooks no longer need advocacy: Amazon is selling more of them than hardbacks these days, right? But I was at a work dinner last night when one of my fellow diners leaned over to offer his opinions on the device (I was using mine as a makeshift PDF viewer). These weren’t entirely off piste: where was the touchscreen, he wondered, and why was the interface a little clunky?  He seemed, in fact, to be wondering why the Kindle wasn’t an iPad without the backlight.

There are technical reasons for this which I’m under-qualified to explain. But there also seem to me real pleasures to be had from the current design of the Kindle: it’s tactile simplicity is surely a feature, not a bug. Sure, it may be true that a colour screen would make the covers look prettier – but beyond the properties of the eInk system, isn’t it beside the point to want your novel to be in technicolour?

I’ve been reading with the Kindle for just two weeks now, but it already seems to be an intuitive device which has the happy heft of a deadtree book: the clicky satisfaction of turning the page, the easiness on the eye of its etch-a-sketch pages, and in particular the no frills navigability of magazine subscriptions (which put me romantically in mind of all those newspapers you could read on your spaceship in Frontier: Elite II) all feel right for an e-reader in the way that some slick all-singing, all-dancing tablet hybrid wouldn’t.

Will this make me a Luddite when the inevitable upgrade comes along? Probably. But you’d expect that from a guy who read his first ebook only two weeks ago, right?



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