Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2008 Issue

Kindle: Incredible Reading Tool, Evil Book-Killer, or Overpriced Technology?

Whisper

Amazon's Whispernet easily connects to the Kindle store.


by Renée Magriel Roberts

So, what currently has several issues of the New York Times Tuesday science edition, American Creation by Joseph J. Ellis, samples pages of Atonement by Ian McEwan and Michael Moore's Official Fahrenheit 9/11 Reader, Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns and John McPhee's Founding Fish, as well as the Messages and Papers of George Washington, Barack Obama's Audacity of Hope, Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, and the Tuesday, February 5 issue of The Wall Street Journal?

Well that's currently what's on my Kindle, of course, Amazon's pretty amazing 10.3 oz. electronic paper reader. Fitting handily in my purse, the Kindle can hold around 200 titles with unlimited storage on Amazon's servers for other books and periodicals that I purchase. After waiting over a month for mine, my Kindle finally arrived in its own leatherette case, complete with paper manual, and cables for uploading files to my computer, as well as recharging its battery.

With Amazon's utter dominance of the on-line book market, this introduction of its own branded reading device is causing a lot of concern. Consider, for example, that the Kindle is sold only by Amazon; the files that Kindle takes are not open-source and so the books and other ephemera sold for the device also have to be sold by Amazon. This pretty much cuts out booksellers and publishers who do not wish to publish to the device.

One typical complaint was recently lodged by Jason Epstein, co-founder of On Demand Books in the April 2008 issue of M.I.T.'s "Technology Review." His main complaint, and an entirely valid one, is the price. At a hefty $400, the first book purchased for the Kindle at $10 will effectively cost $410; the first 20 books a reader buys will cost $30 each; the first 40, $20 each and so on. But, of course, this does not factor in other features of the Kindle.

For example, you can download on demand, anytime and just about anywhere. Using a high-performance cellular network, the Kindle can find Amazon's servers even when my AT&T cell phone cannot. While we have to go outside to make a cell call, I can sit on my sofa and download a book or current newspaper to my Kindle. Downloading a 200-page book takes less than a minute.

From an ergonomic point of view, the Kindle is really quite pleasurable to use (my husband does complain that his thick fingers don't work so well on the little keyboard). The electronic paper is easy on the eyes and I really like the feature that allows you to create your own font size. Moreover, the Kindle does not require a computer and has its own Amazon (and its own limited Web-based connection), so the learning curve is not very steep.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions