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Buying a Book at the Drop of a Hat

January 2010

By Lauren Olsen, Chicago

In 2001, Apple revolutionized the way we listen to music with the iPod. Out went big and clunky Walkmans. In came a device the size of a deck of playing cards. You had your music library at the touch of your fingertips. It seemed only a matter of time before print media would go portable. The first Sony Reader launched in the United States in September 2006. Since then, there have been six models to date. In November 2007, Amazon's first offering of the Kindle sold out in five and a half hours and the device remained out of stock for five months until late April 2008.

E-readers were making headlines, but a lot of us in the publishing world still doubted whether they’d be embraced by the general public. When Amazon released Kindle 2 in early 2009, the general consensus at my office, Browne & Miller Literary, was that it’d become an editor’s tool. Though I do read for pleasure on my Kindle, the bulk of my stored media is still manuscripts.

After you purchase a Kindle, it’s registered to your Amazon account. Only contacts on your Kindle approved e-mail list are authorized to send attachments (such as Word and picture files) to your Kindle. The fee to send materials is small (fifteen cents) and is automatically billed to the credit card on the account.

My Kindle was ready to use right out of the box - no cables, no software required. On screen instructions took me through the basics in minutes. And though it’s still an electronic device, it reads like real paper without the glare of a computer screen. However, the page count does not line up with that of a real book or printed manuscript. I can still mark the pages up like I would a manuscript because the Kindle’s type pad lets me insert comments. The 5-way controller allows me to search hundreds of books or documents, bookmark a page, select text to highlight, or look up words in an onboard dictionary, the web, or Wikipedia. Page-turning buttons are located on both sides; six font sizes are available for my choosing; and the text-to-speech feature will read books out loud to me, unless the rights holder made the feature unavailable.

With all this, not to mention New York Times Best Sellers and new releases at $9.99/each, I’m not surprised to see more and more people carrying a Kindle on the el these days. My colleagues and I credit the Kindle for making our work lives easier, but also love that it provides instant access to books.

Joanna says, "I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t like the fact that I can buy books at the drop of a hat. Sometimes it’s great to not have to wait in line, go out to a store or count on UPS to deliver a book - especially when you can get it cheaper and let’s face it, sometimes you don’t want to pay full price!"

Barnes & Noble’s Nook has all the same features as the Kindle: same free wireless connection so that you can download books or browse newspapers and magazines wherever you may be, etc - except that you can loan e-books to friends free of charge. And supposedly, software coming out in 2010 will let you pick up your reading on your iPhone or BlackBerry. On the flip side, I’ve read that the Nook’s screen is achingly slower than the Kindle’s and takes nearly three seconds to turn a page.

When deciding to purchase my e-reader, the Kindle 2 came highly recommended by two of my colleagues, whereas the Sony Reader PRS 700 did not. Danielle credited Sony’s model for its ease in handling PDFs (she owns Sony Reader as well as a Kindle), but thought the screen had some major glare. The Kindle is also ready for use right out of the box, while the PRS 700 requires you to download e-book software before you can begin shopping. It may be a short process, but I’d rather not have to download anything at all. In looking at all six Sony models, however, I must say that the PRS 700 has come a long way (i.e adding a sleek touch screen) and I think that Sony’s next e-reader will be something to watch for.


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