So Amazon have launched Kindle, their ebook reader, which is as heavy as a trade paperback, uses wireless technology to download ebooks, runs for two days continuously before needing a recharge and comes in white. Handy for chalky environments, but, as any mother will tell you, dirt isn’t usually white. Aesthetics aside, Kindle offers access to around 90,000 books, mostly NY Times bestsellers; so no poetry then. It also offers the New Oxford Dictionary and Wikipedia – still no poetry – but there’s a catch in that you have to subscribe to get blogs that are free elsewhere. Neither does it support Adobe’s PDF so you’ll have to remind friends and associates not to use the most popular email attachment format if sending to your Kindle – as if they’d remember. And it costs $399 (approximately £190). So is it worth buying a dedicated ebook reader?
I’m not the only one hesitating and I’m generally in favour of new ways of distributing books. Ebooks can cut out the middlemen (publishers, booksellers), enable writers to get their work directly to readers and enable readers to pay writers directly. Naturally readers will want books for next to nothing, but I don’t earn money from publishing poetry. I earn from readings, workshops, judging competitions and the day job. So I don’t have to be protective about a non existent income.
But Kindle? I’m saving my pennies for a mobile with an Android platform (availability quoted as the back end of next year, so plenty of time to save), where I can browse online poetry magazines, take photos/videos, update my blog in my lunch break, oh, and maybe, just maybe, make a phone call (those who know me know this is the least-used function on my mobile). The only slight concern is privacy, due to Google’s habit of storing searches for longer than necessary, the phone’s habit of registering calls and Motorola’s (currently nebulous) suggestion of scanning texts so it can send relevant SMS adverts (will need users’ opt-ins in the UK so likely take-up is low). But I trust my phone company, network provider and Google more than the British government who have just exposed 25 million people to ID fraud after losing two unencrypted discs by sending them by unrecorded and unregistered post and only today announced they’d be pausing for further thoughts about the database of biometric details behind the ID card scheme. Perhaps further thoughts are also needed about the NHS Spine database of medical records and the children’s database. And maybe, just maybe, they might look up “function creep” and maybe, just maybe, consider protecting these three databases against it.
But I suspect there’s more chance of me using my mobile as a phone rather than an all-in-one device for email, web browsing, photos, texting and music; or loving novels so such I’d buy Kindle.