Amazon Kindles slowly replace traditional literature

By Sarah Costello

Oct. 25, 2009

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Amazon Kindles can hold several books at a time and range between $300 and $600. Image courtesy of Tevami.

Dime novels, pocket-sized dictionaries and heavy textbooks are items of the past. Now students and book lovers can travel anywhere with an assortment of literature and reading materials housed on a single device known as The Amazon Kindle.

Kindles enable consumers to download books and choose from their personal collections without visiting the library or bookstore.  The product was released in 2007 as an alternative to e-books and other digital formats.

Rather than downloading digital books onto a laptop, consumers now have the option to purchase Kindles, which are slightly larger than iPod touches and have the memory to store dozens of books. It is a form of “electronic paper” specifically designed to mimic the look of ink on paper by reflecting light rather than backlighting its pixels.

“I saw someone using a [Kindle] last year and I did a little research on them,” said sophomore Rebecca Berube who spent about $300 on her Kindle. “It seems like a steep cost, but books are a lot cheaper (to purchase) for a Kindle.”

Kindles come with different levels of memory and capabilities and can cost between $300 and $600 depending on the model. While consumers still pay to purchase books, the costs are generally lower for Kindles, usually topping off at $15.

“A lot of the classes I’m taking use non-traditional textbooks,” said Berube. “A biology book, for instance, would not work for Kindles, but for just text it’s workable in a digital format.”

Kindles also allow students to highlight and make notes, combining all notes in a single folder. Users can access http://www.amazon.com for free via their Kindles to purchase books.

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Kindles provide instantaneous enjoyment when on the go, holding dozens of books, literature, articles, etc. for easy enjoyment. Image courtesy of Slash Gear.

“I like to bounce between books,” said junior Joel Slocum who received a Kindle from his grandmother. “(Kindles) are definitely worth it if you do a lot of reading, especially if you read a lot of paperbacks.”

In addition to the Kindle, other e-paper platforms include Barnes & Noble Nook, the Sony Reader, the iRex iLiad and the Jinke Hanlin e-Reader.

While a wide variety of literature, fiction and non-fiction books can be downloaded directly to Kindles and other e-paper platforms, there are still few textbooks available. Many book publishers are hesitant to provide cheaper versions to Kindle users.

Students can still save money by downloading e-books to their computers, a format that not only eliminates extra costs to consumers, but also enables publishers to produce books at lower costs.

“With e-books, anybody can publish,” said junior Drew Smith who has the free Kindle application for his iPod touch. “It’s another voice for people and it’s cost effective.”

Smith explained that Kindles are “half-way” devices that cut costs and allow consumers to keep all their books together on a piece of a technology half the size of a sheet of paper. As more publishers begin to transition to digital formats, many question the future of tangible books, libraries and bookstores.

“I think almost all literature will [eventually] be offered online,” said Smith. “But I think the option for print will still be there.”

As with all new initiatives, Kindles do have some negative aspects.

“Because you can change the font size on Kindles, it changes the words on each page and the page numbers change. There’s no correspondence between the paper and the digital,” said Berube who explained this is a problem when professors require a certain amount of reading for each class.

For people accustomed to reading actual books, adapting to a digital format may be different. But students advocate transitioning to Kindles is not as difficult as it may seem.

“It’s the same quality as books,” said Smith. “Maybe photos will be lacking, but it’s just text on a background. I’m over hard copies.”

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