Not on Fire for Kindle
By Arnold Kling
[UPDATE: I found the web browser on the Kindle. You have to go to the Kindle home, select menu, then select “experimental.”
Of course, I am one of those troglodytes who uses a PC client for email. But once I set up a Gmail account to fetch my mail, I can use the Kindle to check email. That really changes the story. Now I can take advantage of the screen and the wireless access to have a portable email reader. That makes me a lot happier about owning it.]
I think that the screen, the wireless Internet connection, the light weight, and the long battery life are its best features. There is a lot potential there. But.
It turns out that my reading style is to scan. Sometimes I’ll be in the third chapter of a book and start asking myself what the author is getting at. So I’ll flip to the conclusion. Or I’ll jump ahead to what I think is a more important chapter. Although one can use the Kindle that way, it takes a lot more thought and effort than with a paper book.
My main concern continues to be with what is available on the Kindle. The typical semi-academic nonfiction that I read tends to be unavailable. My guess is that if I stick with the Kindle it will skew my reading in the direction of more popular nonfiction.
I’m not the first one to say this, but it’s probably bad to try to replicate an older media experience using a new technology. Instead, if a new device is going to have real impact, it has to be adapted in unexpected ways. For that purpose, the proprietary Kindle format and the closed operating system are its most serious flaws. If it could be hacked, I could imagine it being used for email or blogging [well, it can be used for those purposes–see update above]. Or it might become a vehicle for new scholarly journals, or cheaper textbooks.
But as a closed system, you have to compare it to book technology. It is easier to purchase, carry, and store books on the Kindle. But it is harder to read them.