Thursday, August 13, 2009

To Kindle or Not to Kindle

I have tend to have a distrust for anything that is freakishly popular. My earliest memory of trying to buck convention by not jumping on the latest craze was in fourth grade when the New Kids on the Block hit the scene. After hearing the girls in my class rave about them nonstop, I found that I couldn't muster any enthusiasm for the group. This resistance was also present for the iPod frenzy (I didn't buy one until I moved and found myself without a means of listening to music away from my computer and radio) and the Facebook craze (I now belong to the site because of work, but I am still rather bitter about having a personal Facebook profile).

With all of this said, I have found myself simultaneously drawn to and repelled by the Amazon Kindle. This e-reader has an almost cult-like following, and judging by the reviews on the Amazon site as well as on other sites, people seem to love the device. They praise the fact that it allows for instant gratification (want a book at 3:00 am? Just use the Kindle's virtual store and away you go!) and that it gives readers the ability to carry around up to 1,500 books with them at all times. As someone who spends a lot of time eating in restaurants alone and riding the subway, both of these capabilities hold a great deal of appeal. Furthermore, being able to have virtual books would save me a lot of space problems. My small apartment is brimming with books, and the very thought of moving sends shivers up my spine and makes me pray for a job that will help cover the cost of my move.

So what's keeping me from jumping on the bandwagon and drinking the Kindle Kool-Aid? To be honest, all of this adulation makes me a little wary - anything that has had this much hype can't possibly live up to it, right? Although this skepticism has been wrong in the past (I love my iPod), I have a hard time embracing the idea of a Kindle. Here are my reasons, in no particular order:
  • The damn thing costs $299, which is a break from the original price tag of $359 for the Kindle 2. Besides that, newer books at Amazon's Kindle store cost around $9.99. While $9.99 is cheaper than buying a newly released book in hardcover, you can also buy a lot of books for $299. Furthermore, as a grad student, I don't exactly have $299 to spend on an e-reader plus extra money for the actual books.
  • I would live in constant fear of breaking it. Since my main reason for having it would be to read on the go, my hypothetical Kindle would spend a great deal of time being jostled around in my beat-up Lands' End tote. Even though the Amazon page shows the Kindle being dropped, I don't think that it could withstand the abuse I would put it through.
  • For my scholarly reading, I like being able to highlight and write in my books, and I can't imagine any technology being able to replicate doing these things.
  • I like actual bookstores. New bookstores allow you to grab a cup of coffee and browse for hours in different sections of the store. Old bookstores provide the opportunity for you to find hidden treasures (I purchased a used but pristine copy of a cookbook I have wanted for a while for 60% off of the cover price).
Right now, owning a Kindle isn't in my foreseeable future. While I might be able to get one down the road, I can't imagine spending that much money on a mono-tasking device. However, I'd be interested in getting other opinions on the matter. Please take a moment to take the poll and/ or to post a comment regarding e-readers.