Monday, April 13, 2009

I wish Apple made everything.

For my 40th birthday I got myself a truly age appropriate gift, a device endorsed by Oprah,
a device that maybe the final nail in the paper coffin, a very small reading device made by the company that changed retail as we know it... Amazons Kindle.

I had been quietly lusting after one of these devices for awhile now. It really spoke to my inner aesthetic, as a person who wished he could store everything ( including you) on a small flash drive.

I have never been a "stuff " person. I never was a collector. I don't take pride in my "things", media to me is purely for consumption, and I don't covet the wrappers.
Media has became so much more consumable and interesting for me now that it left the confines of containers like vinyl, cassettes, video, compact disks, the DVD and paper. Its immediate, which is all I want out of anything.

I started actually reading the New York times once it could show up on my browsers homepage. I started rediscovering music for the first time in 20 years once I could download it . I haven't even used my DVR (or tivo) since the Itunes store started carrying TV and Hulu took off.

I understand the romantic value to all those 20th century containers. Trust me, I am old enough to remember the magic of an actual album cover. I grew up across the street from the Bodhi tree bookstore, which in fact spoiled me, giving me access to just about any piece of information that might interest me ( mainly in my teens books on the consciousness expanding effects of psychedelic drugs). I know the magic of opening a book and the tactile experience of turning the pages and the smell of the paper.

But these days, i want information, and I want it now. I don't want to have to cart around media I have already consumed and figure out where to store it. Anyone who has moved a few times knows books are the biggest pains in the ass. And really, I mean are you going to read that book again? or do you just want to keep that collection on a bookshelf to showing off your intellectual prowess.

This is where the Kindle comes in.
At 1/3 of an inch thick and about 12 inches tall, this piece of technology holds 1500 titles and its smaller than Newsweek. You can sit and lay in any position and this thing just floats in your hand. Gone are the days of holding a massive book that never really feels right until your halfway through it, allowing for a brief period of page symmetry and comfort. You can bounce between books with a click, anywhere.

3g wireless connectivity, a free service provided by Kindle allows you access to to the entire Amazon collection anywhere. In a click you can have just about any book in about 60 seconds.

Watching the Daily show and someone is touting a book laying out all the details on how we got into our financial crisis? Its yours in 60 seconds. For someone like me, with about a 60 second attention span, this means that not only will I get the book, but I will read it, or at least the first few chapters, while the interest is still fresh in my mind. I can't tell you how many times I've walked through Barnes and Noble trying to remember who that guy was on Maher, and what that book was his wrote. I imagine if your tastes lean more towards Glenn Beck the same applies, though for some reason I don't think his viewers read books so much at survival manuals.

But, the greatest feature the Kindle has for me, is a search feature. It basically gives every book you download an index, allow you access to the information you are most interested in immediately. Hit the menu button, scroll down to search and punch in a word and every page that word appears on will show up.

My only wish is that they give you that option when browsing books, to see if the book you maybe interested in covers the specific ground you are looking for.

You can also view documents on it, and it has a fairly basic web browser, however thats not what its for, and I am all for keeping it purely a reading device.I know I am blowing out my eyes staring at computer monitors all day long, and my main reason for getting a Kindle was to spare my eyes, as 95 percent of my reading has become digital.

The Speak text feature is nice, reading the books to you at a slightly smoother cadence than the old Apple speak used in that Radiohead song, but it does basically sound similar.

So, with that said, 3 days into this thing here are my issues.

I wish Apple made everything.

Apples philosophy seems to have always been to make the user experience even more important than what that experience can offer you. The Iphone is indicative of this, as they introduced a device that for the most part had even less features than the top smart phones available at the time, yet its beautiful OS, intuitive ease of use, and over all feel trumped the competition.

The Kindle feels clunky, frankly even archaic given where we have come with most portable devices. The Grey tone screen probably doesn't do it any favors in avoiding this perception, however that grey screen is the reason why it they made it. To be able to read digital material without shining a light into your eyes.

That being said, you do need a lot of light actually on it to read. It has a low contrast level which I am guessing is yet another precaution to protect your eyes, but it can be difficult to read in even fairly lit circumstances. I'm getting the clip light thats a suggested accessory.

I feel if Apple had made this product, it would feel a bit more innovative in its experience, they most likely would have invested more in the actual grey tone technology insuring an improved reading experience and still protecting your eyes. But, I also think If Apple made it, they would only have 8 tittles available with a total of maybe 20 within the first year of its release.

Amazons dedication to content is where this device truly shines. You can subscribe to numerous magazines, and I have yet to stumble on a book they didn't have.

But my biggest complaint and the reason it took me so long to get one is the price.
At $359.00 this item is priced between the two top end Ipod Touches, and I feel the technology is not nearly as advanced as Apples media player, nor does it feel as... well, as expensive.

I have always felt Kindles price point should be closer to $250.00, which to me is a fair gadget price. $359.00 is basically $400.00 after all is said and done, which in this economy is an expensive proposition. However, with 1500 books I would imagine you would spend that on a book shelf, which this essentially is, and it couldn't read to you.

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