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Is the Kindle the future of the book?

26 November 2007

So have we arrived at what Evan Schnittman, Oxford University Press's VP of Business Development, called this week in Publishing News 'the most significant moment in the history of e-books'? He goes on to say 'the Holy Grail of e-books - Kindle + Amazon = the first consumer e-book success story'. But it is he right? It may still be too soon to tell.

The book world anticipated that the Kindle would be delivered at the Frankfurt Book FairWorld's largest trade fair for books; held annually mid-October at Frankfurt Trade Fair, Germany; First three days exclusively for trade visitors; general public can attend last two. (see News Review 22 October). Is the Kindle the future of the book?). Presumably Amazon weren't quite ready, so here they are launching it with a full fanfare a month later. What it delivers is extremely impressive and even the non technically-minded can immediately appreciate its virtues.

The Kindle offers electronic paper display, which gives an experience much closer to that of reading a book than previous e-books have achieved. It weighs 10.3 ounces (292 grams), which Amazon claims is lighter and thinner than an average paperback. Of course you can adjust the type size, making it especially attractive to readers who are having problems with small type.

The device holds over 200 books. It has a small KWERTY keyboard which enables you to make annotations and to bookmark your place. The Search function will enable you to find material on the device and it comes with access to the 250,000 word New Oxford Dictionary.

But the killer application is that it links to Amazon's own new Whispernet wireless network and you can download a book direct from Amazon onto the e-book in less than a minute. The Kindle shop currently offers 88,000 books, but Amazon intend to make it many more. For many an attractive feature is that you can download and look at the beginning of any book for free before buying it, just as you would be able to do in a bookshop.

You can also sign up for book and magazine subscriptions which will automatically be downloaded to your e-book. This may mean that the trip to the newsagent or waiting for the paper version to be delivered are over. For many web enthusiasts news already arrives online, but now you don't even have to turn on your computer - although you will of course need to pay for the subscription. Similarly audiobooks can be downloaded direct.

The Kindle is currently selling in the US only for $399, and is already sold out and awaiting new deliveries. On the Amazon website opinions are mixed, with 685 customer reviews giving an average of only 2.5 out of a possible 5 stars.

David Pogue of the New York Times said: 'So if the Kindle isn't a home run, it's at least an exciting triple. It gets the important things right: the reading experience, the ruggedness, the super-simple software setup. And that wireless instant download -- wow.'

Our webmaster Chas Jonesauthor; formerly nerd responsible for keeping the site running; spent over 25 years in computer business; started out dusting bugs off valves, but in time graduated to writing software and managing projects; as published author with stack of waiting-to-be-published manuscripts tucked away, WritersServices is answer to his silent prayer; his book 'Ordinary Heroes' An extraordinary true story of wartime adventure; recently published book about Battle of Fulford-'Fulford the forgotten battle of 1066', published by Tempus ISBN 0752438107 says: 'Kindle is another step towards making e-books viable. Perhaps the e-format needs to deliver more, such as integrated music and images, to make it worth investing in a reader. You can now download the software required to convert your writing to run on Amazon's Kindle at'

Many will say that the printed book is good enough for them and will always be the way they like to read. Nonetheless, the many add-ons Amazon have given their new e-book, together with the immensely easy delivery of books from their Kindle shop, suggest that this may well be a seismic moment of change in the way books are sold and read.