Books are dead – it’s time to ditch 15th century technology

The printing press was invented in 1440. Apart from the Internet, this one invention is probably one of the most incredible things that happened in the last millennium to help spread ideas – books and the ideas they contain have transformed the world.

And yet, almost nothing has changed since the 15th century in the technology itself. Sure, the ink and paper is better quality now, and the availability of the resulting books is worldwide and in the tiniest shops now.

But apart from being able to have your own “printing press” at home, how the technological process works has remained pretty stagnant in over five hundred years, and how the publishing process works has barely changed in the entire last century.

In this post, which is likely going to ruffle some traditionalist feathers, I am going to tell you why this is finally going to change likely within the next decade, and why some of us are on-board with the change already. Feel free to whine about progress in the comments below, but the change is going to happen whether you like it or not!

The destiny of physical books: antique collectors’ items

My issue here isn’t with the concept of a book – of course the spread of amazing things like ideas, stories, science, philosophy, cooking recipes, instructions, biographies and all the wonderful things that one or more authors can impart to millions of others – is a fantastic thing. This freedom of movement of such information is the core of modern society.

But physical books are not the best way to do it.

I have always had an issue with physical books. I know many reading this won’t have this problem – but they are losing their romantic appeal to younger generations for practical reasons. I am absolutely confident that within a few decades books will just be antiques. Collectors or die-hard fans will keep them “alive” in much the same way LPs still exist today.

Problems with physical books

The problems with physical books have been so frustrating to me that I have unfortunately always read much less than I should have. I’ve tried to find alternative ways to read, which have helped somewhat in my language learning missions, but they always fall short of just using a normal boring book.

But in the last weeks this has changed completely when I started doing it more efficiently using the latest technology.

Here are some problems with physical books:

  • They are simply uncomfortable to use in a lot of situations. People just accept this as part of the experience, but why do I have to use both hands to constantly hold a book open? Some books are too heavy to hold in one hand comfortably for longer than a few minutes or you have to hold your fingers in a strange position to keep the page open if doing it with one hand.
  • When you give it your full attention, it only takes a day or two to finish many books. Then what do you do with it? It will go on your shelf and gather dust until you maybe read it again later. Very few people think to recycle it or share it with others who would appreciate it.
  • It’s a waste of paper. I’m not a passionate environmentalist, but I simply don’t like the idea of using up so much paper. Libraries encourage re-use of books, but the commercial industry encourages wasting paper. You aren’t buying the information in a book, you are buying a dead tree with the information stamped on top.
  • The more physical stuff you own the more you that stuff owns you. Embrace minimalism and get rid of crap you don’t need!
  • Travelling with them is frustrating. You can either bring one book that you will finish quickly or take a collection and have space and weight issues. Interesting books usually do NOT fit in your pocket. Books were not made for travellers.

As well as the reader’s perspective, it’s frustrating for the author. Getting a book published depends very little on how good the content is and way more on who you know and how much promotion you do. Seth Godin is one of many that have experience publishing books and found the whole process too time consuming. He and others are sticking to modern distribution methods in future.

What you pay mostly doesn’t even go to them! You aren’t supporting the author enough with physical books. What you pay is actually going into shipping (once again, sounds great for the environment(!)), publisher fees, printing fees, reseller fees and a host of the many little things that were necessary to get that book to you. In the end the author only gets about 10-15% of what you paid. You are supporting an industry, not individuals.

Tim Ferriss writes that the main advantage of publishing a book is for the reputation (any bio you see of him says “New York times best seller” for example), but that it’s not a good way to directly make money, even if you somehow sell ridiculous numbers of copies.

But there is hope! I want to focus on the actual reading experience below, but I like how Everett Bogue gave a nice list of reasons why a world without books is a likely future in a more general context. This is why I went straight to digital distribution of my own book and have little interest (at least right now) in jumping through all the hoops and likely spending the better part of a year necessary to promote and publish a physical book for the off chance that it will reach some best sellers’ list.

The future: e-books

If you think I’m talking about reading PDFs on your computer screen, think again! Most people think that perhaps a device like an iPad (or at worst a laptop) is something people talk about for e-book readers, and immediately point out flaws like the backlight hurting your eyes, the glare making it useless outside during the daytime, and the battery life, size and weight meaning it gets tedious to use after a few minutes.

I agree. I’ve tried to read books on my laptop, and even on my smartphone, but it just isn’t practical for longer than a few minutes. I can’t see an iPad improving on these issues.

The solution is completely different: an e-book reader uses vastly different technology to those listed above that makes it just as good as, and actually even better than a physical book. E-ink is almost like printing onto the screen, and because of this it’s black-and-white (like most books) and doesn’t use any battery power while you are reading the page. The battery power comes from turning pages or using other features (like Internet etc.)

There is also usually no backlight. Like a physical book, you shine line onto it to read it. At first it seems strange to do this with a computer-like device, but this aspect of reading it in light makes it way more book-like and definitely does not strain your eyes.

My e-reader – the Amazon Kindle

To show you what I mean, I made a detailed video about the pros and cons of my recent investment, the new Amazon Kindle. (Currently 3rd generation) There are other ones on the market from Sony, Nook etc., but Amazon currently have the best price and use crisper display technology than the competition:

As explained in the video, there is a $139 version and a $189 version. You can get it off the UK store too, but only the US site ships worldwide, including to mainland Europe in my case.

For most people, the cheaper version does more than enough, but the more expensive version (that I got) has unlimited worldwide Internet over its 3G (or “Edge” in countries with no 3G yet) and you don’t have to configure it at all. I’ll be travelling a lot in October and this is going to simplify my life immensely. No Internet cafés – no need to sign up for a SIM card for my smartphone for the sake of a couple of days. Once my plane lands, I can check my e-mail immediately with no roaming costs, one country after another.

My laptop will definitely continue to be my main gateway to the online world, but for quickly looking up essential info on Google and sending quick e-mails as much as I want wherever I want, I am happy to pay $50. The Kindle is small enough to fit in the inside pocket of my jacket and weighs next to nothing. I also got a case and integrated reading light, but as I said in the video this was quite expensive for the convenience.

While that’s an advantage for travellers, the cheap version is more than good enough for most people. The Internet/one or two games and even MP3 player features are irrelevant to many people. It’s not trying to be a replacement to your computer – it’s for reading.

If you are an avid lover of physical books, I don’t expect this article to convince you otherwise and I expect many people to tell me that they love the smell of a new book or the feeling of the paper. I liked the smell of my Kindle when I bought it, and I buy books for getting into the mind of the author and for learning something new, not to caress a dead tree.

Countless free books & news articles

When you think of a device from Amazon, you might imagine that it was made just for reading Amazon’s books – I actually haven’t spent any money (yet) on dowloading books from the Amazon store, but already have dozens of books on the device.

All you need to do is go to Project Gutenberg to get some of the amazing public domain books that are available completely free.

Some free content online will come in ePub format (the one advantage of non-Kindle readers is that they read this natively; this is something that Amazon will hopefully change in a software update soon), but I just send it to the Kindle via the free (open source) software Calibre, which converts it for me. I also use Calibre to send international newspapers in several languages to the Kindle first thing in the morning to read during the day. This is also completely free and part of the Calibre interface (the articles are from the newspaper websites), and you can read these on any electronic device you like since it handles all conversions.

Most of what I read is in PDF format though. The Kindle does a great job at rendering them – the only catch is you have to read it in landscape mode for it to be pleasant to read, since it will automatically crop around the text (rather than give a print-preview as in portrait mode).

Some poorly formed PDFs, or those with several columns are frustrating to read though since you need to constantly navigate rather than simply pressing next page. If text is formatted like that I will usually just select all and paste it into a text document on my computer first. Luckily I’ve only had to do this once so far. Nearly all the time I just drag and drop the file in, and if I didn’t mind paying for the convenience, I could download paid-books immediately from the Amazon store. I’ve already been enjoying browsing the first chapters of several books completely free.

This is the future

While there is still some progress to be made (as I said in the video, there are things I would tweak in the Kindle myself), these devices are well established now (this is generation 3 of the Kindle), and I am thoroughly enjoying using it.

I am a technology nerd, so I am perhaps more likely to embrace this quicker, the same way I had my first e-mail address back in 1993. But now everyone has an e-mail address, everyone listens to MP3s and soon everyone will ditch 15th century technology and embrace e-books. If some of you cling on for nostalgia’s sake, so be it, but some of us are moving ahead.

Next week I’ll update the Language Hacking Guide with several new languages, each of which will be pre-converted to be readable on the Kindle. But from week one, it was already made available in ePub format. Rather than be a simple book to just read and think “that was nice”, I am happier to see that people have it with them while out and about and after reading a bit, turn off their device and apply my advice to speak with people.

Using an e-reader is getting me out of the house way more for the time of the day I need to study and read, and I am definitely grateful for that. Such new technology used to be more for the introverted, encouraging people to spend more time away from others, but now they are finally bringing us back outside. When I walk outside I have dozens of books and newspapers that can be read very leisurely all in my pocket. That is truly an amazing thing.

Do you have a Kindle or another e-reader yourself? Think I’m crazy for dissing physical books? Let me know in the comments below!

And don’t forget to share this post with your friends on Facebook – it’s time to drag some people into the 21st century! :)



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  • Randy the Yearlyglot

    Weird. I was just sitting at my WordPress, drafting up a post about the Kindle when yours came up. I guess it’s a good thing mine wasn’t intended for today!

    • Benny the language hacker

      Thought you might be! :D Good thing I don’t write drafts yet :P I like instant gratification in my posts haha. Send send send! :P

      • Randy the Yearlyglot

        Well, mine will be different from yours.

  • Samuel Michelot

    Hehe, I was tempted by this kindle since months, but know, I think you convince me to buy it. I am sure I will read more books with that.
    Thanks Benny ;-)

    • Benny the language hacker

      Cool! Click the link to Amazon on this page when you get it. That way I get a little commission if you buy it :) That wasn’t the purpose of writing the post, but if I do convince one or two people to buy, I might as well earn something too ;)

  • Benny the language hacker

    Hi Dave – glad you half agree! I don’t understand what you mean about the Kindle “owning” me though. I don’t understand the logic of that argument and what the difference is from just buying a physical book off Amazon?
    Shelves don’t work for me. Should I store CDs on shelves too instead of having them on my MP3 player? As I said in the article, physical books are collectors items. Shelves are going to be museums for books.
    If you charge it once every few weeks for a total of two or three hours, I’m afraid the amount of fossil fuel is certainly less than that needed to power the machines printing the books for you. That argument doesn’t work…
    Physical books do have a purpose – to decorate shelves ;)

  • Matt

    Minor quibble: The title of your post should be “Paper is Dead,” not “Books are Dead.” Books will continue to exist in a digital medium.

    On to substance:

    I certainly understand the appeal of e-readers (Kindle etc), especially for travelers.

    That said, I’m going to read paper books for as long as I can. I’ve always loved books… and part of the “book” experience for me is the physical object. I probably fall into your “collector” category, but I get more enjoyment out of reading a really nice copy of a really good book than more poorly-made equivalents. There’s a tactile experience to it – and a crispness to the letters on the page – that I don’t believe can be digitally replicated.

    I think there is one thing you’ve ignored in your discussion: price. E-books – apart from the free ones – tend to cost more money than their paper equivalents (this is in addition to the price of the reader). This is especially true if – like me – you get most of your paper books either from the library or as used copies. I probably spend $50-100 per year on books – and often read 100+ books per year (I’m a very fast reader). If I tried to replicate this on an e-reader, it would likely cost me several hundred dollars more.

    Additionally, I think that – perhaps oddly – my attention span for something on-screen is less than it is for something printed. I believe the reason for this is that in my life experience, online reading has been for news articles, blogs, etc – and everything is linked to everything else, so I often don’t read even an article all at once – I follow a link, then come back, then think of something else related and search for it in another window, etc… This will probably change as more people get more used to reading digital copies of books – but it’s a bit of a block for me.

    So… I probably won’t be trying out the Kindle anytime soon. I don’t hate it – and I understand the advantages – but I don’t think it’s for me… and I also don’t think paper books will be dead for a while yet – perhaps several decades (for which I’m thankful). Those who travel a lot and those who love technology will embrace it – but the rest of us will still pick up a paper book fairly frequently. I’m sure your prediction will come to pass eventually… but it may be a while yet.

    • Benny the language hacker

      E-books are relatively new – once they become mainstream I have no doubts they will be competing directly with physical books and the prices will be favourable. However this isn’t an issue if you want to read anything in the public domain. Otherwise the price only seems marginally higher in what I have seen (on Amazon it’s +-$1 in many cases). It’s instant delivery, even paying four times to price to have it DHLed over can’t do that with a physical book :P
      In this post I refer to “books” as physical books, but the argument would work just as well for paper, good point!
      Of course we can only guess on predictions. My guess is that the younger generation will popularise e-books, yours is perhaps that the older generation will maintain them. I see them as nothing more than tradition with no actual advantages. All arguments against them (other than your more practical price one) seem to be very subjective like “I like the feeling of holding a book” etc.
      This generation of the Kindle is very crisp. I genuinely can’t tell the difference between it and a physical book. The only thing that might give it away is the dull background colour; they still haven’t gotten it white enough. But the characters are CRISPER than books. It’s like reading output from a laser printer. Most physical books use poorer quality printers for obvious financial reasons.

  • Hessiess

    While I generally agree with the concept of removing physical books, The issue that I don’t like about current e books is that they cannot be shared, as nost are not freely licensed. Also, the proprietary, DRM formats used do not bode well for the future. Much of what is known about recent history is due to writing on paper or stone. With the design of these formats it is entirely possible that nothing readable will remain in the not too distant future.Also, regarding the back-light eye strain problem, this can be solved completely by calibrating the monitors brightness to the environment it is being used it, and inverting the colour scheme. Using white on black/dark grey massively reduces the amount of light the screen is emitting.Inverting the colour scheme is a trivial thing to do in software, but the only platform which allows it to be done easily is Linux. Forefox is also able to override web page colours.

    • Chuck Smith

      I agree with what you say about the DRM… and it’s my leading reason for not buying a Kindle. My second reason is that it doesn’t yet support ePub. If the Kindle did away with DRM or natively supported ePub, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

      However, I can’t agree with what you say about color inversion only being easy on Linux. If you’re on a Mac, just press Ctrl+Alt+Cmd+8 and voila, color inversion. :)

      • Benny the language hacker

        Non-natively supported ePub has been a zero issue for me. I open up anything in Calibre and Calibre itself sends it to my device in Kindle format. If this were an MP3 player that would be annoying to do per file, but considering how long you would spend on a single book the extra 15 seconds wait over simply dragging and dropping is worth saving hundreds of dollars on the competition…
        I like how Calibre organises the books so much that I’m even importing Kindle-ready files through it. Seriously, don’t let the ePub thing hold you back. Conversion is a non-issue ;)

      • Hessiess

        Guess you can tell that I don’t use OSX often;)

        The main target of that comment is MS Windows. It can be done, but is a mess and breaks a lot of programs with unreadable black on black text.

    • Benny the language hacker

      I don’t worry about DRM formats because everything I have downloaded so far has been completely open. You can simply avoid those files if you don’t want them. Otherwise I’ll put up with not being able to share books on the Kindle. I know other devices let you “loan” books you have bought for a week or two – I think the Nook does this.

      Inverting the colour scheme is a clever way to reduce eye strain, but a mostly black screen actually uses up slightly *more* power than a white one. I personally don’t get much eye strain so I don’t complain about that – my issue is mostly with LCDs being unreadable in sunlight.

  • Erin

    Hi Benny,
    I am excited to hear you went for a Kindle. I am a big reader with a degree in English literature and I used to have hundreds of books before we sold everything to travel. I still like the idea of a traditional book but it’s just not practical anymore. I think many people who are resistant to the idea of ebook readers haven’t actually tried them!

    For a traveller, or anyone who wants to have the freedom of owning less stuff, an ebook reader seems ideal. I am frustrated by the expense of books (in both Spanish & English) and the lack of choice here in South America, and can’t wait until we have the chance to buy a Kindle. It’ll be wonderful not to have to carry around a bag of heavy books, and be able to buy whatever books I want to.

    • Benny the language hacker

      You are totally right. People are arguing dead-tree books to the grave and I have no doubts that almost none of them have sat down and used an e-ink based reader for a few minutes. It’s silly to argue superiority of one thing over the other without ever having used it.
      Digital books are also independent of location as you say. I can be in the tiniest village in Africa and as long as it somehow has some kind of Internet connection I’m good to go to get the latest NYT best seller or book in some random language ;)
      As I say in the post and video, I am hugely enjoying my Kindle. You will too when you get it :)

  • Brent

    I see your points and I agree this will probably be the future, but I would seriously miss the smell of a book. Hopeless nostalgic…

    • Benny the language hacker

      Didn’t you see the link? Problem solved :D

      • Nitro

        So buying everything will just solve the nostalgia of smelling a book paper?

  • Benny the language hacker

    The link on my device says “Buy” not “Lease”. If they decide to take it away from me (sounds like a once in 10,000 case – and you happen to have that one example at hand…) then they’ll offer a refund. That example discusses an illegal copy getting into the system, not a publisher wanting to erase a book from history – you are blowing it out of proportion.
    Otherwise what you describe sounds like free updates – that is something I’d be happy for.
    Anyway, I’m not interested in discussing Amazon’s rare sale policies since I haven’t even bought books through Amazon onto my kindle. Everything I own at the moment is PDF or a converted ePub that I have full control over. This is the cheapest high-quality e-book reader on the market. It’s ties to the Amazon store are just an extra as far as I’m concerned.

  • Benny the language hacker

    As I said in the video I read newspapers (from all around the world) every day on my Kindle – for free ;)

  • Benny the language hacker

    You talk about “clear” advantages without giving a single example. This is not obvious to me – I see zero advantages other than wishy washy “I like the feel of paper” or “I can’t describe it, it’s just better”. There are no logical arguments by physical-book-lovers, it’s pure sentimentalism.

    • Joop Kiefte

      to give one example that for me is almost a dealbreaker (but e-ink is cool enough to make that a minor point): spatial bookmarks and easy skipping to a visual point in the book…

    • Christopher

      A good quality paper book lasts forever. I pay for it once and I read it many times without having to worry about bit rot or anything else. I share it with my wife, my parents, my children. I buy a book, read it and then give it to someone else as a present. People come to my house, look at my bookshelf, and we start a discussion about my books or the ideas in them. I don’t have to worry about a single point of failure for my entire library. I don’t have to worry about converting my library to new formats every time the standards change. I don’t have to worry about replacing out of print titles if publishers decide not to keep them in print. I don’t have to worry about books becoming orphaned and not being available commercially because no copyright owner can be found. I find aesthetic pleasure in the design, layout, texture, and user interface of a printed book that is not reproducible with an e-reader, even if you account for technology that tries to mimic that of a printed book. Browsing and searching printed books (through a well-designed indexing system) is much, much faster than on an e-reader, just as browsing a newspaper is much, much faster than an online newspaper. It is impossible for me to thumb through an e-book to decide if I want to buy it, because I can only see one or two pages at a time, and not the object as a whole. And so on. These things may not be important to you, but they are not just “sentimental” any more than anything else in life.

      I am well aware that the so-called younger generation likes to do things differently, and I don’t doubt that people raised on e-books will prefer the conveniences of an e-book and embrace the annoyances of technological advances that promise to destroy their library every few years. Just as my electronic music library has evaporated, my email archive has evaporated, my online documents have evaporated, my electronic photographs have evaporated.

      But please do not tell me that my desire to purchase a book that I can keep, re-read, share with others and enjoy aesthetically is based entirely on sentiment. If that’s the case, then books themselves are sentimental and we can just dispense with them entirely.

      • Benny the language hacker

        “A good quality paper book lasts forever”…sure, if you laminate it… Otherwise you are talking about making an antique collection. If that’s your interest then great, but I am talking about reading.

        “I pay for it once and I read it many times without having to worry about bit rot” bit rot?? That’s really clutching at straws :P You also pay for it once on Amazon…

        “I share it with my wife, my parents…” – most of what I have on my Kindle are ePubs and PDFs – I share these with the WORLD. The Kindle in particular doesn’t allow for sharing books you buy, but the Nook lets you “loan” your bought book to friends for two weeks.

        “Browsing and searching printed books (through a well-designed indexing system) is much, much faster than on an e-reader” – OK, here I really don’t think you have used an e-reader! Or maybe you used an old one? I type in words and the search results come up immediately. I can even search through all the PAGES of all my books – physical books are infinitely inferior in this sense. Search is a perfect example of where technology beats clumsily looking through stacks of shelves, no matter how well organised they are.

        “It is impossible for me to thumb through an e-book to decide if I want to buy it, because I can only see one or two pages at a time” Do you have x-ray vision? :P I’m not sure how you can see more than two pages at once otherwise. If you like flicking through a book, just press the “next” button quickly or enter random page numbers ;)

        You can browse books on the Amazon store and read the entire first chapter without ever needing to go to a bookshop. With the Nook you can read the entire book for free if you are in an actual store (it connects to the wifi).

        I still don’t see any advantage to physical books other than sentiment. Everything you’ve written confirms this. People seeing your bookshelf and that sparking discussions is the only one I’d agree is not possible on technology in the same way – it would be easy to replicate ( shows music I’ve recently listened to for example and people browsing my profile have started discussions with me from this), but not the same.

        But you can use the same argument with CDs/LPs. You can have a display to show off to friends or you can simply show them the book. What if you are AWAY from your shelf and wish you could read a section of a book to your friend in the moment? Book’s powers are limited to one location – I can spark up fascinating discussions by reading my books aloud to people no matter where I am.

        Look at what you’ve done! You are turning ME sentimental about the advantages of e-books now…

        • Joe Ely

          Well what’s wrong with sentiment anyway?
          If the physical presence of the book makes it easier for people to relate to it, surely that sentiment does have a practical function.

          People who use books for study also often talk about “picturing” the page the important information on — if all our books are the same size, weight, font and style, we lose that mnemonic quality.

          And finally, I’m studying for a distance degree at the moment, and I have both physical books and PDF ebook versions. Despite instant search, I find it easier to get back to a section I’ve previously read by memory of book thickness in the physical copy than be the “find” functionality in the PDF reader.

          • Traci

            I won’t get into debating the merits of ebooks vs. paper books since that’s been covered and I personally think there are benefits and limitations to both. I completely agree with Joe’s question “what’s wrong with sentiment?” Sentiment as a reason for keeping paper books around is likely a much bigger part of the equation than you’d think. And in my opinion, aside from cost currently, that’s what will continue to sell paper books well into the future. After all, look at marketing – many things play on a person’s feelings (how it feels to drive a new car/how you will look in that car for example), so if someone feels sentimental about paper books (how they feel, how they look on shelves, etc), they will continue to purchase them, regardless of whether others think they are obsolete and that other formats are much better.

          • Benny the language hacker

            Randy pointed out that soon technology will develop its own sentimentality, and that will be true of e-books. I still get sentimental about my Amstrad CPC 464 computer way more than I do particular physical toys. Sentimentality is relative and completely subjective, so marketers will eventually play on the feeling of sitting by a fire with your Kindle/Nook etc., I’m sure of it ;)

    • David Levey

      How about that I can write notes in the margins and highlight portions of the text. How about if I drop it it does not break (or get it near a magnet or…). How about the ability to share it (you may have bought the book but you can’t share it). How about changing technology formats- will you be able to transfer your “purchases” to the next thing (as you pointed out, paper has been the standard technology for a few centuries)?

    • Kevin Getz

      Environmental concerns?yes. Encouraging people to jet sll over the world several times a year is wonderful for the environment. .each plane burming tens of thousands of gallons of jet fuel high in the stratosphere where it does far more damage than an equivalent burn ay ground level.

      At the end of the day, most people just do whatever they want,and Fck other people, and fck the environment, too.

      i Am not going to get conned into worry about the environment.

      I wil do what ever I want to, just like the vast majority

      And I hope Earth is a toxic waste dump 100 years from now?after i am dead

  • Benny the language hacker

    Smart-phones have been around for just a couple of years, and cell phones HAVE overtaken landlines for anyone under 30.
    On my Kindle I can select any parts of any book and write notes that are easy to access and search – this is more efficient than highlighting in books and easier to delete.
    Libraries DO loan out e-books :) You have to have the device yourself, but there are loan options available on several devices. The Nook lets you read an entire book while you are in their store (like you would with a real one). People don’t seem to realise how well the technology is emulating those aspects of physical books ;)

  • Quokka

    I enjoyed the video very much (but found the text-post a little *meh* to be honest ;-))
    Definitely thinking about buying one. I managed to get used to laptop reading but I figure using the Kindle would provide a more relaxed atmosphere.
    I can hardly believe they offer free web acces with one of the models. That’s another huge plus for me.

    Unfortunately, I am just a poor student with no job at the moment. :-(

    • Benny the language hacker

      That video is the Amazon SECOND generation Kindle. The third generation one is much quicker and the browser has improved since that video.If you want a replacement web browser then don’t buy a Kindle. I’ll use it to check my e-mails, send quick replies and look up info on Google, and maybe send a few messages out on twitter – not to replace my entire browsing experience. It’s not trying to compete with the iPad – it also doesn’t have games or a million apps – the browser is just a nice bonus to the main reading interface.

      • Quokka

        I didn’t notice that it was the Kindel 2. E-Mail access was the only think I was interested in. ;-)

  • Benny the language hacker

    I love it when people insult me in a discussion :)

    • sadasd

      You’re pretty petty.

  • Benny the language hacker

    Shipping was $20 to Hungary – not ideal, but it arrived almost immediately after they shipped it.
    The Kindle doesn’t have a touch screen so an on-screen keyboard is unlikely any time soon. I find I can type on this keyboard *slightly* better than I can on my smartphone, but not enough to want to write anything but short notes or quick e-mails.
    Pictures are rendered very well on the Kindle, but of course they are black and white. I consider it as good as a newspaper in that regard. For colour, I would indeed just use my computer.

    • Russ

      The awkward keyboard is an issue for me, as I underline words and make lots of notes in books I’m reading lately.

      I have used one ebook earlier this year. It wasn’t a top end model, but I was sadly unimpressed. I imagine eventually migrating to them, but at this point it feels like they’re not quite ready. Too many problems with PDF, proprietary formats, dodgy DRM tactics, dodgy Unicode support, crappy browser, awkward user interfaces, etc. I’m hoping the next generation will be Good Enough for me. :)

      • Benny the language hacker

        I also tried an e-book reader earlier this year and wasn’t impressed. The current generation Kindle is a huge improvement though. I don’t have any problems with PDFs or Unicode support, the browser is more than good enough for the purposes I need it for (I don’t plan on having it replace my laptop of course), and proprietary formats etc. don’t worry me so much since most of the content I put on it is open.

        You can always wait until the *next* generation (a year maybe? The Kindle just came out this summer), but then you’ll have to wait until the next one after that. That’s the thing with technology :P All those satellite issues will be improved upon, but don’t forget that the reading experience is what it’s all about and to me the device is more than ready for that.

  • Anonymous

    Paper books smell. And collect dust. And you can’t read them in the darkness. That’s true and I know it well because I chose a faculty where the only thing you do for your studies is reading reading reading and converting into a bookworm.

    Of course, taking a lightweight e-book with me when I’m travelling is better than buying loads of those paper things.


    If my e-book gets soaked in the rain it’ll become just a useless piece of plastic and all my collected e-texts will be gone.

    If my paper book gets soaked in rain I will dry it on the heater.

    • Benny the language hacker

      It started drizzling on me a few days ago and my Kindle survived fine. Otherwise I simply wouldn’t read it in the rain. If you buy something from the Amazon store, it will be saved on your account and you can read the same book on an iPhone/iPad/Android or another Kindle by simply connecting to the same account. Any PDFs etc. you can just make sure to have a backup on your PC. So even if someone steals your Kindle you still have access to all the books you paid for.

  • Ray

    hey Benny, so u can actually read and send email on Kindle anywhere with the 3G? How is it working out for you?

    • Benny the language hacker

      It’s great! The browser has no Flash, so I usually click the simple version of several sites. I’ve used Gmail no problem. You can use it anywhere that has 3G and I’ll be testing that a lot in October ;)

      • Brent

        Nononono, that’s cheating.

        • Randy the Yearlyglot

          Why is it cheating? Is it because books can’t check your email?

  • TreeKiller

    This is perhaps the most controversial post I’ve ever read in this blog!

    I work in the printing industry, and I can confirm that printing is dying, being slowly replaced by electronic media, but I don’t think books will just disappear: there’s a big market for them as novelty items, such as in “meet the author” events. Also, there’s a huge number of people who still prefer to use good old fashioned handwriting, who will kill for a good notebook.

    While I agree that physical books are dying, perhaps for the better of the world, I still couldn’t help cringing a bit when I saw the title.

  • Anonymous

    That’s quite an assault on the good old book!

    But I have to say I agree with you, I didn’t realise some of the features you pointed out in the video on the kindle. Books are nice to feel and feel more robust, for example you can use them as beer mats after use or to swat a mosquito (something you wouldn’t do with a electronic reader) but they do weigh one down a lot.

    How many books can the kindle have installed out of interest? Can you delete and re-download the paid for books from Amazon for free? (if it crashes/everything gets wiped for example) .

    I don’t think I’ll buy one though, not because it’s not good or I know a better alternative, I just don’t think I’d use it enough to justify it (in terms of space as well as price) but it is more impressive then I thought originally, thanks for review :)

    • Benny the language hacker

      Haha that’s the first retort here I agree with 100% :D Books are definitely better than the Kindle for swatting mosquitos and as beer mats :P
      Glad you liked the review!

      • Joop Kiefte

        Actually, I believe most books at the office are used to lift the screen to a more ergonomic height ;)

  • Chris Sarda

    Sometimes you opinions are hit and miss for me, but with the exception that I do like books and to have them around to some extent, I absolutely completely agree with you.

    I’ve been making similar arguments for years now, in one way of the other, for news, blogs ect. I happen to like books, but my kindle is one of my best friends. I have the opportunity to carry a 1500 books library in one hand. People are afraid of change, they hug the idea of a book like it’s a child. I’m an avid reader and won’t ever really stop reading paper books to some extent.

    Even now in their infancy, ereaders are a superior force in every way that counts: disseminating information. It’s a beautiful machine and I can’t begin to say how happy I am with mine. Most of these people that seem to be against e-readers, well I doubt they’ve even read a whole book on one.

    • Benny the language hacker

      Definitely – based on the arguments for books I’m reading, I have no doubt that none of those people have sat down to read a book with this – forget a whole book, just one chapter! Or perhaps they used an early version; I didn’t like the look of the first Sony Reader when I saw it for example, but the technology has evolved.
      Glad someone else likes their e-reader as much as me :)

      • Joop Kiefte

        What about battery life? Physical books don’t have battery life problems ;)

        How does it read in bed?

        • Randy the Yearlyglot

          Batteries last a month or more if you’re only using it for reading. I presume that’s implied, since books can’t surf the ‘net. (Ahem.)

          And I’ll do you one better than reading in bed (which it does fine)… the Kindle has adjustable text size, so it’s more accessible to people with vision problems, and that also means it’s easier to read while on a moving vehicle, such as commuting on a bus or train. And if someone bumps into you, your page won’t get lost.

  • Benny the language hacker

    Good arguments, but if people have been saying books will die for decades, that’s due to oblique forces that can’t directly compete. TV, radio, magazines, the Internet – while all of these provide information, none of them give the same experience of sitting outside and genuinely reading a book. They are just alternative ways to receive information.

    But the current generation of e-books is very different as it directly competes with physical books. Out of all the comments here nobody has given me any concrete examples of where a book is superior to an e-book. All criticisms seem to be with how the Kindle in particular works, so they could get a competing device (more expensive, but solves those minor problems).

    The book shelf argument does come up a lot though. It’s true that I can’t showcase all the books I’ve read so visually (although technically I could just have a list of books written down on my coffee table or computer screen background and people would see it and say “Oh, I read that too”) – I’d rather my character and conversation spoke of my wisdom, rather than showing off what I’ve actually read. Shelves are the only decent argument I see and that really is just a matter of taste. The good side of books for me is the information they contain. Selling them on or reading them electronically can never take that away from you.

    Maybe I don’t like the shelf idea because I genuinely feel that owning too much stuff is a huge limit on people’s lives.

    It’s a pity about delivery to China! But you will get the benefits out of the non-Internet aspects of it.

  • Benny the language hacker

    Of course – look carefully at the picture at the top of the article… ;) ;)

  • Anonymous

    I would love to buy a Kindle (when I can afford it), although I’m from Australia and for some reason many of the books I want to buy aren’t available to me. I tried to buy Tucker Max’s new book today and apparently the kindle version is only available to US customers??

  • Benny the language hacker

    All books you buy on the Amazon store are associated with your account. You can view the same books on an iPod/iPad/Android using the Kindle app. If you buy a new Kindle you can transfer them to this without buying them again – the same would be true if your Kindle was stolen.

    Otherwise I have a folder on my laptop with all the PDFs and eBooks that I *copy* to the Kindle rather than moving them. So if my Kindle was lost or stolen I would have access to ALL my books; free and purchased. The only money I’d lose would be for the physical device itself, which is expected.

    • Hessiess

      But can you encrypt it, preventing a thief from reeding the content. Like any computing device, it has the potential to contain sensitive information.

      Also, I am not fermilier with the exact workings of the device, but wouldn’t loosing it (if it cannot be locked/encrypted) leek your account information/ credit card number etc.

      • Benny the language hacker

        You can password protect it yes ;)
        There is no way someone stealing it could get your credit card information. At best they could buy more books just on your account (so why even bother?), but if it’s stolen, log into Amazon and change your password and they won’t be able to do that.

        • Hessiess

          That’s good to know.

  • Benny the language hacker

    If you’re not into technology, what are you doing writing a comment on a blog?? :)
    The interface is ridiculously easy to use. No technical skills are required.

    • Steve

      I know how to surf the net and press reply. I’m here cuz I like your blog, not cuz I like computers.

      • Benny the language hacker

        Glad you like the blog! But based on my calculations you definitely have the technical expertise to use a Kindle ;)

  • Hessiess

    One place that e books have a definite advantage is for short-lived material like course text books. This kind of media changes extremely often, e books can be easily updated at little cost. It also solves the issue of getting rid of the books when you no longer need them,

    • Randy the Yearlyglot

      That’s rather misleading, isn’t it? Most “course materials” are horribly out-of-date before they even find their way into use, and they stay in use until they’re completely irrelevant to anything, due to budget considerations. Don’t believe me? Just go enroll in a graphic arts program and tell me what version of Photoshop the literature is written for.

      And speaking of course materials… I’ll bet you any student on earth would rather carry one Kindle instead of the arm full of books that is common now.

      • Hessiess

        Yes, I am aware of that. The course book for the course I just finished was not only out of date, it was also packed from cover to cover with major errors. In my own opinion, educators would be much better off just asking students to Google it. Instead of churning out books that are vastly less accurate than a badly written Wikipedia page. The internet is self maintaining, books are not.

        (why did I use it as an example? Could not think of any other short lived material at the time. Which course material would be in an ideal world)

  • Benny the language hacker

    I’m also disappointed in book lovers. They are missing the point entirely. They talk about everything BUT ACTUALLY READING. It’s ridiculous when you think about it. Glad someone else can see how crazy this is!
    Apart from wishy washyness and “look how big my shelf is” comments, the only genuine advantage for physical books I’ve seen in these comments is for swatting mosquitos and to be used as a beermat. :)

    • Hessiess

      Books are just a method of moving info around, not for sitting on a shelf collecting dust for an eternity. After reeding, the physical item is of no further use to you,

      If “book lovers” actually loved books, they would reed them and pass them on.

    • Ann

      Maybe book lovers have a different idea about what’s important for reading. I do. I would love to use an e-reader for all my academic and research related literature, given that I could take notes and all text would be searchable. For reading as a hobby though, I will definitely stick to physical books. Hell, the thought of never spending 2 hours in a book-store, browsing through the books, it makes me sad!! I love to look through the bookshelves of people I’ve met, discussing books we’ve both/all read, or should read. Can’t really imagine asking someone if I could have a look at their kindle after dinner to see what books they’ve read.
      You seem to look down on people who actually enjoy the look and feel of physical books, I wonder where this comes from. So what if people prefer to read books instead of from an e-reader. What if they want to do both? What’s the big problem?

      • Benny the language hacker

        “Can’t really imagine asking someone if I could have a look at their kindle after dinner to see what books they’ve read. ” I can ;) This is more tradition creeping in. I can “show off” my book collection anywhere in the world, most people can only do it when they invite friends to their home.

        I’m not looking down on anyone! I’m trying to explain all of this logically. There is a lot of sentimentality associated with books so I have an army of people ready to argue against me. I’m trying to say that e-books are better for the READING experience. Showing off your shelf, smelling and touching paper are irrelevant when you are actually reading.
        They are welcome to do both – I’m not trying to ban books from the world. The same way LPs and old-style cars from the 20s will never die. I’m just telling people the way the majority of the next generation are going to be reading. The old generation have their routines and I don’t expect this article to change that.

  • Benny the language hacker

    Becky, this is just echoing other sentimentality – people are ignoring the actual reading and talking about the feeling of paper and whatnot. All I see is wishy-washyness! What’s the difference in debating if I should buy a book after reading the entire first chapter on my device compared to flicking through random pages in a shop? Will the hardness of the cover or the hard-to-remove sticky pricetag inspire me better?

    The main reason people ignore my logic is because they have simply never sat down and read an e-book on an efficient modern device. At best they played with a model in a shop a few years ago and dismissed it as not for them.

    My mother swore she’d never sign up for a Facebook account and yet she did. Some people can resist modernity all they like, but change is inevitable…

    • Joop Kiefte

      Maybe this convinces you: when I heard about e-ink for the first time I told myself I would wait for them to mature first, and then definitely buy one of them, because it’s a MUST HAVE for travelers. I’m in Brazil now and it’s just not fun how many books you have to leave when going on the plane.

      Thinking about that, can you jot down notes and mark pieces of text on the kindle?

      • Randy the Yearlyglot

        The Kindle supports making notes and marking text.

  • Benny the language hacker

    Yep – flicking through and adding to a collection, not actually reading. :P The preference for non-e-books is never for any kind of advantages in the reading aspect.
    Glad you like my choice of which book to destoy :)

  • Benny the language hacker

    Cost depends on so many factors. It’s easier to get free e-books than free physical books and you have millions to choose from. Second hand books are only what happens to be available – in my experience the latest best seller you really want is NOT in second hand shops waiting for you. Perhaps it is in your town.

    Most people don’t use libraries or shops to get rid of books. Read the other comments to see how many people just let them gather dust in their “collection” to show off. Unfortunately most people don’t think to share them with others as you do.

    I like your idea of second hand books – that’s the first genuinely practical advantage over e-books anyone has given here! However it’s not easy enough to get the book you want in many cases. That is extremely restrictive.

    My Kindle needs to be charged once every few weeks, so your battery argument doesn’t work there. I don’t think you saw the video when I said that the battery lasts up to a MONTH. In fact, I’ll read dozens of books before the battery ever dies – I can take all the overnight coaches I like. With a physical book when you finish it, you are kind of stuck unless you travel with a second one in waiting.

    You are right about the colour, but most books are black and white already anyway.

    I’ve already argued the ownership issue in a previous comment.

    I’ve constantly argued back to defend e-books, but with every advantage someone lists of a physical book I could list twenty for my current situation. I can see what time it is, I can look something up on Google anywhere in the world for free, I can switch between thousands of books instantly, I can make notes on it and not be afraid that I’m “damaging” it since they can be deleted quickly – the list is endless, but most of these are irrelevant to the actual reading experience, just like a lot of the pro-deadtree arguments people are presenting me are.

  • Benny the language hacker

    If some people don’t want to move with the technology that’s their prerogative. The world will change around them. Some call that appreciating tradition, some call it stubbornness….
    Books will never die out completely – but more and more things will be less available on physical books with time. Diversity didn’t work for the LPs either…

    • Joe Ely

      Geez, man, no need to get so aggro about it. Liking books doesn’t make anyone a bad person.

      • Benny the language hacker

        Claiming I’m calling physical book readers “bad people” shows you aren’t really paying attention to what I’m saying – confused comments like that inspire “aggro”.

  • Benny the language hacker

    As I said in dozens of comments already – none of these points are relevant to the reading experience. I can list a hundred technological reasons why my Kindle is better than a book that are totally irrelevant too (it’s a clock, it’s got games, it has the Internet etc.)
    Flipping through a book is not reading. I personally find it easier to “browse” digital books, but that is still irrelevant.
    Digitised formats don’t have to be PDFs, they can be ePubs. These load in an instant. Most of the classics are already available free of charge as ePubs. If someone needs to read an original print of 14th century French poetry or something that is only available in an out-of-print book, then that’s just as hard to find physically as it would be electronically. But there is a community working to make as many old books as possible available digitally for free.

  • Benny the language hacker

    I wouldn’t necessarily give a Kindle to a 3 year old the same way I wouldn’t give them a real mobile phone. A fake one can be a fun toy to prepare them.
    However I am absolutely sure that technology will be miles more fun for kids – maybe not my Kindle but an iPad has sounds and videos and interactivity. They can pick a book graphically just as easily without needing to read. “Feeling the pages” is just sentimental – I don’t see how caressing a dead tree enriches people’s lives!
    I understand where you are coming from, but I still don’t see any logical advantages to books. If anything something like an iPad will help kids learn much better since it’s so interactive, colourful and musical. Then for simply reading a Kindle looks as boring as a normal novel would to a child.

  • Benny the language hacker

    I’m a vegetarian, so I’m hardly promoting killing life for no reason, but mosquitos deserve it. It’s them or me.
    In the image I’m destroying “Twilight” – the previous tenant left it here and it’s been annoying me ever since I moved in. :)

  • Anonymous

    Benny– I made the same argument on my most recent podcast and I’m currently convincing a “purist”– my best friend here in NYC– that he’ll inevitably make the switch. The bottom line is that e-readers, in the case specifically the latest generation of the Kindle, provides a much better reading experience than paper books. There are a few cases this might not be the case– for research/reference books where local note taking is essential. That being said, I’ve heard from more than one technologist who is going digital on their reference library utilizing the search functionality and saving some money/space.

    I liked how you framed up “books as technology” because thats absolutely the case. The reason e Readers took so long to develop after PCs (as I understand it) is resolution issues. Up until very recently, books where essentially a higher bandwidth medium that e readers or computer screens. That is no longer the case, and since reading books is fundamentally about getting information (and the experience of that information) it is inevitable that eReaders will take over.

    Books won’t die, they’ll just be something that hipsters keep on their shelves– kind of like record players. In the very near future, the experience of shopping for and owning books will suffer greatly since most people will no longer shop at brick and mortar for them so inventories will deplete less titles will be published etc. Remember when going to record stores was a way to pass the time?

    My own story is that there is nobody who “loves books” more than me, and after a few hours reading on my Kindle I knew it was over. Bye bye bookstores.

    • Benny the language hacker

      Thanks Dan!! :) Glad someone has my back in this chaotic mess of comments :P The amazing thing is that all of these arguments are generally from people who haven’t seen the latest technology in action. I was sceptical too myself until I actually used a Kindle.
      Books are going to be shelved – both literally and figuratively ;)

  • Benny the language hacker

    Most people couldn’t afford a PC a few years ago either ;)
    The argument about being more materialistic doesn’t hold water. It’s more expensive, but if you read a lot of free material and classics it’s MUCH cheaper in the long run. Also, owning a shelfload of books tying down to one place is infinitely more materialistic than owning something that fits in your pocket and you can travel the world with.

  • Benny the language hacker

    I like the idea of charity shops, but every time I’ve gone in there I haven’t found anything that I really wanted to read. You rely a lot on chance in that case – hoping that someone has generously donated the particular book you want. Of course that is nice to leave it up to serendipity and you can decide as you browse them what to take, but when you want something very specific you’ll likely have to pay full price.

    Perhaps your charity shop is huge, but those I’ve been in have a tiny amount available. It’s definitely not a practical solution for getting bestsellers, even when they are months old.

    I like the fastback scheme in a library though! It depends on the library however – buying the latest bestsellers is expensive. My library in Ireland doesn’t have any books younger than 6 months.

    The technology used to print a standard book wouldn’t work with colour ones. This is a fault of both that system and the Kindle. If you want colour you are getting into magazine territory and that would be better viewed on an iPad perhaps.

    Many children have cellphones and write watches now – I have no doubt that they will have more technology on them as they get cheaper.

    Yep, seeing the time and looking something up on Google are irrelevant perks, just like the smell of a book and the feel of paper is ;)

    When did you borrow the Kindle? I had a look at the 2nd generation one and I definitely didn’t find it as impressive as the 3rd generation one. The page-turn time was slower, the screen wasn’t as crisp, it was unnecessarily bulky etc. A post like this one wouldn’t have been as effective 6 months ago. I think the time has arrived however where the reading experience is vastly superior on digital devices.

  • Benny the language hacker

    Good point about tactile learning – but I’d give them toys for that. I think sound and video would work better when used right. A book that when they touch comes to life like on an iPad has way more interesting potential – although in that case the screen brightness may be an issue.

    Nostalgia is a good reason to hold on to physical books, when it’s clear that’s the only actual practical reason. I’m not saying to destroy all the books in the world :P I myself have emotional ties with some books I read as a child – the same ones I physically used myself. These emotions can’t be explained away by logic, and I like that those books are still around but in that case the book really is just sentimental and not about a better reading experience.

    For sentimental purposes, books will always win over technology, so they will indeed be around forever. My argument here is about the act of reading ;)

  • Numa.Xeniathar.Arg

    How’s replacing an entire 100/200/300 books shelf for one single object more materialistic?

  • Numa.Xeniathar.Arg

    How’s replacing an entire 100/200/300 books shelf for one single object more materialistic?

  • Numa.Xeniathar.Arg

    How’s replacing an entire 100/200/300 books shelf for one single object more materialistic?

  • Numa.Xeniathar.Arg

    How’s replacing an entire 100/200/300 books shelf for one single object more materialistic?

  • James

    Hi Benny,
    Thanks for the video and review of Kindle. I’m really thinking about getting one. I think I saw you paid $20 extra for shipping. Were there any other charges? When I partially went through the check-out process it said that extra fees/taxes may be applied.

    You said you hadn’t bought any books yet so you may not know the answer to this. I saw that international buyers needed to pay an additional $2 for every purchase. Have you heard anything about that?

    • Benny the language hacker

      I have a friend in Italy who tried to order it and he said there were added charges to Italy so he had it sent to Germany instead. It’s weird how that works. I haven’t heard anything about extra charges for international buyers, that would be quite silly to pay $2 extra. I’ll find out later, since I didn’t get it to buy off Amazon really.

  • Benny the language hacker

    As I said in the post, and to paraphrase it now, if “Bob” bought your book in paper form for 15 quid then YOU would get £1.50 and the publisher, advertisers, delivery man etc. would get the rest. You’d need 10 people to buy it for you to get 15 and twenty for you to have potentially £30…
    You can sell it via Amazon and it will be protected and can’t be shared to another device, but selling it as a standard e-book will result in more overall sales. Piracy cannot be avoided unfortunately.

  • Benny the language hacker

    Glad you see it as a non good/bad issue, and just a matter of practicality. That’s what I’m trying to argue myself.
    Note that there is no worry about batteries dying – the Kindle battery lasts a month. So go camping for a week, two weeks, three weeks…

    The upgrade scenario is extremely unlikely! The Kindle format, and ePub etc. are very simple text files – all readers will absolutely have to be backwards compatible, even if the reading format itself evolves. It’s like the latest version of Microsoft Word still being able to open the version from 15 years ago. Backwards compatibility is an industry standard. There’s no way you’ll have to pay again for the “new” version when it’s just text.

    My current Kindle will only become “obsolete” in that future devices will be even better than this one currently is. I might be jealous that I don’t have 4G Internet or extra games or a two month battery instead of one month etc., but it reads excellently, and that is harder to become obsolete. It’s already better than physical books. The technology will improve – they won’t ;)

  • Abby Ferrari

    I love both, eReaders and physical books. I love buying books, smell them, collect them… I will travel the world and ask my mom to keep mine until I settle in one place and have a big an beautiful library.
    I chose the iPod touch as eReader because i can tweet about what i’m reading whenever i have wi-fi. The only problem I’ve discovered so far is its short battery life.

  • Benny the language hacker

    I just checked (I had already uploaded a deck a while back) and it’s working great!! :) Instead of single button shortcuts you have to press down-left (or right)-middle, so it’s more than one click to select hard/easy etc. but you can click through these quickly. It’s easy to read and there is no strain – I might actually try using Anki on this rather than my phone at some time ;)
    Of course if you get the wifi one you would only be able to do this when near your wifi, but I’m on wifi right now and it’s coming through instantly as the interface was designed for.

  • Joe Ely

    Quick question:
    Obviously won’t work, but does Facebook Mobile, If so, I’d be very sorely tempted….

    • Benny the language hacker

      I personally wouldn’t use the Kindle to replace my browsing experience. Twitter didn’t work at all (even mobile version) until I tried Randy’s (now I can use it fine). Mobile gmail kept redirecting to normal gmail until I used a special log in at (so I will just use that all the time) and right now I can’t log into Facebook. The typing isn’t being accepted on the mobile interface – I can log into the full verison of Facebook but it crashes the browser. I tried to search online, but others seem to log in fine. I think a little tweaking is needed, but it should (like Gmail and twitter) have an easy to use option.
      I can update my Facebook status via twitter and read my friends’ updates by RSS, so I’ll use that work around, but right now the Kindle is not ideal for replacing your browsing experience. More features will be added slowly but surely – I like it for searching for things quickly and writing tweets etc.

  • Cadejohnson121

    if everyone thought like this, there would be no information left if something catastrophic happened. always good to keep a hard copy backup to help insure information gets passed on through generations and through, forbid, the end of the modern era as we know it.

  • Jacky

    Putting a bandaid on the microphone sound-input slot on your camera will help reduce the windy noises in outdoor videos~ Keep up the awesome work and thank you for sharing :)

    • Benny the language hacker

      I don’t think the wind is that big a distraction in the video, but the bandaid idea is quite clever! I’ll have to use that in future :) Thanks!!

  • Emintx

    Oh. My. Goodness. I just finally bought my much-drooled-for Kindle yesterday and I am a delighted as I can be. I have loaded about 40 items on it (most free) and changed to dictionary to a Spanish-to-English one (free!!!! Google: “Free kindle Spanish English dictionary” and it will come up on top) and I must say, reading a Spanish newspaper/book is much more enjoyable than paper/computer now. I simply need to move the cursor next to the unknown word and that oh-so-handy dictionary has me understanding and back to reading. Wow. Just wow.
    Benny, thanks so much for encouraging the purchase of this. Your article inspired me to get this particular eReader and I really appreciate your clear and candid discussion of various considerations.
    Now, I am curious. You’ve had it for several months and should have plenty of experience with it. What are your favorite things that are loaded? What gets the most usage? The least? Do you delete items? What do you carry it in when you are out-and-about? (fanny pack? pocket?) With your adventures, does it visibly appear to have been an adventurer also? Any other new thoughts about it? Have you broken down and made purchases off Amazon or are you still committed to the free stuff? (That one-chapter-free-sample thing really rocks for foreign language study!!!!!) Tell us everything!

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    We all know that I’m not exactly the kind of girl who’s happy with a closet full of black, tan and chocolate brown bags. I need variety! I need color cheap gucci top handle! I need chartreuse and coral, if possible! Not to mention that a classic shape website exclusive gucci with a crazy color is just about the freshest thing going in handbags right now. It’s wearable, it’s modern gucci shoulder bags sale, it’s bold – what’s not to like?

  • Benny Lewis

    Good grief – in an apocalypse, the last thing I’d be worried about is making sure I have a book to curl up with at night! But in your doomsday scenario, a weak solar-powered charger would be all I needed, once a month! I’m an electronic engineer, so I know how to harness it, don’t worry. And I could have an entire library on mine, while you’d be stuck with the few books you are pushing around in your raider trolley :P

  • Nazaret Quintana™

    Eres dañino, realmente un imbécil estúpido. Romper de esa manera un libro cuando en países 3er tercermundistas los niños no tienen que leer. Me gustaría ver a un libanés pobre con un ebook. Realmente hieres la sensibilidad de mucha gente al romper ese libro, como si fuera algo gracioso o productivo. Eres un majadero y desde luego para mi, lo que tu llamas futuro es un asco y siempre veré de comprar mis libros en papel. Espero que te de una buena infección de orina, que sufras mucho y que todo te salga mal :)  

    Respeta un poquito mas los libros que tanta sabiduría imparten :)

  • David Hucklesby

    My feeling is that for the time being print remains one technological option amongst many – and bearing in mind things like cost, convenience and diversity of material, it certainly doesn’t appear to be the best option by comparison to some of the digital alternatives, in most cases.

    This doesn’t, however, make it an INVALID option. As long as we are about to conceive functions which can be achieved through the medium of paper, for which we have not yet achieved a digital alternative, there will be artists and creators continuing to take advantage of it. I’d cite major, award-winning bestsellers like Jonathan Safran Foer or Mark Danielewski here.

    There are sculptural, textural capabilities available to the creators of books which we are still only at very early stages of developing in more hi-tech forms. There is also rigidity; while the fluidity and interactivity of digital publications is an advantage for some writers, others who actively and deliberately wish to impose order and structure, and NON-interactivity, the digital medium could conceivably feel unsuitable.

    I reiterate; until the digital is able to reproduce ALL functions which print has to offer, INCLUDING those niche avenues of sculptural, it will continue to remain a valid option for those choosing it. And if one were to fulyl replicate the entirety of a book’s being – you’d just have a book again.

    I say let’s try to celebrate the differences between them which make them both useful for different purposes. The digital surely has become the realm for mainstream contemporary reading now, but a medium is only truly as ‘old’ as its last artefact.

    • David Hucklesby

      I speak, incidentally, as a frequent Kindle user as well as a book reader.

  • disqus_n5xwR7R7xa

    If you have a problem with physical books that is maybe because
    you were not reading anything properly.) But it is scientifically proven that kids are more accurate to understand what is being read to them if they are able to feel the book to be able to turn the page. And if you have an e-book telling the story to your kid than they will not score as well on standerdized tests if you read it to your own kid.
    Another thing with regular old fashioned books is that they have lasted for centuries. While an e-book can be erased or could malfinction and could break. Now can you tell me a reason why people would spend the same amount of money on digital books (which can damage your eyes too) that they will have to erase later because they will not have enough memory. And even if they stored it on a memory card or a flash drive you would have no idea what books are on it. An yes e-books might be easy to lug aroud but if you have a problem carrying a 2 pound book then you must be lazy. I carry about 4 books with me everyday and it helps me stay in shape.

  • Roger

    Some of what you say is true, some of it not. Books for practical learning (i.e. instruction manuals when you’re working with your hands) are always better as paper books that lie flat for quick reference. That finger in the page is just what a human needs when flipping back and forth. I’ve had an e-reader for 6 years and I still print out books that I use for tailoring work.
    Travelling with books is not as much of a problem as you are making out. There’s no need to travel with so many. I read as many as 10 books simultaneously at home, why would I want to clutter my mind like that when travelling? Either with paper books or e-books? And I can go to the library in the country I’m in, or better still (for you) just go online in that country.

    You’ve made a mistake by buying a Kindle. It’s from a corporate giant who defiantly won’t adopt the e-book open standard – epub – for financial and monopoly reasons. My reader will and I get so much more. It also renders pdf files better than a kindle.

    E-ink on a screen is not the same as paper. Any physics student will tell you that they absorb and reflect light differently. Paper still has its place, just not exclusively.

    iI hate to say it, but I think you’ve not entirely thought this through and rather chosen to write a clever-sounding polemic, probably because you bought a Kindle.

  • Wilsonia

    I bought a great book the other day as it happens, written by a Mr. B. Lewis :-)

  • Saikat Guha

    i hv a problem. the pdf are not scaled properly and if in epub all structure is lost so wat should i do??? please tell me some good pdf to epub converter offline/online

    • Brandon Rivington

      Calibre is a really good converter. It works for Mac, PC, and Linux.

      –Brandon, the Fi3M Language Encourager

  • Henry Lee

    The problem is that you are too young to know the horrors of format change.
    Those who had a huge collection on records, that then had to be replaced with 8-tracks, that then had to be replaced with cassettes, that then had to be replaced with DVDs, that then have to be replaced with MP3 format and one day, the MP3 format will be replaced with something else. It’s getting harder to find a DVD player and cassette players are even harder to find. Soon you will not be able to play all those MP3 files. I have several video files from just a decade ago that no player will play.
    All those books you are collecting in epub, mobi and pdf format are great now, but in several years you may not be able to find a player that supports that format.
    Meanwhile, the paper book technology will work forever.
    Ebooks are great for the short term, but like you said technology changes, and the new technology is not always backwards compatible with the new stuff (like video game systems). Stuff may get converted to the new format, but you will have to purchase it again.

    • Brandon Rivington

      Not necessarily true. With most of the world’s media being digital now, nearly everything can be converted to the new technology. There are record players that convert records to MP3 files. CD-drives on computers can convert that to MP3’s as well. DVD’s can be burnt onto your computer. I’ve see cassette to MP3 converters. This list goes on. My point is that when the new technology comes out, there will quickly be a company to make a gadget or a software to convert your old goodies to the new tech.

  • Justin Davis

    I agree with many of your claims here but, I have read that research shows that people will remember content better when they read physical books. It has something to do with spatial memory. I personally choose to read physical books for my longer drawn out stories. I can’t imagine reading Anna Karenina in electronic form. It would kill my eyes. Whereas, I read news articles on news apps or the internet. I also downloaded a free app for my smartphone with all of Chekhov’s short stories in Russian for reading on the metro. Both types of books have their place. I prefer to use both simultaneously and keep my favorites (classic Russian literature) in paperback for their lighter weight. I find that each type of book works in different situations.

  • Benny the language hacker

    Tonnes of English titles and several French ones – yes, install Calibre and go to news sources to see them ;) You can also enter particular websites manually if you like.