I have noticed the big promo for the new "Kindle" e-book reader, who could miss it! Jeff Bezos of Amazon is acting like this is the second coming and it's on the cover of Time magazine. As Paul G and R.A. have noted here on Gather (please read "The end of the book as we know it?" and "Never judge a book by its cover: would you read this "Book" "?) there is a mixed response to this. Many people are impressed with some of the new features on this device, but most people get a bit of sticker shock at that $399 price tag!
Even if Kindle does not prove to be the "Breakout Device" in its first version and suddenly slay the printed book, it is becoming obvious that ebook readers are becoming more competitive. Especially for younger people who are used to reading things on computer screens or cell phones almost constantly, loyalty to bound paper seems to be eroding. How about the ability of Kindle to download an entire book a minute after you decide you want it? Kind of eliminates trips to the library or bookstore, or even the 3 day delay to wait for the printed book to arrive from Amazon, right? Sure the selection at first is lousy, and the price is a real stretch, but those things are going to change. Sure you are going to be nervous about the price tag because you could lose it or break it, while if you drop a five dollar paperback on the bus, who cares? But the price will change too, just like cell phones.
Despite my fifty years of loyalty to the printed book, I will argue that this does not really matter. I don't think that we need to feel threatened by ebooks as something that will destroy reading. No, actually the threat to reading is lack of interest, not technology. The problem is not how you get the printed word in front of your face, the problem is the other stuff that seems to get between many people and the printed word so that they never find time for it. The experience is the same- the world goes away and we are somewhere else, in a special world of adventure and intellectual curiosity. If Kindle or anything else can keep that going, fine by me.