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04/11/2011

It’s never too late to quit the printed page: An Amazon Kindle review from a print purist

To abandon printed books in favour of an e-reader seems to be the new “To be, or not to be” for Canadians who have until now shuffled their feet when it comes to making the switch. If you’re a “print purist,” (i.e. devoted to the page) you barely batted an eye at any e-reader releases, whether it was Amazon’s Kindle, the Kobo or the Sony Reader, it made no difference to you. You could care less about being an early adopter. When you have the hoarder-like comfort of shelves and tables and corners full of books you’ve collected over the years, well, technology can go ahead and move at its breakneck pace if it wants to — you’re covered with enough reading material for a lifetime.

Kindle%20with%20books%20-%20graphite You’re also armed with an impassioned plea against the digitization of paperbacks and hardcovers in the first place — you can always evoke the feeling of paper between your fingers as an argument for cultural preservation. Print versus e-readers comprise two opposing sides in a new human drama — as if literature, and by consequence, your soul, is being sucked up in a cold vortex of technology should you choose the electronic route.

So yes, to read or to “e-read” is as essential as “To be, or not to be.” But before making that decision — either staying the course with printed books or switching to your new digital literary lifestyle — a few points will come in handy.

Are you an interactive reader?
Print purists highlight passages, make notes in the margins, and send and/or talk about favourite bits of dialogue with friends. Print purists doggy ear, and in doggy earring, feel like another notch has been added to the belt. A book isn’t read until it’s marked up with pencil, and so the argument is that an e-reader just won’t allow you to do that right? Well, some won’t. E-readers can be passive reading experiences, but if you’re an interactive reader, the Kindle (I had the opportunity to test the 3rd generation model with 3G wireless) emphasizes this interactivity. You can highlight, search keywords throughout the text with Kindle’s keypad, add footnotes and read other highlighted passages from Kindle’s community of users who’ve read the same book.

Are you tired of staring at a screen all day?
Letting your eyes rest on the printed page can be comforting, staring at another screen after you’ve spent eight hours at work doing that exact thing sounds like a nightmare. To alleviate this, the Kindle boasts a high-contrast screen with E Ink Pearl technology. There’s no glare and you have a choice of font and font size. The reading experience is quite comfortable and comes quite close to the ease on the eyes of reading a printed page.

How in love are you with staring at your shelves full of books?
This is the biggest hurdle, if, as a print purist, you’re somewhat arrogant about your book collection and you don’t want to sacrifice the visual appeal of having someone walk into your home library and marvel at your reading prowess. The Kindle, above all else, is handy. It stores up to 3,500 books and with built-in Wi-Fi, you can shop and download new titles in less than a minute. It’s not as awe-inspiring as a shelf full of classics but it is portable. You can literally have all your titles at your fingertips at any time. Plus, if you own multiple devices such as the iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac, Blackberry and Android, the Kindle’s Whispersync technology allows you to synchronize your digital library across platforms.

I was recently asked what my experience with the Kindle has been like and despite the impressions above the only thing I could think to answer in the moment was, “You almost forget that you’re reading on it.” And I believe this is the device’s success. In making an e-reader, Amazon is trying to dispense with the potential psychological rift that could occur (okay, maybe that’s not exactly how they worded it in their design-stage brainstorms, but still …) in visiting the other side of the “To be, or not be” equation. In courting readers and print purists alike, Amazon wants to make a device that literally disappears in service of the most important part of reading: the story.

This print purist concedes to the device’s success, but reserves full praise on one key point. A print book doesn’t run on batteries. And while the Kindle’s battery can last up to a month with the Wi-Fi off, it lasts about a week with it on. So you may find yourself gritting your teeth once or twice when you’re looking forward to continuing your book on the go, only to find yourself staring at an empty-battery screen.

-- Christine Clarke, MSN Tech & Gadgets

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Danny BradburyDanny Bradbury

Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with 20 years' experience. He writes regularly for publications including the Guardian, the Financial Times, the Financial Post, and Backbone magazine. Danny also writes and directs documentaries.

Maurice CachoMaurice Cacho

Maurice Cacho is a Toronto-based journalist mixing his love for tech with a passion for news. He's also CP24's Web Journalist and appears daily on CP24 Breakfast and weekly on the channel's tech show, Webnation, discussing tech news and trends.

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