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Kindle your interest

It’s easy on the eye and can rival a large library in terms of space, but it isn’t about to replace books. Yet.

books Updated: Jan 19, 2010 20:43 IST
Gagan Gupta

KindleThe concept of e-books isn’t new to Indians. Readers have been available as software applications on mobile phones and even media players for a while. Even the i-Phone has a Kindle application, and a brilliant, free Stanza e-book reader that’s easily available on the App Store. But it’s only now that we have an officially distributed hardware e-book reader in the market — the Amazon Kindle 2.

The tablet-shaped look of the Kindle 2 is very easy on the eyes, with simple shades of white and grey used in the design. The 6-inch screen itself uses 16 shades of grey, which is pretty good for rendering greyscale images, newspaper quality photos and even the occasional art you may encounter in your novels.

The button layout seems intuitive, though it bothers me immensely that the Previous page button is located only on the left of the tablet. It’s just not functional enough for single handed use. The keypad at the bottom looks classy but each keypress is a bit hard, which makes typing on it a chore. Luckily, you’ll rarely ever need to use the keypad if you only want to read books.

Unlike any other e-book reader you may have used in handheld devices, the Kindle 2 uses an e-ink paper technology for its display. The advantage here is that the reader doesn’t require any battery power to keep a sustained display on the screen. The only time it does use the battery is when it needs to re-draw the image (or text) displayed.

The lack of a backlight creates the same disadvantages as a regular paper book — or maybe a bit more. While the overall presentation of e-books on the Kindle is pretty good — with friendly typography and excellent line and character spacing — the grey tone of the screen is noticeably dull, even when compared to a regular book. Not having a backlight (or frontlight) on an electronic book reader is a real bummer, since you’re solely dependent on external sources of illumination.

Reading a book on the Kindle seems a bit weird at first, especially when the whole screen blacks out before re-drawing text on it. Turning pages on a regular book is a lot smoother. The paper book does have the edge here. That said, the Kindle 2 has one advantage that paper books can’t compete with — the size. With 2 GB of storage space, you can literally have thousands of books on your Kindle at any given point in time.

The ability to play your favourite music from the stereo speakers located behind the device is a good addition. Of course, you
should not consider the Kindle an MP3 player but having a melody play in the background while reading a book does have its own charm. There’s also a possibility of using the audio player to listen to audio books.

Book versus e-book
In this tussle,between old and new, which one will you pick?

At first look, you’d obviously think it’s cheaper to buy a book than spend Rs 12,000 on an e-reader. But think of it as a one-time investment, after which you can pick up titles for minimal costs instead of paying about Rs 600 every time. For a voracious reader, paper books will turn out to be more expensive in the long run.

It’s easy to plonk a book in your bag and carry it around to read any time. You’d have to be more circumspect about carrying around your e-reader; especially if you’re the forgetful kinds or travel a lot on local trains. The loss of the latter would hurt so much more!

The e-reader relies on electricity/ battery, and would need recharging.

On the flipside, carrying 4-5 books can be quite a burden. On an e-reader, you can carry hundreds of titles with you everywhere without giving it a second thought.

Most new e-readers allow you to access the Internet via Wi-Fi, which means you can log on anytime to buy a new title or get the latest newspaper. The Kindle 2 International edition doesn’t have a browser or Wi-Fi connection, though. The Nook, on the other hand, has Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity.

Think of the paper and ink saved! E-readers use reflective e-ink technology, so it’s easier on your eyes.

Nothing can replace the tactile experience of a book; the feel of paper, often yellowed with age when it’s handed down generations, and its smell. What e-book can compete with that?

Right now, the titles available on e-books are limited, and files in the comic book format aren’t compatible. But that may change, with everything from newspapers to magazines set to be available soon.