Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Kindle


After a few companies made futile stabs at creating electronic books, Amazon’s Kindle came along and did it right. The traditionalists who said electronic books could never take off were proved wrong. At this point e-books are outselling hard copy books, and the trend seems certain to continue.

And there are the Nook, and the Sony Reader and Googe E-books, and at some point there will likely be some kind of standardization amongst formats. Some people like one reader over another. The Nook Color in particular seems to be popular.

But I’ve been thinking about the word kindle.

What a stroke of marketing genius. Kindle means to build or fuel a fire or to cause to glow or light up. It’s an active, transitive verb Amazon changed into a noun. But the original meaning lingers in the back of our mind. Not only is the name a propos of the softly glowing, backlit screen, Kindle indeed sparked a flame, the light of a new technology that is affecting the publishing – and reading – world to the nth degree.

It seems everyone has blogged about the Kindle. Heck, given the A-Z Challenge, I’m probably not the only one doing it today. Authors, agents, editors and publishers are all scrambling and muttering and, on occasion, panicking over the e-book revolution.

But what about the readers?

A friend told me the other day that she received a Kindle as a gift and didn’t think she’d use it because she likes the feeling of a book in her hand. But then she started looking at the offerings, and at how easy it was, and how much less expensive. She ended up buying a ton of books. She’s reading more than she ever used to because it’s so convenient to keep her Kindle with her.

I don’t even own an e-reader, but I have the Kindle app on my phone. I’ve read four books I wouldn’t have otherwise because they were quick and inexpensive to download, and I had access any time of day – or in the middle of the night. No more reading lamps flicking on at two a.m.

I’d meant to take a book to read during jury breaks last week, but forgot. So I downloaded something I needed for research right onto my phone and dove in.

Now libraries are joining in. They purchase licenses for e-books and you can check them out and download them online for a given checkout period – without ever leaving your house.

With the increasing costs of paper, printing, and the fuel used to deliver hard copy books, they’ve become pricier and pricier. In this economy it’s a boon when the reduction in production costs is passed on to the consumer. E-books also offer a greener delivery system.

There are certainly issues with how payments are structured for writers who usually published in hardback. Some authors have bypassed traditional publishers altogether. And some unpublished authors are self-publishing their work as e-books, which means a combination of fresh, new talent and, unfortunately, some poorly edited offerings.

But it’s all starting to shake out. Industries – including the publishing industry – have changed before, and will again. But the Kindle kindled a new interest in reading for people of all ages at a time when reading in general had been falling off for years.

Kindle on.


  1. A timely post for 'K.' I'd not given much thought to the name. The Kindle truly did spark a flame.

  2. I LOVE my Kindle. At first I felt like I was cheating on my books but then I justified it to myself since I live in such a small place and have little room for more books, but the Kindle is "green" with no paper or gas being used for me to get my books. It took me one entire book to get used to it, but now I prefer it. I have a nice case so it feels like a book, the screen looks like a real page, and my cover has a light built in. I'm having to force myself to read my "real" books haha!

  3. Do you have one, Jenny? I keep thinking I'll wait until one of our laptops gives up the ghost and we replace it with and IPad that can also be an e-reader.

    audiegirl, I know just what you mean about "cheating" on your "real" books!

  4. I'm still on the fence about getting an e-reader for myself, though I have been looking at the Kindle. I can certainly see the advantages, especially that of convenience, but on the other hand I wonder about investing in something that could (and likely will) become obsolete so easily. My husband has been encouraging me to get one, mainly because he's afraid my books will eventually take over our house (my parents have bookshelves in literally every room except the bathrooms--and those hold baskets of magazines and light reading matter, just in case it should be needed--so he's looking at the example I grew up with as a foreshadowing of things to come), but I still hesitate.

    I also wonder how local bookstores will be affected by the popularity of e-books. So many seem to be holding on by a thin thread as it is.

    One other thing I wonder about--I get a headache from reading on the computer too long, and I know the Kindle screen is supposed to be different so that doesn't happen, but I wonder how well that works.

  5. I love my Kindle. I hope I don't have to choose between hard copy books and ebooks. I love them both.

  6. It's amazing how Kindle really took ebooks to a whole new level!

  7. Helena, I've heard good things about the readability of the screen. Maybe borrow one to try out first? And apparently many independent bookstores are now able to add to their coffers by offering Google E-books as an alternative to customers.

    Kathi, I like the idea of keeping the best of both worlds.

    Jennifer, it will be interesting to see how everything shakes out in the end!

  8. Love my Kindle, but I haven't given up on paper books. I think the publishing industry will adapt. The ones who can't will drop off, and the ones who can change quickly will be all the better for it.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Marie at the Cheetah