On Monday, February 9, 2009 at approximately 2:18 p.m. Central Standard Time I developed a bad case of Kindlekrankheit – a yearning and burning to own a Kindle portable ebook reader from Amazon. It began the moment I read the technical specifications and watched the promotional videos for the new Kindle 2, which will begin shipping Feb. 24th. Reading for the past 15 months about Kindle 1 – the older sister – had filled me with some respect and hope for the Kindle family, but no outright love. I even blogged about the Kindle 1 back in November 2007. Now I’m smitten.
I know, I know...I should resist the allure and charm of the Kindle 2. Many of my friends and colleagues warn me that she’s no good. The price of the Kindle 2 ($359) is slightly lower than of the Kindle 1, but it’s still high. How will I be able to maintain the lifestyle that she expects and deserves? Some people accuse Kindle’s parent, Amazon, of engaging in predatory practices in the publishing realm and trying to develop a monopoly. If I bought a Kindle 2, would I be marrying the Mob? For others, the fact that the Kindle business model relies on DRM-protections makes the Kindle sisters unworthy of even a second glance. I can’t help myself. I’m lovelorn.
I’m not the only librarian who likes the Kindle. Jason Griffey, Jenny Levine and other librarians have written about their affection for their Kindles. Alas, they have their Kindles, and I don’t. It’s a cold, cruel world.
There’s another group of librarians, people like Roy Tennant, who have taken a dim view of both the K1 and K2. I admire their ability to have their reason govern their passions. I personally have liked the idea of a dedicated portable electronic reading device ever since I tried a Rocket eBook back in the late 1990s. It was a short fling, not an abiding love. We’re still friends, though. When it comes to the Kindle, however, due primarily to price ($359 for the K2), I find myself on the far rim of yet another digital divide, longing to bring a Kindle into my life.
The K2 is very thin, light, and svelte, but the thing that sets my heart aflutter is the new text-to-speech software (TTS). That voice! It’s a siren call. Now I can choose whether I want to read my Kindle or have it read to me. The K1 was able to play pre-recorded digital audio books, but the new K2 can turn just about any written text into an audio book on the fly. I even could read a book via the method of using an eye-ear tag-team routine. For example, I could begin by reading a book visually for awhile. Then, if my eyes become tired or if I’m doing something that lends itself more to auditory reading, I can have my K2 pick up where my eyes left off and read aloud to me via the TTS engine.
I’m sure glad Amazon parents didn’t give the Kindle 2 some lame name like Blaze or RE:Kindle or Vista. Now that I think about it, I can’t recall ever seeing an ad for a Kindle other than on the Amazon website. No 30-second TV commercial with grainy footage of Jim Morrison singing, “Come on Baby, light my fire.” The Kindle is above all that.
The K2 has some other enhanced features. I could recharge it simply by connecting it to the USB port on my computer--no need to carry a recharging transformer anymore. The K2 also has more storage than the K1 and is capable of holding about 1500 ebooks. The battery is improved, too. It should provide about two weeks of reading before needing to be recharged.
The time it takes to metaphorically turn the page, which has been one of the knocks against the K1, has been reduced by 20 percent, according to the promotional literature. Still, if the K1 took, say, one second to turn the page, the K2 would take .8 seconds (these are just hypothetical figures). Also, I’m not sure that a little pause to turn the page (physically or digitally) is a bad thing from a cognitive and reading retention standpoint. Perhaps that wait-time while the page turns gives your mind a moment to ponder the flow of the narrative or argument, raise questions or predict what will happen next. Other ebook devices and reading software companies have experimented with text that scrolls continuously like a teleprompter, with no page-turning lag time. More experimentation is needed to determine which mode of reading is preferable and leads to better comprehension and retention. (I harbor a faint hope that someone from Amazon will read this blog post and send me a K2 for research and evaluation purposes! Be still, my heart.)
The K2 could improve my reading life! I would read more, and read in genres and fields heretofore unbeknownst to me. I’m envious of those people in the promotional videos. (Why are nearly all of them middle-aged white folks?) They profess their love for their Kindles.
For the moment, I am forced to admire the Kindle 2 from afar. I dream of the great times we could share at the park, on the beach, and even in bed. Amor vincit omnia. Kindle 2, won’t you be my Valentine?