The Future of Books My Friend, Is Only Electronic!

“Bhavinbhai, you are spoilt, man”. The “bhai”, when sarcastically affixed to a Gujju name, especially by a non-Gujju, reflects a certain state of Gujju being; well-fed and flashy and showy. Chaitanya from Boston used this line to comment on my Facebook status update two days ago. I had written, “Just saw the IPAD specs, etc on the Apple site. Wondering if I should have waited for that, before getting the Kindle. Decisions, decisions…”
To backtrack a little! The Kindle is an e-reader sold by Amazon that has revolutionized the ebook industry. I have been a Kindle user since it was first launched in the winter of 2007. I was in the US at the time, managed to get one delivered to a friend’s place and since then, have been using it for almost all my book reading. It’s allowed me to read multiple books simultaneously (sometimes upto 10), all over the world, at any time that I feel like, without having to actually physically carry all of them around. I am both an early adopter of technology and I also like to have all my books together in one place. The Kindle is ideal for someone like me!
Sometime last year, the Kindle 2 and DX were launched, but I saw no reason to upgrade. Then Amazon decided to launch the Kindle DX globally. I pre-ordered it on the site and four days after its worldwide launch on 19th Jan, I had it in my hands in Mumbai. It is much larger than the Kindle and this makes reading much easier. More importantly, I can read newspapers quite well on this device (Hindustan Times, Financial and Indian Express are currently available from India) as well as all my scientific pdfs, which form a bulk of my daily reading. The pdfs are extremely well rendered both in portrait and landscape, though only in black and white. There is also a GSM chip in the Kindle DX, which allows me to wirelessly download books, magazines, etc directly from Amazon.
And then Apple yesterday announced the IPad, a tablet that runs the IPhone OS and has IBooks, which will allow us to read books downloaded via ITunes. In color! It’s enough to make one mad. Though in all fairness, when I ordered the Kindle DX, it wasn’t as if I didn’t know that Apple was going to announce some kind of book-reading device.
There is already a lot of stuff that has been written about the IPad in the blogosphere, which is amazing considering that no one outside of Apple has actually used one. There are however significant differences between the IPad and the Kindle and the choice of device will probably depend upon a person’s profile, needs and wants.
Still, in a world that is getting to be more and more monopolistic, it is great to have choices. The Apple / Amazon competition will only make it better for us consumers with respect to book prices, availability and reach.
And for those of you, who are going to get back to me about how the smell of paper and the warmth of a book are irreplaceable, don’t! Don’t compare until you’ve actually used the Kindle or the IPad. After that, if you still prefer paper, that’s fine! I used to be an avid book collector and now I find that if a book is not available electronically, I perhaps may not want to read it at all. The future is eventually going to be only electronic…the only question is in which form and when!

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