Hey! Who remembers the “Scream Sheets” of William Gibson’s future? All those disposable computer screens that could bring you the latest in the news? Well, Amazon’s going to be the first one to try and market such a device with the new Kindle: a wirelessly-connected little PDA type thang that connects to their service for free.
Kindle will allow you to connect to Amazon, find the book or newspaper you want to read, buy it and read it from anywhere. You don’t need a wireless Internet connection service like Verizon or AT&T, because Kindle comes with its own “Whispernet” wireless network. Plus you get free access to Wikipedia:
# Revolutionary electronic-paper display provides a sharp, high-resolution screen that looks and reads like real paper. # Simple to use: no computer, no cables, no syncing.
OK, that’s cool. But now for the down side. . .
For one, this Whispernet is available through Sprint’s network, which is fine if you live in one of those “good zones” of Sprint’s network. But I bailed on Sprint for the simple fact that I had the worst time getting reception with them in Rochester. I could literally walk ten feet from my house in either direction and get a signal, but directly in front of my house, no go. Now, I realize there was probably some sort of microwave interference in the area, but my Verizon phone never had the same problem.
So, the network is a problem. A second problem is the volatility of the media. This may not matter to some, but I guess I’m old fashioned enough to want to be able to keep a book for a while, whereas if your Kindle becomes kindling, all those books you read are gone. I’ve never been able to quite comprehend the people who have music stored on their iPods without any kind of backup, now we’re going to do it with print media as well.
But the biggest thing is: that damned thing is $400! If you’ve got $400 to spend on something you can only read books on – and you really like reading books that much – knock yourself out. But it seems to me that the entire purpose of those “Scream sheets” of William Gibson’s fantasy was that they were cheap and disposable. If you left your scream sheet on the subway because you were too busy fiddling with your latest “Teach Yourself the Mambo” sub dermal chip, no biggie.
But unless your Paris Hilton on a bender, you’re probably going to want to keep your Kindle where you can find it.