KINDLE-ING

Amazon’s new Kindle is the sixth coming of the e-book; none has succeeded so far, but this one has a chance. Joy says the little gadget kindled her imagination. Bob says at a list price of $399, he would only buy it at a fire sale.

So much has already been written about it, what is there left to say? Well, we have a few thoughts. The big advantage of the 10-ounce Kindle is it can holdĀ Kindlethe equivalent of 200 printed books, as well as audio books. They can be downloaded by wireless for free through Amazon’s arrangement with high-speed networks; this would otherwise cost you $60 a month. A book downloads in three or four seconds. (Yes, we were amazed by that.) So far, you can use the wireless download only in the United States; broader coverage should come later.

You can download newspaper and magazine content as well as books. Generally, newspaper feeds run $6 to $15 a month, but it often comes in straight from the newsroom in the wee hours of the morning, beating physical publication by several hours. This might come in handy for speculators and revolutionaries.

Costs for books run $10 for new books, but just $2 or $3 for others. Amazon has 90,000 titles available. You can get free books to download from Project Gutenberg (Gutenberg.org), which has more than 20,000 titles. Joy downloaded Charles Dickens’ “The Pickwick Papers” to her computer, and the transfer to the Kindle was as easy as using a USB flash drive.

Most classic works can be found at the Gutenberg Web site. It has a big science fiction section. (Book sellers and publishers go nuts about downloading books because they claim it will destroy their business. In fact, e-books have never amounted to more than one-10th of 1 percent of total book sales.)

You can highlight passages and clip pages and save them to “My Clippings” on either the Kindle or your computer. (Bob had a professor at the University of Chicago who commented that he noticed students often highlighted passages they happened to agree with and then wrote “brilliant” or “great observation” in the margin.)

The Kindle has its own e-mail address, and you can download your e-mail from Web-based services and receive Word attachments. In theory, you should then be able to answer the e-mail. We tried this and it actually worked, though the replies took several hours to get back to the sender.As long as we’re on to some flaws, the biggest ones for Bob were the buttons for “next page” and “previous page.” These are huge and mounted on the sides of the 7 1/2-by-5-inch Kindle. Since people normally hold a book or tablet by the sides, not top and bottom, you are forever accidentally clicking through the book without meaning to. Joy said that after three or four days she got used to it and was able to avoid inadvertently flipping through pages. Bob said he would never get used to it.

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