Amazon's New Kindle E-Reader

New KindleNew Kindle

Perhaps you've seen one of the first-generation Kindle e-readers from Amazon, one of those rare little creatures that everyone seems to have heard about but no one has actually seen. As someone who's heard quite a bit about the first version of Kindle but never met one, I was interested to hear that Amazon is now releasing a second-generation product, touted as Kindle 2. The changes appear to be minor, and by all accounts, seem to have improved what was already a good piece of technology. The new Kindle comes with more memory space, holding up to 1,500 titles, a battery that lasts 25 percent longer than before, better text definition, and a sleeker design. The Kindle 2 also has automated audio-read voices; you can choose from a male or female voice and plug your headphones in for a listen.

Bestselling books can be downloaded for about $10, and older titles range from about $3-$6, which is cheaper than the printed retail price these titles fetch in bookstores. Is the Kindle more economical than print books? Well, if you can afford the $359 sticker price, maybe. But you can always use your library for free--even if you have to wait for a popular new title to make its way down the hold list. You can also download e-books and e-audio books with your library card.

The Kindle allows you to download an e-book in seconds, but you can't share books with another Kindle user. Your downloads are YOUR downloads, your friend Sammy's downloads are HIS downloads. With print books, you could always lend a favorite book to a friend.

One of the other arguments in favor of the Kindle is that it's environmentally conscious, it saves trees, books get thrown out all the time, yadda yadda yadda. But what about the processes used to manufacture the Kindle? I can bet it's not as non-toxic as baking soda and vinegar. Can you recycle the Kindle when it becomes obsolete? You can recycle print books, that's for sure. Take that, Kindle!

Lest I be taken as a technophobe, let me just say that I'm excited about the Kindle. Anything that gets people excited about reading is a good thing in my book. But I doubt I'll ever buy one, and not just because I can't afford one. There are a couple of reasons for this: I like the feel and smell of paper and book-binding glue, I like to write in my books (not the library's books, of course!), I enjoy the physical act of going to the library and browsing the shelves, and I don't like the idea of having my personal library held captive in an electronic device. But probably most of all, this thing is small--Kindle 2 weighs 10.2 ounces. It's 8" by about 5.3" and it's about as wide as a ball-point pen. I once ran my Apple iShuffle through the washing machine, having forgot it in my pocket. More than likely, I would accidentally destroy the new Kindle. I am not to be trusted with new technology.