Cover to Cover #290A: Kindle Anyone?

Amazon Kindle Michael M., Summer, Michael S. and Lorrie are in the studio this week, carrying the discussion about ebooks and ebook readers farther, talking about the Amazon Kindle and other readers and other features beyond books that they can be used for.

Do you have one? Do you want one? What are your thoughts on the Kindle, and other ebook readers? Call or email and let us know.

Dragon Page Library: Michael, Summer and Michael handle the lighter load of Library entries this time. Black Magic Woman by Justin Gustainis; Queen of Dragons by Shana Abe; The Ancient by R. A. Salvatore; Lord of the Night by Robin T. Popp.

Submitting Listener comments: If you have any suggestions or comments, please let us know!

Don't forget, you can also comment on books listed in The Library... look through the listings and feel free to post your thoughts and comments there.

Promo: Tesseracts Eleven: Cory Doctorow says Come Read It!


  1. John VanSeters says

    About the Kindle, when I first heard of it I really wanted one. However, now that I've checked further into it I see that to use the Kindle I have to be "locked into" using Amazon e books. I'm not sure what it's called but I think what I'm looking for is DRM . Also, my wife and I both have a habit of giving our books away after we read them. I understand that I can not do that on the Kindle also. So it looks like hard copy for me unless the Sony will allow e book sharing.

  2. Regarding this Kindle. I've been doing it for years with my Palm and Much cheaper than the Kindle. It's great when you're taking public transportation and can read a book with one hand and hold on with the other.

  3. this is only for people on the higher-end of the middle class, that have a active reading time where a book is not desired(commutes, carpools, class times), enjoy pdastyle reading.

    not a flexible option machine at the price and i think it might flop pretty hard.

  4. These eReader machines are pretty expensive, so are PDAs though they have other uses as well.

    For a while now I have been using my cell phone as an eReader. Since I already paid for the phone this makes the reader free. I get my books from they give away hundreds of classic titles all packaged up ready to read. You can install direct from their mobile site, or via a PC.

    The phone is the idea size for my hand, I am already trained to keep it charged and to keep it with me, finally the reading experience is ... well it just feels like reading the story, the reading device disappears. A wider variety of titles would be nice, but they have plenty to keep me going for now.

  5. It’s big outlay for no return. I can already read the Project Guttenberg books on my PDA.

    Like MP3 players, ebook readers (as they are currently marketed) won’t begin to take off until there is a major/popular source of up to date free (read pirated) stuff available.

    If it came with a credit, for say, 5 books and a 50% reduction on all future books (or more – there are no printing or trucking costs), I might be tempted.

    If I could buy popular books, at a significant discount, directly from the author (i.e. a bigger royalty for them and cheaper book for me), and it came with extras, like authors comments on the book and the process of writing it, I might be tempted.

    If I could get one for $70 when I subscribe to my local library’s (as yet non-existent) online digital repository, again I might be tempted.

    Otherwise I don’t really see the point.

  6. Big? I don't know. I actually have more problems with the format from the perspective of most 'books' are PDF docs that have been printed to a standard book size format, then shrunk down for th eReader. That said, it's a much more readable screen than any pda I've ever handled.

    What is 'local library' for an internet connected device? Any place on the Internet? You'll never read the contents of Project Gutenberg, and most people will never finish the 'Great Books' series either. That said, are you looking for the cream of the crop that shows up in the book section of the local Wallgreens? That's current.

    Content doesn't have to be pirated to be free either. Almost every major periodical today and every blog has an RSS feed. a feed dumper that builds a table of contents with chapters or pages for each article in that feed seems to me to be a trivial project. It's just another RSS feed reader. Sync it up at 4 in the morning before you head off to work, then again at 4 in the afternoon before you head home, and you can have the major news stories for both trips. Those major news stories don't all have to be national, in most cases you can just as easily grab a feed from your local paper.

    The Sony e-reader came with excerpts from 14 books to decide if you like the format. the e-books do tend to be less expensive than the bound paper editions, and in some cases the author is the one selling the e-books, directly. Whether there are additional features would be either up to the author, or if the e-book went through a publisher, of that company.

    As for price? It's not a long term issue. It's an issue for the moment, at least partially due to the economies of scale surrounding the medium. I have little doubt that the price will go down. How much and how soon, I won't predict, but Sony is not known for keeping prices on popular products high. And for them the eReader has been flying off the few shelves they've decided to put it on.

    More notes in my own blog.

  7. Sorry, didn't link to my blog... (this is the second entry, more to follow, but most likely not limited to e-book readers. 🙂

  8. Well for the moment, my thoughts on ebook readers:

    The readers are too expensive, yes I'm sure they will come down in price, but for the moment they are out of my price range.

    If libraries could squirt books to these readers then DRM wouldn't be so bad (they could set to be unreadeable in two weeks say). But I'm wary of buying stuff I can give away to anybody else (and I'm not talking about pirating).

    The price of ebooks, especially magazines. There seems far too little difference between the ebook price and the cover price of he print version. F&SF I'm looking at you. You also seem to lose artworks that is included in the print edition. At least the guys at TTA have promised to include the artwork in the forthcoming ebook editions of Interzone.

    At the moment I feel the only way I would use an ebook reader now if I was forced to do it by lack of books and magazines I want in print.

    Oh and I think Summer mentioned about the smell of old books. I bought Special Deliverance by Cliffird D Simak from the Amazon Marketplace. This book stinks so bad it makes my eyes water. In fact I find the smell so offputting and distracting I can only read the book for short periods.

  9. can't give away I meant!

  10. @vanamonde

    sounds like you received a 'special deliverance' indeed! 😀

  11. There are several items that need to be addressed before an item such as a Kindle gets wide use:

    -Public Libraries. Remember them? They work because you have a physical item that you can loan out for free than has to be returned within a set amount of time. A very worthy public endeavor, especially for those people who can't afford to buy all the books that they want. For the poor, especially, it is an invaluable resource. The eBook concept seems to leave those who can't afford books behind.

    -Oversized books. Books such as reference tomes, non-fiction "how to" books, and other items heavy on illustration will look very small on a Kindle. You'd need a supersized Kindle to make such a thing work, and the cost for such an item would go up accordingly.

    -Children's books. Unlike a Kindle, you can give a board book or a Golden Book to a little kid, and they can spend hours pouring through it, inventing stories with the pictures they see. I'd hate to see how a Kindle would work with repeated droppings from a kid.

    -Trading trees for batteries. One big problem with all of the portable devices today is the battery factor. You need to generate electricty to charge the batteries (from a power plant somewhere), and when the batteries are finally spent, you need to find a safe home for them. And how many people really recycle the batteries? Even the regular Alkaline batteries ought to be recycled properly. By comparison, at least trees are a renewable resource.

    I'm not saying that eBooks won't have a home, since for the right user they can be invaluable. However, eBooks like the Kindle are limited in scope to books of a certain size and emphasis (the standard sized mass market paperback and standard sized hardcover/trade paperback) and seem to emphasize the subscription over anything else. Plus, like anything else stored in memory out there, copyright protections and DRM were made to be broken, and free electronic copies will probably show up on shadow sites quite easily as eBooks gain acceptance.

  12. I admit it's been a very long time since I've actually been in a library, but I wonder if it would be feasible to come up with a version of one of these ereaders for use in schools and libraries?

    And I also wonder if ebooks could be rented like other digital media, like DVDs and video games...

  13. I'm an owner of an Ebookwise 1150. I bought it because I could download books, not only from, but also from free resources like I'm a big Creative Commons reader, so that's awesome.

    I'd like to see a monthly subscription fee like what audible has for audio books. I pay $20 US a month to get one free download per month. If I want, my credits can accumulate so I can use them to get bigger items.

    Along those lines, I'd like to see the credits work on size of download basis. So, for example anything up to 500 mb would be 1 credit. Anything from 501mb to 1 gb would be 2 credits.

    Also, Summer, you can get ebooks from public libraries. check out for more about that.

  14. Hoo boy.

    Items are checked out, readable using Adobe Reader, and then expire after a set time. The one part of the entry in the Cleveland Public Library's website gives me pause: "At this time, you can delete the expired file(s) from your machine."

    I'm skeptical whether an expired file can't be cracked and then read with a pirated universal reader. Hackers are nothing if not inventive, and if you joust with them on a regular basis you have to give them props for that.

    However, this doesn't address another major reason why people use libraries: they can't afford to buy books. If they can't afford to buy books, can they afford to own a computer to enable them to use eBooks from a local library? The computer (or Kindle) becomes the cost of entry to reading, whereas with a library of today, there is no such barrier. At my local branches, you can find a lot of people using the computers at the library for research and other things because they don't have one at home.

  15. Actually, my thinking was more along the lines that you'd check out the device with, say 3-5 e-books of your choice loaded onto it by the librarian.

    Which is why I was wondering about a device specially designed for library and school use. It'd be like the iPods, where only the authorized computers in the library or the school could upload or remove content from them.

    From what I've seen, an iPod Touch the size of a mass market paperback might be a happy medium, especially considering the existing zoom features. But what would it take for that device to not be cost-prohibitive, yet durable to stand up to being communal property, checked out of the library almost all of the time?

  16. I think that would be a nice idea, and if production for such items could be to such a degree that it would eliminate the temptation to pilfer the device, that'd be better. It would also eliminate the entry cost level.

    I wonder what the cost point would be before a library system could go and deploy something like that. Even so, it wouldn't eliminate books entirely, I think.

  17. I think we could have another 100 years of technological advancements and still never get rid of books entirely.

    New ways of publishing and distributing them, perhaps. Streamlining the method in which authors can get their works to a wider audience and streamlining the method (and speed) with which they get paid for those works, one can hope 🙂

    But I'm not sure anyone seriously wants to entirely eliminate and replace books. I certainly don't. Would I like to see more ways available for people to read books? Would I like to see books become more available and accessible to those without the means to pay $8 to $25 a pop everytime they wanted to own a book? Hell yes.

    I know people who've taken the Book Crossing idea a few steps further, and just leaving books at bus stops and other places, in the hopes someone will pick them up and read them.

    I mean, what else would you do with books you don't want or need anymore that you can't sell at used bookstores or on Amazon? The last two libraries I talked to someone at (this was more than 5 years ago) said they didn't take outside books anymore.

    Actually, what do you do to pass on books to new homes when used book stores won't take them?

  18. Locally, the public library will accept books and then the group Friends of the Public Library will periodically have sales of those collected books. Those sales are then used to help fund special programs at the library branches.

    Other libraries (such as the one at the city where I attended college) used to have the "Bag of Books for a Buck", where they'd give you an oversized bag, and if you could fill it with used books they were selling, it would cost only a dollar.

    There's also a decent business in the used book market locally. There's the ubiquitous Half Price Books chain as well as a bunch of independent second hand bookstores. One thing I noticed locally over the past 10-15 years is that as the small independent bookstores have dried up due to competition from the monster chain stores, there has been a thriving independent second hand market that has taken it's place.

    As for what I do, it depends. If they're textbooks, my wife will go to the local university, find the department that the books would identify with (Psychology texts in the Psychology Department, for instance), and put them out in the hall with the sign "Free to a Good Home". From personal experience, some college students can't resist the concept of having an extra reference text around. If the books are non-fiction in relatively good shape and on a recent topic, I'll try selling them to Half Price Books or an independent. Others, I'll donate to the library.

    Being a SF fan, I've often wondered what would happen if a future civilization found a (mostly) bookless society- would they think we were mostly illiterates who couldn't read, since they wouldn't have known about such items as the Kindle? Rather like the "light cubes" in Barbara Hambly's Dark trilogy; nobody knew what the cubes were for until the main wizard "turned one on".

  19. Thomas from Flag says

    Wired's 10 Letdowns of 2007, and this just happens to top the list. DRM, no native PDF, lousy browser, as Scoble noted no gifting feature. Devices are likely to become more locked down over time, not less, so I doubt I'd ever bother to spend the money.