Amazon's announcement of the Kindle 2 e-reader has book-lovers in a tizzy again, wondering how anyone could give up timeless paper-based books for the electronic version. Thing is, no one has to give up anything. I've got shelves of books and a Kindle, and I'm reading more than ever--mostly because of the Kindle.
Someone who's never actually read a book on the Kindle focuses on the things you can't do with it. Your favorite author can't autograph a book on the Kindle. You can't dog-ear pages. (Though you can virtually bookmark pages on the Kindle, the autograph point is true.)
But that same someone is often surprised by the stuff you can do with a Kindle book. When you encounter a word you haven't seen before, you can look it up in the built-in dictionary in two clicks. (As a vocabulary nerd, this is the feature I love most.) You can highlight sections of the book as you read which get saved to a text file on the device. Then you can import the text of those paragraphs to your computer for stowing away in your favorite note-taking application or to include in your book journal or blog review.
You can take lengthy PDF files that are difficult to read on the computer because of its bright, eyeball-hostile screen, and send them to your Kindle to read it in its electronic ink (which is so paper-like it's readable in San Diego's noon sun). You can enlarge or reduce the size of the type in the pages of your Kindle book (no need for Mom to put on her glasses when you want to show her something). Even though the Kindle's keyboard is awkward, you can type your own notes into sections of the book as you read--and import them onto your computer as well.
When your friends tell you there's a book they know you'll love, you don't have to wait till your next trip to the bookstore to check it out. You can get a sample chapter on the Kindle on the spot, and if you like what you see, you can get the rest, without leaving your couch. (In truth it's a book-buying machine dressed up as a book-reading machine; I've bought and enjoyed so many more books since I've had it. At least Kindle books are generally cheaper than their dead tree versions.)
I have a cherished collection of paper books, some of which are autographed by their author, which grace the shelves of my home and will never be replaced. But if I want to read the most current bestseller that I've only got a passing interest in, I'm buying it on my Kindle. If I want a non-fiction or educational book that I want to take notes on and highlight sections for further reading and research, I'm getting it on the Kindle.
In short, my one piece of advice for folks wondering about the Kindle is this: don't knock it till you try it. If getting your hands on one isn't an option, at least watch the whole video demo.