Don't Really Care About Touch Screens or Color

So Amazon has unveiled a new Kindle that goes as low as $139. (Not exactly sure where the $139 one is on the site, but I’m sure if you want it you’ll find it.)

One thing to note is that, so far, Amazon is sticking to its guns vis a vis color and touch-screen:

That kind of price point could make Kindle attractive to the mass market consumer. But anyone hoping for a color display or touch screen will have to wait. Amazon said those features — which are central to the popular iPad — aren’t part of the new Kindle.

“Most books are black and white,” said Amazon vice president for Kindle Ian Freed, in an interview at Amazon’s new headquarters in Seattle’s South Lake Union. “What we’re focused on is making the reading experience better.”

I wonder how many readers out there are like me and don’t have much interest in a color/touch screen Kindle. The books I read are pretty much black and white, and those with color elements that I do purchase (e.g. art books) are of the type that are fairly pointless to buy as ebooks. As to the touch screen, I don’t see a whole lot of use for it beyond being able to swish your fingers over the screen and attempt to believe that you’re recreating the mechanical experience of turning the pages of a book.

At any rate, I’m one of those people who likes the idea of a dedicated ereader. Multitasking is overrated, and just because we can build a device that can play music and display books and wash your car all at once doesn’t mean we should.

Obviously this is a much different conversation if we’re talking magazines, in which case the iPad is clearly superior. But were not talking about magazines, and in any case the iPad price seems to be prohibitive if you are thinking of it as a magazine-reading platform. ($500 could buy me a whole lot of magazine subscriptions (I think that would keep me in Harper’s magazines more or less through the rest of my natural life), and I can already read those on my laptop, or even print them out or wait for the post office pony to bring me the print edition.)

One think I’ve noticed is that as I’ve made my way through the Kindle version of Our Mutual Friend I’ve actually found myself longing for the printed book. This seems to be directly related to my enjoyment of the book–the more I like something I’m reading, the more I want to interact with it as a book object while I read, and the more I’d like to place it on my shelves once I’ve finished it. There’s also a vague sort of collector angle . . . a writer such as Dickens, with a huge amount of prestige and an unassailable place in the literary canon, is someone I want to have on my bookshelves, to look at and for future reference. Having the electronic book just doesn’t give the same sensation of ownership.

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Okay, now all I want is for my mail to be delivered by a post office pony. Thanks for that.

Scott, when you mentioned Bleak House as an example of a summer reading project, I nearly recommended Our Mutual Friend as an alternative. I think it’s better, and will admit that I found it through the glowing recommendation of Italo Calvino. Regarding the new Kindle, this is the first one that actually caught my eye, and that I would consider purchasing. The lack of color, though, definitely annoys me. I notice that one of the free classic novel downloads for Kindle is R.L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island – which has those incredible illustrations by N.C. Wyeth. Seeing those in black and white just wouldn’t be the same (I’ve learned from looking for Wyeth prints online that the color quality really makes a difference.) I remember getting turned on to Conan Doyle’s The White Company and Stevenson’s Kidnapped in large part because of Wyeth’s illustrations, so for me it amounts to an abridged version of the novel to see it in black and white. But the touch screen I can do without.

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