Newbie Kindle reactions (cont)

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1) Whole different way of thinking about buying books:

Sitting on the airplane at Newark airport Friday afternoon, getting ready for the 13-hour flight to Beijing. People are still trudging aboard, still OK to talk on the phone, chatting with a friend who mentions a great new book he's sure I'll want to read. While talking with him, I take out the Kindle that I got three days earlier, search the Kindle online store, find and buy the book, have it delivered to the Kindle to read during the flight -- all within about two minutes total. Huge reduction in the gap between "thought that a book might be interesting" and "paying money for that book." Works only for books in the Kindle catalogue, of course.  Implications not so good for book stores but positive for the overall industry of selling ideas  / thoughts / writing, I would think.

2)  And about not buying books:

Giant supply of books for free download, in Kindle and other eBook formats, here and here, among other sites. They're mainly out-of-copyright classics, from Ulysses to War and Peace to Huckleberry Finn to Persuasion to Looking Backward to The Oregon Trail to Anne of Green Gables to the Complete Works of Shakespeare (and many by PG Wodehouse). Plus a few new ones. Small donations solicited here. In most cases you download to your computer and transfer to Kindle via USB cable, which is extremely easy.

3) And about the process of reading:

Spent six or seven hours of the flight reading on the Kindle. Perfectly pleasant and legible. Only one inconvenience relative to " real" books -- harder to flip ahead or back several pages at a time. (You scroll page by page, or else go to the table of contents.) And a kind of mental-picture adjustment: it's easier to insert bookmarks or placeholders, or seach for a specific word in the text; harder to have a remembered visual image of a certain passage as it fits on a certain place on a page. Not good for books where pictures, illustrations, maps, production quality matter a lot. Very, very good for reading Word .DOC files or .PDFs that I would otherwise have to read on the computer.

My theory: television didn't eliminate radio, telephones didn't eliminate personal conversations, eBooks won't eliminate real books. People always find more ways to communicate, and this will be another way. Very good for some kinds of information, not so much for others. A welcome new addition to the mix. 

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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