Nook, Kindle, Raz, NPR

By James Fallows

On today's All Things Considered a hands-on comparison of Nook vs Kindle -- something I have not been able to do myself. (More from the interviewee, Gizmodo's Matt Buchanan, here.) I am agnostic about which is better -- or whether something by Apple or somebody else will ultimately be "the" right electronic reader. The one certainty is that the appearance of a new, attractive product from a strong competitor is good for everyone. Even, in an enlightened self-interest sense, for Amazon/Kindle itself, since real competition is likely to make this whole market larger and more viable.

Two more points on which I'm not agnostic are: Is this good for publishing? And, will we get used to reading this way? The answers are Yes, and Yes. Anything that makes it easier to spend money on books, as the Kindle undeniably does, has to be good in the long run for publishing and writers, despite some in-the-meantime disruptions. And I already find it as natural to read on the Kindle's screen as from a paperback. I still like the heft and feel of real books in the right circumstances, and magazines are night-and-day preferable to read in print. But these devices are clearly a step forward overall.

(PS: I disagree with the interesting post by the Atlantic Business Channel's Derek Thompson, who looks at the new e-readers and says that we're headed for a Swiss Army Knife-style combination of many different functions in a few all-purpose electronic gizmos. I'm skeptical because of the dozen previous times through the computer era in which that prediction has not panned out. "Real" cameras are still much better than in-phone cameras; the right device to carry in your pocket, as a phone or PDA, will always be worse to read on than a device with a bigger screen, which in turn is too big to fit in your pocket; keyboards are simply better than little thumbpads for entering more than a few words, and any device with a real keyboard has to be a certain size. So, sure, some things will be combined, but the all in one era is not at hand, and won't be.)
 
I was also on today's show in a "news analysis" spot, as I've done several times in recent weeks with the host, Guy Raz, this time talking about errant airplanes, Fox News, Baby Einstein, etc. I very much like the savvy and cultural mix of the show, and happily serve in the "someone has to dish up the liver and vegetables" capacity.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2009/10/nook-kindle-raz-npr/29018/