Media Clippings

Jeff Bezos, of Amazon fame, recently unveiled his effort at cornering the e-book market; this time out it's called the Kindle. Its nationwide presentation was executed with lots of pomp and circumstance, even while, almost simultaneously, there was talk of a decline in reading, especially among the young, who more than likely comprise the device's target audience. But none of this seemed to faze Bezos one bit. Nor did the first set of reviews for his new e-reader.

Newsweek devoted its Nov. 26 cover story to the advent of the Kindle. And the author of the piece, Steven Levy, also happened to be one of the first journalists to get a chance to tinker with the new mechanism. In a sidebar to the main story, he critiqued Bezos' next big idea.

Levy said that the Kindle fit his hands pretty well and was, overall, comfortable to hold. Another plus was that the huge Next Page and Previous Page buttons on the sides of the Kindle made it easy to keep reading at a steady pace.

On the other hand, the fact that these buttons are so large made it difficult to pick up the machine without inadvertently turning to a virtual page.

But navigation through the numerous features does come "via a novel system centered on a clickable 'select wheel' that moves a silvery cursor up and down a slim bar, like an elevator moving through a shaft." Levy said that it was all "dead simple" to control, but it did seem to be a little on the slow side.

Still, according to the writer, the real "acid test" was whether or not this new device could transport a reader "into that trancelike zone where the world falls away." Since Levy said he's been using a Sony Reader for a while — that works on the same E Ink technology — he imagined the Kindle would have that quality of otherwordliness — and he was right. He read a Dan Silva thriller, the new novel by Richard Russo and what he called "Eric Clapton's unsatisfying memoir" on the Kindle, and he didn't feel he'd missed anything he might have gotten by contact with a "real" book.

He also said that reading his daily dose of The New York Times and other papers on the Kindle was pretty exciting. But, he wrote, "the interface for newspaper reading is disappointing — you have to painstakingly go through article lists, and often the stories are insufficiently described. Still, getting the Times in one burst on a daily basis, no matter where you are, is closer to getting a hard-copy delivery than picking out articles on the Web, and it costs $13.99 a month compared with the $50-plus I pay for home delivery. Do the math."

Levy summed it all up by saying that the mechanism "is a high point so far in electronic reading.

"Deciding whether it's worth the $399 price tag is a classic early-adopter question: If history has any validity, you'll eventually be able to buy an improved version for less. But I'd say that any voluminous reader, particularly one who travels, would be delighted to receive a Kindle by the fireplace this holiday season." u



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