Early in February, Amazon released the second version of its highly successful e-book reader, the Kindle 2. The first orders arrived in purchasers' mailboxes this past week.
People really liked the first model, and the new one is thinner, has better navigation, and other features people are bound to like.
A couple of comments:
- E-books have been "an idea whose time has come" (or whose time was soon to come, or whose time was bound to come, eventually?) for a very long while. The main reason this culture shift keeps getting delayed is simple: nobody has come up with a reading device for e-books that readers like nearly as well as a book. But with the recent advent of both the Kindle and its Sony counterpart, an at least acceptable solution may at last have arrived. Sales figures are hard to get, but even the earlier version of Kindle had a long waiting list.
- As someone who had never handled one of these things until yesterday (February 26), here's what I notice about the Kindle 2: it's every much as bit a sales device as it is a (surprisingly pleasant to use) e-book reader. What Amazon has succeeded brilliantly in doing is to get customers to pay, and handsomely ($359), for a device which makes it tantalizingly easy, fast, and cheap to buy and use Amazon's own inventory (currently numbering 240,000+ titles) of electronic books. Whether we end up liking reading this way or not, that's a pretty ingenious business strategy.
- And what about that eye-catching "Doom of Libraries" bit in the title of this blog-entry? Not likely, at least not right now, and at least not this library.
I was delighted to note that within the generic "Religion and Spirituality" category, there are over 8,000 titles available under "Christianity," and mostly at prices cheaper than the paper editions. Voila, a theological library, right? But on closer inspection, the vast majority of what's available is either popular theology and spirituality (which is fine, but not principally what we buy at Luther) or dated stuff. So at this point, with few exceptions, theology-via-Kindle is mostly shaped by what Amazon can digitize outside of copyright or with a good shot at the mass-market.
There is no reason not to wish Amazon well, but for now what they are doing and what libraries like ours are doing are complementary, not in competition. And because we care not only about collections but about providing the best access possible, the birth of Kindle 2 is good news, not bad.