Re-Kindling A Love of Books

We compare three e-books and find that Amazon's Kindle lights our fire

PHOTOS (from left): bookeen; amazon; sony

Okay, I admit it. I think Amazon’s Kindle is ­beautiful. All white, all plastic with big next-page/previous-page buttons, this wireless reading device performs a magic trick: it melts away, leaving only the words behind.

At only 292 grams (10.3 ounces)—lighter than most paperbacks—the Kindle has a glare-free ”e-ink” screen that is readable for hours on end. Here’s the best part: Say your flight is stuck on the tarmac and you’ve finished your book. You can get trapped in a 2-hour conversation about the weather, or you can use Amazon’s free wireless service to sample a new best seller and then buy it for less than half the cover price.

I pitted the Kindle against its two main rivals, the Sony PRS-505 and a Bookeen Cybook Gen 3. They’re all priced about the same, between US $300 and $400, and they all use the same e-ink technology.

Sony’s offering—an ultramodern marvel with a spiffy metallic case—is sleeker than the Kindle, but I had to look at its controls when I wanted to do something, whereas on the Kindle turning the page quickly became an unconscious flick of a thumb. The Kindle’s clunkiness is actually a plus: because it’s wider on one side, a ­little like a book, you can wrap your hand around it more comfortably.

Paris-based Bookeen is an ­admirable, pioneering e-book ­company and the only one of the three companies that’s marketing a reader ­internationally. Its reader is also sleeker than the Kindle, and what’s more, it’s the only one of the three that allows ­multiple ­formats of copyrighted material. But, like Sony’s machine, it requires a computer. The Kindle does not.

That’s one reason ours is a three-Kindle family. I can e-mail books directly to my technophobic mom and my kid’s babysitter without their ­having to turn on a computer. Up to six Kindlers can share books, and my 11-year-old nephew is sufficiently enamored with it to hint that he’d give up his Nintendo DS to be our fourth.

Why such an emotional ­reaction to a machine? Perhaps it isn’t an attachment to a machine at all. For my own part, the Kindle has helped me rediscover an old and deep love of books, something I had lost in ­writing my own best-selling book, raising two little boys, working my day job, and worrying about the looming deadline for my next book.

The Kindle can’t buy me the time to read, but it makes it easy to carry a book or two—or 200, and 1000 more on a secure ­digital card—wherever I go. It lets me adjust text size for my tired ­middle-aged eyes. It can be read one-handed when wrangling said kids.

Hi. My name is Sherry, and I’m a Kindleholic.

About the Author

SHERRY SONTAG reviewed Amazon’s Kindle and two other eâ''book readers for this issue [p. 25]. Sontag is coauthor of the best seller Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage (Harper Perennial, 1998). She lives and works in New York City.

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