The humble book has come a long way since Gutenberg reeled off the first texts from his press and today the battle seems to have begun between the leafy, long standing champion of literature, the common paperback and the young but popular upstart of the ebook.
This change is rife with similarity to the battle for music about a decade ago when MP3 took the stance as the market leader in consumer music. Comparisons can be easily made about the switch to a digital medium from something analogue such as vinyl - the case differs slightly in the move away from CD - to a digital version but to shift from the cultured, stoicism of a book to a machine is horse of a different colour altogether.
Music, especially that which does not conform to a highbrow elite view of culture, has always been deemed as a lesser art and so its transition to a more throw-away digital medium was viewed as a natural progression.
That same shift in dynamic for the literary world is coming up against a more fervent opposition which, for all it's best wishes it seems, will crumble under the pressure and freight train tenacity of technological progress.
The amazon kindle has come to light as the clear leader in single purpose electronic book readers. Although now onto its third official release which has claimed mastery over digital literature, the device has been around since 2007.
Using elegant E ink technology which in essence 'prints' each page as viewed using positively and negatively charged micro capsules to create a matte finish page which is the closest one can get to a paper and ink electronic substitute. I use the caveat 'single purpose' because that has been my gripe about the media comparisons the kindle has received.
I was an early adopter of the latest v3 edition of the device and as an avid reader have not looked back since, I decided on a kindle because I wanted a product that does one thing very well. In modern society we are bombarded the necessity for things that multitask, a product that can cover all bases. Most modern 'smart phones' are encroaching on the productivity of home computers and marginalising MP3 players and digital cameras as part of their appeal. In fact a recent review of photo hosting website flickr showed that apple's iphone4 is the most popular 'camera' amongst its users.
It is this jack-of-all-trades drive which upset me about reviews and various head to heads for the kindle. As it began to create a pull on the book market its was clear that it was the leading book reader available and so there seemed to be a hunt to find a device that could better it and in this mad scrabble someone thought it a good idea to compare it to the ipad.
At first I was sceptical of the ipad, it seemed to be attempting to create a niche in a market where there was no necessity for anything outside the binary of laptop/desktop. I am also wary of apple products in their first few iterations, granted, down the line apple products have a tendancy to surpass all their competitors but they also create want before knowing what works, take the iphone4 reception problem. But my cautiousness aside the ipad is now proving itself to be a pioneer in mobile computing by building in programs such as photoshop from the ground up and adding musical creativity tools.
This is my point, the ipad is a computer capable of many tasks and just because it has its own book store (and even has capabilities to download a kindle app) does not mean that it is, by nature, the same beast as the kindle. There are occasions where the kindle reaches beyond its necessity mostly in its rudimentary internet browser, but in the end it has pitched its flag as a book reader pure and simple, beyond that all development has gone into allowing it to its one job exceptionally well.
When my kindle first arrived I scoured the internet for tips and tricks to get the most out of it, on twitter I was confronted with a tweet (which I paraphrase here) reading;
there are two types of ebook readers those who use a kindle and read in the day and those who use and ipad and can read both day and night.
I found this utterly ridiculous - obviously ridicule accounts for roughly 80% of all tweets - denouncing the kindle because E ink isn't a backlit LCD negates the very point of a book reader. The display of the kindle is engineered to provide a matte, paper like finish and therefore cannot be backlit. Staring at an LCD display for hours while trying to read is, even to the most hardened techno-phobe, going to cause tired eyes and lower your enjoyment.
I'm not here to denounce the ipad, on the contrary around ipad 4 or 5 i may think in investing for mobile music making, but comparisons to the kindle are ridiculous, one is a multifunctional computing tool where the other is an electronic book.
Conclusively I cannot recommend the kindle more to any avid reader and I think that it holds just the right amount of decorum to appease the status and respect which books command, sales of ebooks alone seem to agree. It is simple and stylish and pays constant homage to the trustworthy paperback while allowing reading a place in a modern technologically saturated world.