This is the era of all things electronic and anything that won't plug into a wall or take double-a batteries should keep a close eye on their future. Very few things are immune. An example of an area that has clearly been hard hit is the postal service. When people can simply send an e-mail that will arrive to the recipient in less than a minute why mail a letter that will take at least one day? But what has caught my attention the most is electronic reading. This can refer to books online in general, but more specifically my eye is on the Kindle.
For at least two years now I've been seeing ads on Amazon.com or the subway for the Kindle, which is, in the simplest terms, an I-pod for all things literary. You can purchase books at half the price and upload them directly to the Kindle device. Subscriptions to magazine and newspapers can also be transferred to your Kindle. It hasn't exactly swept over the nation like MP3s or those special texting phones with the qwerty keyboard, but I've been seeing it slowly creeping into the general population, and now it's come into my home.
You see, my younger sister received the Kindle as a belated birthday present and everybody has been very excited to hold it and see what it is like. It does give off an impressive appearance. The memory capacity is large enough to hold several hundred books and it comes with a built in dictionary so when you come across a word that you don't know all you need to do is click on it and the definition is literally right at your fingertips. There is even a function to have the book read out loud to you, sort of like an audio book except without the human voice. I can't give a completely thorough analysis of the Kindle since I haven't been back home long enough to sit down and read a book cover to cover (although that expression may have to go in this circumstance) but I'll admit that I am still not convinced to switch my reading from paper to computer, mainly for two reasons. The first is the most obvious which is that the main bulk of my reading material is Jewish books and until the frum book companies decide to also start offering their books on Kindle there really isn't anything for me to purchase. Amazon does have a button to click on that will let the book companies know that you are interested in getting their books made into the Kindle format but I'm not sure yet whether the interest is large enough in the Orthodox community for electronic books and seforim to make it worthwhile for the Jewish book companies to start offering their books electronically.
Second off is that I think I've just been brought up for too long on books that are thick, smell fresh, and are filled with paper that that particular method of reading has become a relaxing source of enjoyment for myself and I don't really feel any need to try a new way to read. It's hard to switch to something different when you are comfortable with the original. I feel so old saying that since most people who have trouble adapting to technology are 50 years my senior but maybe the electronic phenomon has bypassed me as well. Overall I see the praticallity of having so many books at your fingertips on a screen that is essentially the thickness of your finger and the benefits that such a device has to offer to those who have reached a level of comfort in electronic reading. My sister has already found the Kindle to be very useful and I know others who feel the same way, but for now I think I'll stick with the regular books.