Amazon has designed its Kindle electronic book reader for convenience, allowing users to carry around a library without the need for bulky books. While many people have touted the Kindle as a replacement for traditional books, problems with the device and with Amazon’s policies alongside the public’s staunch attachment to the traditional book format, have kept it from truly fulfilling that role.
Amazon is very careful about ownership rights to its digital archives. While Kindle owners do pay for their electronic books, they do not technically own them, according to Computerworld. Amazon’s digital rights management policies keep Kindle users from making copies of their books for storage, and Amazon has the ability to delete books from user’s Kindles at any time.
While the Kindle may be great at displaying downloaded electronic books from Amazon, it does not make it easy to convert PDF documents, something users increasingly need to do, according to Computerworld. The newest version, the Kindle DX, makes the process slightly easier, but it is still cumbersome and often doesn’t work, according to the Washington Post. Amazon requires conversion of all documents to its proprietary format. Often, this conversion process doesn’t work properly and documents are unreadable on the device.
As touted by Amazon, one of the biggest benefits of the Kindle is its utility as a travel reader. Traveling with heavy books can be an annoyance and, with airline's carry-on baggage fees, it can be expensive. Owners can use the Kindle in the airport and in mid-flight. However, according to the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, airlines require that owners turn off all electronic devices, including Kindles, during take-off and landing, times when many travelers enjoy reading a book.
The magnetic e-ink in the Kindle warps if owners put too much pressure on the screen, according to Amazon. The result is a frozen screen or a Kindle that won’t turn on. As of 2010, Amazon will replace most Kindles with a broken screen in two weeks; but, in the meantime, Kindle owners might want to pick up a book.
In addition to the technical problems of the Kindle, the move from traditional books to electronic ones has implications that are more widespread. Society does not yet know how the experience of reading a book versus a Kindle affects learning, memory or attention. People owning books, reading them in public and displaying them in their homes have been important cultural and social behaviors for thousands of years. The removal of books could have significant consequences for society.
References & Resources
- Washington Post: Three Problems with the New Kindle
- Computerworld: Think You Own Your Kindle Books?
- Electronic Code of Federal Regulations: Title 14: Aeronautics and Space--Part 91: General Operating and Flight Rules
- CNET News: My Kindle Display Self-Destructed
- CNET News: Old, Real Book vs. Kindle Alternative: Which Wins?