06 May 2009

Kindle DX

Jeff Bezos wrote:

A strange thing happened on the way to the paperless society. We humans created more paper than ever before. Computer printers (and their evil companion, the ink-toner cartridge) have proliferated, and most of us routinely print out and lug around loads of personal and professional documents. Why? It’s not that buying printers or changing ink-toner cartridges is fun. It’s because reading on paper is better than reading on traditional computer displays. Printing has been worth the hassle.

(It’s currently on the Amazon home page, but I didn’t see a permanent link.)

Reading on paper is better than reading on traditional computer displays? There was a time when that was certainly true, but it hasn’t been true in a long time.

Why do I print things out? There are a lot of factors, of course, but here are currently the primary ones.

Area: I can spread four sheets of paper out on my desk. Buying a display or multiple displays that can show as much at one time is expensive.

Flipping through papers is often easier than managing windows.

I do have a portable screen, but it has less area and flipping between documents on it can be more overhead than managing windows.

These are all trade-offs. The point is not that paper has a clear advantage for any of them. The point is that paper still has enough of an advantage enough of the time to make printing worth the hassle.

The Kindle DX does add another variable to the mix: A portable display with a larger area and different characteristics. It doesn’t, however, fundamentally change the equation.

Having said that, I’ve been wanting something the size of the Kindle DX for a long time. There’s a reason you can buy—e.g.—paper notebooks in pocket, digest, and letter sizes. I think there are roles for devices in similar sizes.

3 comments:

Matthew James Stanham said...

I have to admit I find reading on a computer display to be more of a strain on the eyes than reading from a book. I cannot explain why, but it seems to be true to me.

Robert Fisher said...

Generally available displays are certainly still inferior to paper, of course.

Although—again—there are trade-offs. So, make that “in some ways”. I found the back-light on my Rocket eBook more practical than the many book lights I’ve tried. Which was more important to me than—say—the lower resolution.

It seems pretty clear to me—with the amount of reading that people are doing on their computers and phones these days—that the significance of the “harder to read” factor is pretty low these days for a lot of people.

Have you had a chance to see a Kindle, Matthew? I’d be interested to know what you’d think about their E-Ink display.

Matthew James Stanham said...

Not yet; my most technology orientated and affluent friend (and therefore most likely to buy such a device) is opposed to it on the basis that leaving a book behind on a bus is annoying, but leaving all of your books and the reader behind would be unacceptably bad. He will probably buy something like it sooner or later, though.

I will be looking out for one of these next time I am in town, though, but realistically, I would need to read a book on one to get a true feeling for whether the trade off is acceptable.

On the other hand, with a Kindle I probably would not be having the problems I have been having with my copy of Field of Glory, which seems to have an alarming propensity to pick up and retain finger marks from clean hands. A printer friend of mine believes that the ink may not have been sufficiently "fixed" to the paper on account of moisture. :(