What is a Kindle?
In the course of the last few years a quiet revolution has taken place in the world of publishing. While sales of traditional books, particularly hardbacks, have fallen sharply, sales of electronic books have rocketed. Much of this growth is the result of the introduction of a single device – the Amazon Kindle – leading many who have not yet encountered the new technology asking: just what is a Kindle anyway?
The Kindle is an electronic book reader and currently the #1 best-selling product on Amazon’s UK website. In addition to a choice of more than 700,000 books, the Kindle can be used to read newspapers, magazines and blogs, all of which are instantly delivered to your device without the need to connect it to a computer.
What is a Kindle like to read? In common with most dedicated eBook devices, the screen of the Kindle uses e-ink technology which closely replicates the look of real ink on paper. This means that you won’t strain your eyes while reading a Kindle the way you can do while reading from the brightly lit screen of a laptop or smart phone. It also means the Kindle can be read in bright sunlight. Because e-ink uses little power, most Kindle users find they only have to charge them once every few weeks.
Two versions of the Kindle are currently available. The entry-level model, which costs £89, can download books over a Wi-Fi connection. A higher spec model, known as the Kindle Keyboard, is also available. This costs £149 but includes a connection to a 3G network allowing owners to download books from anywhere in the world, even if there is no Wi-Fi network available. A one-off fee, which is part of the purchase price, gives owners access to 3G for as long as they own their Kindle Keyboard.
Both versions can hold roughly 3,500 books but the Kindle Keyboard also has the ability to play MP3 files or audio books, either through its built-in speakers or by connecting a pair of headphones to the audio jack.
What is a Kindle best for? Electronic books have many advantages over their traditional paper and ink cousins. Beyond the obvious fact that you can carry thousands of books with you wherever you go – ideal for holiday makers – the Kindle also allows you to look up words using a pre-loaded dictionary. Some Kindle editions are significantly cheaper than paper ones and many books that would otherwise be out of print are now available for the device.
The Kindle has also been widely praised by authors. Many writers now release novellas or short stories exclusively on the Kindle, happy to have found a way to publish items that no longer have a traditional market. Other authors are eagerly releasing low-price versions of their early works in order to encourage readers to try them. In some cases, the work of these best-selling authors is available for 99 pence or less.
All in all, the Kindle is at the forefront of a huge sea change in the world of publishing, but one which should ultimately prove to be good news for authors, readers and publishers alike. So the next time someone asks you what a Kindle is, you’ll be able to give them an answer.