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A Kindle for the rest of us?

Amazon launches free Kindle for PC

Teaching at the University of Maryland University College, I’ve seen a couple of students using Amazon Kindles. The reading device’s new toy appeal always causes a crowd of curious onlookers to form around the Kindle users: “Do you like it?” “What books do you have on it?” “How long does the battery last?” “How much did it cost?” But selling for $259 this week on Amazon.com, Kindles fall under the category of wants, not needs. I need a new winter coat; I don’t need a Kindle.

So the news today that Amazon is introducing “Kindle for PC” as a free application really caught my attention. I might not have a Kindle, but I definitely have a PC. That single word “free” could put Kindle for PC squarely into my needs category.

The software will use Amazon’s Whispersync technology, which saves and synchronizes bookmarks and the last page you’ve read across a Kindle or Kindle DX. Kindle for PC also will offer Windows 7 users the ability to “turn” pages with a swipe of the finger, mimicking the act of reading a paper-and-glue book.

Although Kindle for PC will be ready in November for free download at www.amazon.com/KindleforPC, most of the 360,000 e-books available cost about $10.

My guess is that there will always be paper-based books to some degree, but people have said that about newspapers too, and look at how that industry is changing and contracting. This painful shakeup we’re experiencing is nothing new. I think back to the story of my grandfather Edward Walsh, who ran a blacksmith and livery business in midtown New York in the early years of the last century. Shortly before he died, Grandpa Eddie met with representatives from the Goodyear Tire Company to talk about segueing from horseshoes into the tire business. He died before he made the switch, but I have to admire Grandpa Eddie for envisioning and embracing a New York filled with cars and taxis, and not clinging to his disappearing city filled with horses and carriages.

So I’m trying to embrace a world with fewer paper books, magazines and newspapers. If someday I look up and see my classroom filled with Kindles or something similar, that’s OK. I had a student with a bad knee who struggled with the four-pound textbook required for my class; he would have been helped tremendously by the slim, 10.2-ounce Kindle.

But remember, while you’re in my classroom, no texting.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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Reader Comments

Wed, Nov 4, 2009 Mohan Krishnan Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

I have some concern over this universal lambasting of the Kindle and other e-Book readers as "toys" and criticism that they appeal to wants and not needs. You mention winter coats -- certainly, they sometimes fall into the realm of need, but honestly, most of the time I buy new coats and jackets because of changes in my fashion taste. I certainly buy shoes out of wants and not needs. Perhaps unlike the author, I am honest with myself about this. I am also unapologetic in calling my Kindle a luxury, but it's one I care for. What is the great sin in a device that makes people *want* to spend money and a share of their interest on the written word? A society could do far worse than see an increase in its disposable income going to the consumption of literary works. A people could do a lot worse than see books become more relevant, even if through clever marketing.

Mon, Nov 2, 2009

I would be more interested in a Kindle if it had a color screen. So many graphs and charts need color for interpretation so a black and white screen is not very useful. I am going to wait for the color screen.

Fri, Oct 30, 2009 Deb C

B&N has already offered a free PC-reader. Seems to me Amazon's a little behind, aren't they?

Thu, Oct 29, 2009 Bufo Calvin

Just wanted to address your concern (or at least statement) that "most of the 360,000 e-books available cost about $10." About 45% of the books (166123 of 367939) are $5 are less...and 18544 of them are free (about 5%). Books from $9 to $11 are about 16% of the total (58253). There will be plenty of inexpensive things to read with Kindle for PC. :)

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