Amazon’s Kindle: Ambitions to change the way we read

Last month Amazon released the Kindle e-book priced at $399, which sold out in five and a half hours. The device allows you to electronically purchase and store up to 200 of your favorite books. For about $10 you can purchase one of 88,000 books electronically including 100 of the 112 New York Times best sellers. And no need for a computer: Kindle downloads content over a free wireless Sprint network.

Selling out in a day shows the interest is there, but will it outlast the buzz and become the next handheld device that Americans can’t live without, like the iPod , Blackberry, or iPhone?

The device looks thick and bulky and external buttons limit the screen size. It’s brand new yet prehistoric looking, giving me flash backs of that red Speak-and-Spell I played with 20 years ago as a child. Kindle feels like the MP3 players pre-iPod, the idea and functionality are clearly here but Kindle V.1 is not refined enough to become a cultural icon. Imagine if Apple had came up with the e-book idea before Amazon, the device would have certainly been slimmer and more attractive, with touch screen functionality that increases the actual screen size. Apple wouldn’t have rushed a great idea out the door with a device that looks like this. They probably would have had an adequate inventory too: selling out in half a day isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Cost and functionality aside, will Americans be open to making the transition traditional to digital reading? I do see Kindle being more compelling as a replacement for newspapers and magazines, which are generally thrown away after reading.

From computers to cell phones, technology is cold. Books are warm and calming and allow us to get away from the fast-paced technological lives we live in. It is convenient not to have to go to store, but isn’t browsing a Barnes andamp; Noble an enjoyable part of the experience? No more libraries of your favorite titles in your home or office proudly displayed like trophies, conquests of knowledge. No more conversations sparked up at your local coffee shop as a passer by recognizes the book your in your hands is one they just read. No dog-ears, circling a word you don’t know, or highlighting a memorable excerpt you want to revisit later.

Will consumers find the ease and convenience of technology more important than the experience? Or is traditional reading a part of our life that is too nostalgic to let go?