Guest column | Charles Huhtanen

Amazon's Kindle opens your literary world to bargains

Many of us old timers have lived through the most incredible travel and communications revolution era imaginable from horse drawn vehicles and the crystal radio to moon travel and cloud computing. We scoff at the social networks of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, among others, but gratefully accept the easier to use e-mail. We do not hesitate to use Google for solving the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle.

One rapidly developing innovation, the e-reader, though, deserves special consideration. I purchased a small 6-inch Kindle reader a couple of years ago but on learning of coming improvements, returned it within the month with no Amazon retribution. Later, I purchased the larger 9.7 inch, 18.9 oz., Kindle DX and my literary world was turned on its figurative ear. These fascinating gadgets allow one to read or listen to (in a male or female voice) books and magazines electronically transformed for the e-reader. Other companies make e readers; Kobe, Sony, Barnes and Noble etc., but Amazon was the first to market these in quantity. The Kindle comes with a built-in New Oxford American Dictionary, available during reading for immediate interpretation of words or phrases. Fairly simple controls allow changing of font size, archiving of un-needed material, or navigating within the reader; the user can insert book marks where desired for later access.

One can order hundreds of thousands of books. For the princely sum of 99 cents, I received both volumes of The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. For $1, I got the five books of Charles Dickens. Also available are 14-day free subscriptions to any of a hundred or more newspapers around the world (including the St. Petersburg Times that downloaded to the DX in one minute). Monthly subscriptions range from $4.99 to $19.99.

Over 60 years ago in a small library on Long Island, NY, I read the fictional exploits of a French "Sherlock Holmes" in books written by Émile Gaboriau, I was unable to ever again locate his books. Out of curiosity I went to the Kindle store on the DX and searched for the author. Incredibly the 12 books of Emile Gaboriau were available for $3.99; in three minutes they were in my DX and I was once again reading of cases solved by the amazing Monsieur Le Coq.

A neighbor mentioned how much she enjoyed reading novels of Rafael Sabatini over 70 years ago; surely books this old had not been converted to e-text, but they were and again in minutes I had the 15 books of Sabatini (99 cents) in my own Kindle.

We cannot speculate what lies ahead in e-readers but for less than $12, I have enough books now in my Kindle to keep me occupied for quite a while.

Charles Huhtanen lives in west Pasco.

Amazon's Kindle opens your literary world to bargains 07/06/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 6:00pm]

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