Goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg developed the first printing press in Western Europe (circa 1440). The technology was based on screw-presses that were already being used to press cloth and grapes. The genius of the Far East had already beaten him to it though, inventing woodblock printing and moveable type (after which a modern weblog management tool is named). Later developments saw the introduction of offset printing, which became the norm.

In those days, Cambridge University owned 122 books, each of which were valued at the price of a farm or vineyard.

However, demand was growing for an increased availability to books to the increasingly literate middle classes. No longer did clergy monopolise the magic ability. Scientists were able to record and disseminate their discoveries. Adult literacy increased dramatically. Copyright laws were passed to protect the authors of these newly available works. The early 1800s saw the introdution of faster printing output and printing on two sides (Koenig and Bauer). And, the rest you know.

What would Johannes thought of if he’d heard of a new development where people would be able to read without paper, ink and metal type pieces? And, in fact, people would be able to access ‘books’ from a gadget no bigger than a regular-sized school textbook. I think he may have descended into a dark mood…

The Kindle DX appears to be marketed toward readers of newspapers and magazines, in terms of its sheer size (9.7 inches, two and a half times its predecessor).

Unlike online versions of magazines and papers, the Kindle allows reading in the same format as a paper version of the same thing. And, descpite the marketing efforst being directed toward such readers, paper subscriptions are falling as a result, as the Kindle supplies access to these free. Double-edged sword? Especially considering Amazon’s much-vaunted close partnerings with papers and mags.

Students are also among those who may benefit most.

Amazon has partnered with the three largest producers of American college textbooks, in order to kick-start the sales, by offering Kindles to students. I trust this will be for free, bearing in mind the hefty $489 price tag. ๐Ÿ™‚ Its appeal to students, above the obvious tecchie drool, is the potential benefits in cost in comparison to the cost of buying paper books over a 3-4 year period. This, added to the lightweight construction, make it an obvious choice.


  • PDF Reader
  • Storage: 3500 books, compared to 1500 in the previous model, Kindle 2
  • Price: $489, compared to $359 for the Kindle 2
  • Accelerometer (changes from portrait to landscape, when turned on side)
  • Free wireless technology
  • Grayscale: saves battery use and avoids glare

Amazon has revealed that where there is an option to purchase a digital edition, this represents 35% of sales. Not bad.

So, is the Kindle going to replace the paper book?

Did DVDs replace going to the theatre? Did reading silently replace reading aloud? Did mobile phones replace going for a coffee? Did online banking replace high-street banking (not yet, I fear!). Did bookmarks replace folding down the corners? Sometimes advancing techniques and technology are here to mercifully change our lives forever (consider the kindness and precision of modern, keyhole surgery compared to the butchery of the past); sometimes it is here only as an alternative way of doing things (think laptops and other mobile devices).

It’s dolly mixture time. Alternatives, choice, individuality. This is where the Kindle falls in our modern world. It’s another way to read books, keep up with the news and do a little surfing. I prefer to read news online via Twitter during the week (it suits to grab snippets of news during a busy day), but also love to be surrounded with the lazy spread of weekend papers with a big mug of Earl Grey.

Fear not, book lovers. Your Sherlock Holmes on recycled, flickable, rough-touch, serif-ridden, rustling paper is here to stay.