I’m a bit late with this blog post, but since I’m not yet done with the current book theme (which I’m sure you’ll love), I thought I might as well write about something else. Don’t worry, I’m thumbing through book pages again (after yet another unintentional hiatus), and a new blog post will be up soon!

Needless to say, Amazon dominated the global headlines this week. Launching four products at the same time — the latest Kindle, the Kindle Touch (plus its 3G variant), and the Kindle Fire — can do that. 😉 I mean, look at them. Just look at them! The gearhead in me can’t help but crack a wide smile.

The new Amazon Kindle, with a $79 price tag. Whoa. Just a bit over 3K in local currency!

Amazon’s Kindle Touch. $99 for the Wi-Fi version and $149 for the 3G version.

The much-coveted Kindle Fire, going for $199.

(More info: Kindle, Kindle Touch, Kindle Touch 3G, Kindle Fire. All product photos from Amazon.com’s Press Room.)

Much has been said about each product’s features, pros and cons, so I won’t delve into them anymore. You’ll find great articles about the four new kids on the block on international tech sites/blogs like Engadget, Mashable, TechCrunch and TIME Techland, as well as local ones such as Techie and Interaksyon’s InfoTech section.*

In the past, I’ve talked about my love for books and my hesitation re: buying an e-book reader. A year and eight months have gone by since that particular blog entry, and my position remains the same. However, I’ll also readily admit that my pro-hard copy stance is slowly changing.

I’ve installed Amazon Kindle for PC on my Ubuntu Linux Natty Narwhal-powered laptop (via Wine), and racked up a sizable e-book collection through Amazon’s free listings and resources like Project Gutenberg. I also bought a couple of e-books for work and self-development, so in a way, I’ve ceased being a lola when it comes to digital publications. (Yay for me — and truly ironic for someone who used to be a copy editor for a digital pre-press company.)

Thing is, I now have the same problem with my e-books as I do with my good ol’ paperbacks and hardbounds: I haven’t crossed a lot of them off my reading list, which is disappointing. I also noted a couple of disadvantages. The few times I did open up an e-book through the Kindle for PC program, Adobe Reader and/or Linux’s proprietary document viewer, I got eye strain more quickly, and I was easily distracted by other things (e.g., social networking, personal/work e-mails, website development, trolling, etc.). Don’t get me wrong; my e-books are far from boring or uninteresting — well, I think they’re far from boring or interesting, but some may say otherwise. It’s just that I lose the focus and sense of urgency I always have when holding and leafing through an actual book. Have any of you experienced this problem?

Another downside: I’m as enamored with the beauty of bookshelves as I am with that of the written word. (I blame Bookshelf Porn ;)) I love the way my bookshelf looks; thanks to tips from Apartment Therapy and Real Living, I unleashed my inner librarian a few months ago and organized my books according to spine color. That shelf now adds character to my cozy bedroom, as well as serves as an instant reminder to start reading again. Many hardcore book lovers have also referred to the visual power of their books and shelves. In contrast, e-books will make their presence known only when one decides to turn an e-book device or computer program on, and it’s quite easy to forget that they’re there at all.

Pretty, right? But that’s not my entire library. I’ve moved the books I’ve already read into my home office, and two more huge “balikbayan” boxes are in the storage room of our old house. So basically… I haven’t read ALL of these yet. *facepalm*

As I’ve said many times before, nothing beats having a book in your hands. But with my painfully slow shift to e-books comes recognition of their positive aspects:

  • They don’t take up much space. That’s a huge advantage, considering that I live in a small apartment and have a lot of data on my internal/external drives. Also, e-books and e-book readers are great for travel; they won’t make me go past my luggage allowance.
  • They’re very affordable. Like hard copies, most e-books are priced between $10-$30, and you’ll get a lot of titles for an even lower price if they’re secondhand and/or from less recognized publishers. Of course, nothing beats free e-books, and you’ll have your fill of those, too. Printed books, on the other hand, are seldom free… unless they’re given to you as gifts, or if you like book swapping. (Sites to check out: BookMooch and BookCrossing)
  • They’re instantly “delivered”. Click “Download” or “Purchase”, and your e-book is on your device or computer. In Amazon’s case, if you have a user account, all of the e-books you’ve downloaded or purchased will be on both your reading device and computer. No waiting period, no shipping fees, no hassles. Services like Johnny Air have become indispensable for many reasons, but there are times when you want to have things right now.
  • They level the playing field. Writers who don’t want to go through the normal route can now do self-publishing, and those who don’t want to (or can’t) take care of printing and distribution costs can simply convert their documents into different e-book formats via word processors, apps, converters and services, then use a shopping cart like E-Junkie to take care of transactions and online delivery.
  • They have less environmental impact. Less paper used for books means more trees saved, and e-book readers’ long battery life means less dependence on electricity. I can’t say much about the materials and methods used to manufacture e-book readers, though.

Countless people can’t help but sound the death knell for printed matter, especially now that the different Kindle versions got everyone talking and reviewing their fourth-quarter/holiday budgets. And admittedly, the five points mentioned above and Amazon’s latest product offerings (not to mention existing services and price points!) make it difficult for me to stay on the “strictly hard copy” path.

(I agree with TIME Techland’s Ben Bajarin; Amazon’s services do bring something different to the table. Another handy TIME Techland resource: “How to Choose a Kindle“.)

Then again, I honestly think that we can find a way to appease both the print and digital camps. One shouldn’t completely be forsaken in favor of another.

Maybe the real questions aren’t if and when I should buy an e-book reader. Maybe I should actually make some headway on my reading lists before anything else. 😉

DISCLOSURE: I review gadgets (and sometimes, cover tech events and write features) for Techie, and have former colleagues who are now employed as Kapatids.

Notes:

  1. Has anyone used Barnes & Noble’s Nook or any of the new tablets (e.g., Apple iPad 2 and those from ASUS, Lenovo, Toshiba, Acer, Samsung, HTC, etc.) for e-books? How’s the reading experience with these devices?
  2. I’ve talked about Amazon in this post and in previous ones mainly because it’s the most popular brand and I use the company’s services. None of these posts are sponsored by Amazon. Oh, and the other sites, services and brands named on this blog post aren’t sponsors, too.