eBooks Storm the Beach

On a holiday visit to beautful-but-isolated Yelapa, Mexico, I took along an Amazon Kindle for a real-world test. I read 5 books on Kindle, along with several more on paper (I had to time-share the Kindle with the family), and I can now say definitively: eBooks have arrived! I was a little concerned about Kindle in the salty, sandy beach environment but it never faltered or felt fragile, readability in bright sunlight was great, and battery life was excellent – lasting over 6 days before needing a charge (wireless off, since the Sprint network wasn’t available anyway).
But I’m already a convert – the real evidence was the attention I received from a procession of people wanting to know what I was doing, which invariably led to the inquirer getting excited and expressing keen interest in adopting eBooks. Never once did I get an “oh, OK” kind of response. And it’s clear why: the gringos of Yelapa are truly desperate for reading material! Yelapa is accessible only by a 30 minute open boat ride, and the local book supply is a few slim shelves of left-behind paperbacks at various restaurants and casitas. Even those who only spend a week at Yelapa are likely to exhaust the reading supply they are able to reasonably include in their luggage budget – and there are people here who stay months on end or year-round. So these folks – by no means gadget-philes, after all this is laid-back car-free Yelapa that only got electricity 4 years ago – immediately realized that eBooks were a compelling, practical solution to being able to read what they want, wherever they are.
I did come up with a laundry list of usability issues with Kindle that I’ll post about in a separate review, and will compare and contrast with the Sony Reader, but to me the bottom line is that I finally feel confident in saying that eBooks have really arrived as a consumer-relevant media type. Market forces and the continuation of Moore’s Law will lead to radically improved reading systems in the coming years, but it’s already become a no-brainer. My ever-practical spouse questioned whether it was a good idea to bring an eBook reader on this trip. It’s clear that next time she’ll be questioning whether we should take up space and weight with any books of the paper variety.

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