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No more trees need die

Books have a pretty low carbon footprint – especially old books. The Kindle, by contrast, Amazon’s new wireless reading device, will need constant recharging. But that’s no ideological problem if you buy a Solar Charger.

You get to put up to 200 books into your backpack this way, and by all acconts its a pleasant experience. “The simple act of reading a book is quite pleasant,” says a review in the Houston Chronicle. “After a while, I really didn’t care that I wasn’t turning paper pages, which is exactly the experience Amazon is after. In that sense, the company has succeeded.

They’ve also succeeded in making it stupidly easy to buy a book. The Kindlecan download a small subset of Amazon.com’s inventory wirelessly, using the same EV-DO data network used by Sprint. You’re not charged for access to this network, which is a good deal.
If you were connected to it via one of Sprint’s wireless broadband cards for a notebook PC, it might cost you $60 a month.

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Only 88,000 titles

The Kindlecomes already tied to your Amazon.com account, with one-click buying enabled. You can search for a book, find one in several lists of bestsellers or just browse. Click a selection and the book downloads into the Kindle very quickly, usually less than a minute. Even though books are cheaper here ($9.99 for New York Times bestsellers, while older titles cost even less), I could still see myself spending way too much with this thing.

The selection is relatively limited – 88,000 titles are available – and quite a few books I expected aren’t here.

The Kindlehas some interesting features under a category menu called “experimental.” There’s a rudimentary Web browser that doesn’t display pages very well, and an intriguing service called Kindle NowNow. Send a question via the Kindle’s QWERTY keyboard, and you’ll get an answer back from up to three different “experts” in just a few minutes. I asked how to batch-convert standard quote marks in a Microsoft Word 2007 document to “smartquotes.” I got two answers back in less than 10 minutes, but only one of them was correct. I got a third answer five days later, and it was correct.

I have reservations about the fact that the Kindle uses a proprietary, DRM-restricted format; that there’s no way to “lend” a copy of a Kindle book to someone; and that your purchase is good only as long as Amazon stays in the e-book business. If this market segment doesn’t work out for Amazon.com and the service goes away, your book is gone. Buying a Kindle e-book doesn’t mean you can get the book in paper form as well.

Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site

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