Friday, December 5, 2008

What, no Kindles?

Alas, dear readers, it’s true. The Kindle, the Amazon wireless e-book downloading and reading device we recommended in October, has sold out for the second straight holiday season, and won’t be available until late February 2009. The Wall Street Journal reports that e-book sales rose 77.8% between September 2007 and 2008. Nice to know that some of us are escaping from recession worries between virtual covers, while others are left flipping through old-fashioned paper pages that killed trees.

For the un-Kindled, this is both good news and bad news. Bad because we can’t get or give it in time for the holidays. Good, because we won’t be tempted to spend the money that’s in, er, short supply right now ($359, which may always seem too high after Oprah’s $50 coupon offering tipped the sales scales and then expired Nov. 1). If we wait (and we have no choice), the price may drop, the way it did from $400 in 2007 to $359 in 2008.
Open to substitutes? Enter the Sony PRS-505 digital reader (pictured above), now on sale for $274.95 T But not so fast! It looks like a Kindle, but it's not wireless, so you need a cable connected to your computer in order to download e-pubs. The Sony Style online e-book store has 57,000 titles, compared with Amazon’s 200,000. But in its favor, the Sony reader weighs only 9 ounces versus the Kindle’s 10.3 ounces. That leaves room for a lipstick in our carry-on bag.

We’ll think about it. Oh, you can also download books from a list of 40,000 titles for free with your Apple iPhone, and even try to read them on the tiny screen. If you have one. We don’t.

For us, the Kindle illustrates the value of delayed gratification, known to some as procrastination. If we decide to give one, it’ll be with a handmade I.O.U. tucked into a traditional book, and the understanding that the recipient can wait till February for a Kindle, select a Sony reader instead, or up to $350 towards an iPhone, provided they recycle their old cell phone. To find a drop-off place, type in your zip code at Earth 911.

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