Ann Kirschner conducts an interesting experiment that I would be interested in conducting myself. She compared the experience of reading Little Dorrit on four platforms: paperback, audiobook, Kindle, and the iPhone. At stake is more than a consumer choice. She asks herself, “Do I love books or do I love reading” In other words, how important are books as culturally significant objects. Are they simply the only possible medium for a rich narrative form, or a symbol in a cultural system that distinguishes between low (TV, movies, rock music) and high (books, films)?
Kirschner’s trial has a surprising conclusion: the iPod is hands down the best reading experience–better than her grad school Penguin edition, and better than the Kindle, which “does almost nothing that an iPhone can’t do better — and most important, the iPhone is always with me.” Besides, Kindles are for oldsters. She says most Kindle readers she knows are above 50 years old, suggesting that the Kindle won’t have a long product life.
From what I’ve seen–mostly on the CTA–Kindle readers are usually twentysomethings, and E Ink technologies are still relatively new, but Kirschner has a point: it’s all about device convergence, and all about the story.