Although bookstores are making a comeback, Amazon’s reading device is a thing of beauty


Last week Amazon, the online bookstore that put so many other bookstores out of business, opened its first store in New York. Called Amazon Books, it’s the ecommerce giant’s second store, after it opened a bricks-and-mortar store in its hometown Seattle in 2015. As curious and ironic as it is, it’s a good thing. The world can never have too many bookstores, which are a bastion of literature and knowledge.

As legendary US President Harry Truman so famously said – and which has been often quoted in context of the current US president and his most recent predecessor: “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers”.

Another of Amazon’s great gifts to the world, after its excellent online retail store, is the Kindle electronic reader. I’m an unashamed Kindle fan. Because… it just works.

I read vociferously and the Kindle with its electronic ink (e-ink) screen is ideal for this, especially as the illuminated display turns itself off (perfect for when you fall asleep while reading)

The Kindle Touch is the entry-level model (R2,000) but I prefer the Voyage (R4,500), which has buttons on either side. It has a better resolution than the Paperwhite (R3,000, which I recommend as the best option to buy) and the Voyage has a clever cover that lets you prop it up on its side very easily for reading in bed.

There are multiple reasons the Kindle is the best. Technology-wise, it’s a great device. The screen is excellent, uses e-ink (which is easier on the eye, and apparently the second-fastest reading material after paper) and is side-lit (meaning the light doesn’t glare straight into your eyes, which it would if it was back-lit). It’s a totally different experience to reading on a tablet or smartphone, of whatever operating system cult.

The e-ink is much softer on the eye and, after years of insomnia, doesn’t keep you awake at night like the blue lights of current smartphone screens.

After decades of waking up to turn the bedside light off at 3am because I fell asleep reading, a Kindle with its own light was a godsend. When you’re sharing a bed, the softer Kindle light is even more of a godsend for your other half.

The second, arguably more compelling reason, is that the Kindle bookstore is just so damn good. I buy more books every month through the Kindle store than I ever did when I was reading paper-based books. And I read most of them, which I could seldomly say of the piles of paper books I always had next to my bed.

Amazon is very generous with how many devices you can have on a single account: Six Kindles and seemingly unlimited smartphones and tablets. The other nice feature of reading on Kindle is that it syncs across multiple devices, so I can pick up reading on my phone where I left off on the Kindle. At first, I thought this was a twee non-feature, but I am surprised at how often I use it.

You can email a range of text documents (Word, PDF and .mobi) or use clever software like Calibre to side-load your Kindle from a computer.

It’s great that the book store is back, but even greater that the book itself has evolved with new technology.

This column first appeared in Financial Mail


About Author

Toby Shapshak is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff, a Forbes contributor and a Financial Mail columnist. He has been writing about technology and the internet for 20 years and his TED Global talk on innovation in Africa has over 1,5-million views. He has written about Africa's tech and start-up ecosystem for Forbes, CNN and The Guardian in London. He was named in GQ's top 30 men in media and the Mail & Guardian newspaper's influential young South Africans. He has been featured in the New York Times. GQ said he "has become the most high-profile technology journalist in the country" while the M&G wrote: "Toby Shapshak is all things tech... he reigns supreme as the major talking head for everything and anything tech."

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