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I have been lusting after the Amazon Kindle since its introduction in 2007. As an avid reader who has faced the difficulty of packing several books and CDs for a vacation, the thought of holding 1,500 titles in my hand was akin to offering a case of whiskey to an alcoholic.

Yet I have not replaced my books and audiobooks with a Kindle despite the appeal… but how long can I hold out?

What is a Kindle?

Amazon Kindle

Amazon.com released its version of an eBook reader, the Kindle, two years ago. It was marketed as the ultimate toy for a bibliophile, holding over a thousand titles in digital format.

The edge it had over the Sony Portable Digital eReader was the wireless instant download feature. In other words, you could download a book from anywhere at any time without a computer, modem, or internet connection.

The $359 price tag was the biggest deterrent for me. I didn’t even consider buying one.

With the success of Kindle, Amazon set about improving the product. They enhanced the graphics with 16-shade grayscale, added memory, made it even slimmer (0.36 inches!), and added a Text-to-Speech feature.

How could I resist? I could hold even MORE books in my hand, they would look like a traditional book page, take up almost no space in my bag, and I would not only have a print but an audio version, right?

Text-to-Speech

 Before making the investment, I wanted to dig a little deeper into the pros and cons of owning the device. The pros are pretty clear. Lightweight, slim, graphically appealing, tons of titles, and instant downloads all are great selling points. The downfalls are the cost, the need for a light (the device does not use a backlight), and most of all the Text-to-Speech option.

A narrator can make or break an audiobook. Listeners want to enjoy a novel; learn a new skill; become informed; revel in beautiful poetry. A good narrator can bring all of those things to a reader with nuances, voices, and emotional renderings.

The Kindle audio feature is electronic. Electronic voicing has come a long way from the obviously robotic voices of ten years ago. Unfortunately, it has not come far enough. Vocal inflections give prose character and clarity.

A great vocal performance allows a reader to (ironically) forget they are being read to and to lose themselves in the story. The Kindle voice is human-like, but not human. It is incapable of evaluating the text and providing appropriately nuanced delivery.

The Bottom Line

I have two book cases overflowing with hard covers, paperbacks, and audio CDs. They are not in immediate jeopardy of being replaced… although last week Amazon lowered the price of the Kindle 2 to $299. And my struggle to resist continues…More info Amazon Kindle

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