The past week’s discussions of Amazon’s $400 e-book reader, the Kindle, puts me in the mood to talk about my tired, needs-to-be-replaced, Eastern Mountain Sports backback with the removable padded laptop sleeve.
This blue bag was bought in 2000 before a McKinsey trip to London. The gang at Forbes.com pitched in and bought me a new leather Coach briefcase, but I guiltily returned it and took the $$$ to buy something from EMS that I could strap across my back and march through the world’s airports with.
Eight years later and the bag is going strong. Some zipper and buckle failure — one is permanently sealed thanks to a SuperGlue accident when I was stupid enough to actually try to tie saltwater fishing flies on the road — but for the most part it does the job of carrying everything thing from a spare set of contact lenses to Pepto-Bismol, trackpoint cap replacements, business cards, index cards, pen refills, phone and notebook chargers, sleeping pills, ear plugs, eye shades, iPod, ear buds, pencils, paperclips, most of the world’s currencies in change format, old weird PCMCIA cards for media no longer cared about, bills, bank statements, magazines, ThinkPad, etc. etc.
I would estimate, fully loaded, that it weighs about 30 pounds and consumes as much space as your average roller-bag.
It also carries books. Lots of books. I read very quickly (I can burn through a single cheesy paperback in a cross-country flight), and need three to four books with me at all times. For me — an e-reader like the Kindle — comes down to a volume/mass equation. Will it take up less room that the usual mini-library (I ditch the lower end books in the seat back pouches for the next guy) and is there a cost savings over the massive gouging one receives for a paperback in an airport bookshop (crap paperbacks are easily $8 when they should be $3!).
Hardcovers are not an option. Dragging Pynchon’s latest around the world is like packing the Manhattan white pages.
Sure, the Kindle has great electronic ink, has a free-WAN for downloading, but, in the end, will it take up less share of backpack? At $400 I will likely pass but I would love to try it.