Noel had a mishap with his beloved iPod Touch while he was in Toronto. He was downloading an update on an unreliable internet connection, and the iPod got hung up; no matter what he did or how he reset it, it would never progress past the opening screen of startup. A visit to a genius bar at a suburban Toronto Apple store didn't fix the problem, so he sent it in for warranty replacement.
Today the new Touch arrived, and Noel has been reorganizing his apps, contacts, and music with a palpable sense of relief. He had a backup in the form of the old pre-Touch iPod that the Touch had replaced, so he wasn't without a way to listen to music. But since he got the Touch at Christmas, he'd come to rely on all the different ways it organized his life.
My birthday is coming up, and I've long thought that I might be getting a Kindle. The manifest awesomeness of the iPod Touch certainly casts a long shadow, though. I'm not sure it would be as useful for me as it is for Noel; nor am I sure that we need two of them in this house. It would certainly be great for me to have a little web device that I can carry in my pocket at work, but my experiment with a PDA a few years ago never really panned out for me. Do I really need a Kindle? Well, in some ways it also fulfills the function of a little web device; I can put documents like syllabi or presentations on it to have them accessible without the bulk of a laptop. And it would be nice to get books to review in Kindle format so I don't have so many huge stacks of printed material around the house; don't know if that's possible for books pre-release, though.
Where the Kindle would really shine is in getting books for class. For the class that I'm team-teaching this semester with my fellow administrators, we had some trouble getting the bookstore to order enough of our five texts for all three sections and 36 students. Students were telling us that they couldn't find the books anywhere. If they had Kindles and if the books have Kindle editions -- and there are for at least 3 out of the 5 -- then you could have the book in thirty seconds from the time you realized you needed it, for less than the cost of a used copy in the student center.
Sure, strictly speaking, I don't need either of these gadgets. But I've been around them enough to know how my life would change with them, and I like what I see.