Kindle is an electronic reading device used for displaying digital written material. It was introduced to the market in 2007 by Amazon, a shopping website that started as an online book store. It is now the most known e-reader with affordances and conveniences that fit the lifestyle changes of the 21st century brought mostly by digital media.

the celebrity amongst e-readers

Books are thousands of years old technology that has undergone a memorable transformation. The demand for digital media and lifestyle changes of the 21st century contributed to the rise of electronic reading devices and the reshaping of our reading experiences. After Kindle entered the market in 2007 it seems like every other e-reading device that was released, even in the years before, stayed in its shadow. It quickly became the most well-known e-reader, a synonym for all the others that followed, a celebrity amongst all the e-reading devices in the 21st century. Amazon, which produced the device, sold it out in 5.5 hours after they introduced it to the public, regardless of the initial skepticism about the device even becoming popular (BBC News, 2007). Now, a whopping 72% of the e-reader market belongs to Kindle (Errera, 2022). One might be quick to judge that the intention was to overcome mass published printed books and encourage people to only read digital formats. In fact, Amazon did not want Kindle to compete with printed books (Hall, 2020). It was intended to become a tool to preserve and enhance our reading experience (Bogost, 2021) but within the context of digital cultures and technological advancements. The multimodality of this kind of electronic reading device covers many aspects of modern society; from the social shaping of the invention due to the rapid digital media consumption and desired affordances to concerns of environmentalism. 

what is so special about it?

Kindle is a pocket-sized portable wireless electronic reading device, simply known as an e-reader. The central feature is the electronic paper screen (Strickland & Pollette, 2021) which set the high standard for all e-reading devices entering the market in the 21st century. It can display 16 levels of grey with the embedded electronic ink technology, referred to as e-ink (Strickland & Pollette, 2021). Compared to LCD screens, this technology enables reading in direct sunlight (Strickland & Pollette, 2021) and in the dark without needing additional lights or disrupting one’s sleep schedule by putting too much strain on their eye (De, 2021). Because the device uses low-powered LEDs as the light source for the screen, the battery usage is very minimal (Strickland & Pollette, 2021). One charging of the Kindle Paperwhite model can last approximately 28 hours of continuous reading (Norbertn99, 2021) and can go without charging for weeks (Strickland & Pollette, 2021). The technology of the screen reflects light just like real paper does and mimics the tactile experience of reading printed books to some extent. Readers can adjust the size of the font in the text, track the progress of the reading and measure it in hours, add annotations, bookmark, and search for definitions in Oxford Dictionary while reading. It allows the reader to have an organized virtual bookshelf.

Special technology of electronic paper screen mimics the tactile experience of reading on a printed screen | Faulkner et al. (2022). Here are the best Kindle deals right now [Kindle vs. books]. The Verge.

technology and society

In order for this kind of device to be able to satisfy the demanding generations that are so familiar with digital media and advanced technologies, it needs to go beyond its initial simplicity of reading in a digital format. We have done that in previous centuries by reading on computers, phones, and tablets but it was aligned with what we were familiar with at that time. Then, we shifted from technological determinism and thinking that technology is inevitable to contributing to the shaping of technology in the 21st century. Designers became more aware of human-machine interactions and user-centered design (Pirrie Adams, 2018). They started to implement content and actions into artifacts of the new technologies (Almquist & Lupton, 2010) according to the awareness of parallel lifestyle changes that modern society has been leading. 

Affordances of technologies we use now reflect the ways we can understand how humans interact with the environment and objects they use (Pirrie Adams, 2018). Thus, with their affordances and convenience of use e-readers such as Kindle, can prevail over the physical limitations of printed books and bear our modern relationship with reading experiences (D’Ambra et al., 2016; Stone, 2008). They can cover aspects of reading for entertainment, education, or wellness just to name a few. One of the praised affordances of e-readers is portability. Due to the small size of a pocket book, its light weight, and overall design, it makes it pleasant to carry and hold in hands for a long time. Internal storage capacity of 8GB or more in the latest Kindle adds to the fact that they are easy to travel with. One can handle and switch between thousands of downloaded reading materials whereas that would be very limited when considering printed books for example. They can be used anywhere at any given time (D’Ambra et al., 2016) no matter the light condition. Moreover, e-readers proved to be even more convenient and played an important during the Covid-19 pandemic that heavily impacted the society of the 21st century. Amazon has reported that e-books surpassed printed book sales in the United States in 2011 and it significantly escalated again during the pandemic starting in 2020 (Strickland & Pollette, 2021). It emphasized the attachment to digital media and consumption of digital content as well as internet-based activities that we, fortunately, advanced to the point that accessing literature was almost unaffected. Unable to travel, visit libraries and bookstores, Kindles allowed people all over the world to gain access to various reading material by downloading books, articles, magazines, comics, and more that would otherwise not be able to reach due to the given restriction of that time. Currently, e-readers do not pose a threat to mass published printed books, but they might contribute to making them outdated and inconvenient in the future (Shen, 2016). The multimodality and affordances of electronic readers will become more compatible with the technological advancements and digital nature of modern society (Shen, 2016).

Highlighting the affordances and convenience of use that fits the modern society of 21st century explained by an active Kindle user. | via YouTube

Name: Kindle

3D Model

Creator: Nina Boich

Date: 21-01-2022

Place: Aachen, Germany

Themes: Technology & Society, Entertainment, Wellness

Captured with iPhone Pro Max 11, wooden table, day light and strong neutral toned light from above

Processed with  Agisoft Metashape Professional Software run on Windows 10 (64 bit)


Physical Object

Size: 19 x 12 x 1.14 cm, screen 15 cm diagonal

Weight: 219 gram

Material: Plastic with a smooth surface on the front and soft rubber on the back

are kindles environmentally friendly?

The environmental aspect of Kindles enchants a lot of complexity. One might be quick to think that it can save our planet because fewer trees need to be cut for paper production and less water polluted. But, thinking about all the electronic waste, also known as e-waste of the 21st century, and recycling parts that they are made of makes it much more complicated.

The case of e-waste: Lithium battery waste is expected to exceed 100,000 tonnes by the year 2036 which is a cause for a major environmental concern in 21st century | Barbaschow, A. (2018). CSIRO: Lithium-ion battery waste to exceed 100,000 tonnes by 2036 [Recycling process]. ZD Net.

Kindles contain a rechargeable lithium battery (Strickland & Pollette, 2021) like electronic cars and most of the other electronic devices in the 21st century. They can store more energy in smaller sizes than other types of batteries and they can be charged continuously which makes them a part of renewable energy sources. But, recycling them after the end of their life cycle questions their sustainability. If not properly managed, they can cause significant environmental harm. These batteries are made of various materials and minerals that are marked as hazardous waste if not properly disposed of (Jacoby, 2019; SLS Media, 2019) adding to the pollution problem society tries to deal with actively in the 21st century. Because the demand for these batteries is so high, the inability to handle all the disposed ones leads to more technological waste that sits on large piles all over the world polluting underground waters and other components that cannot be recycled again if they come in touch with certain materials from lithium batteries (Jacoby, 2019). Kindles also contain plastic parts, electronic chips, circuit boards, and other chemicals needed to produce electronic ink technology. They are all barely or even non-renewable sources. Moreover, lots of debates happen around carbon footprint and emission. It is calculated that one Kindle can save at least 168kg of COper year which equals the amount produced by approximately 23 physical printed books (Siegle, 2013). By now, we know Kindle can store a much higher number of digital reading materials. But the manufacturing process paints the opposite picture. Producing one book makes up to 7,5kg of COand one e-reader makes up to 30kg of CO(CustomMade, 2015). So, where does that leave us if by now Amazon has sold almost 100 million Kindles (Errera, 2022)? At some point, they will all become waste and it will all come down to how they are used, manufactured, and recycled to get environmentally friendly outcomes. Only time will tell what the real impact of Kindle is and maybe we will have more indefinite answers in the upcoming years.  

Production of  CO2 when manufacturing of one e-reader vs. one physical printed book | CustomMade. (2015). E-Readers Vs. Print Books [Carbon dioxide footprint infographic]. Made by CustomMade.


Almquist, J., & Lupton, J. (2010). Affording Meaning: Design-Oriented Research from the Humanities and Social Sciences. Design Issue, 26(1), 3–14.

Barbaschow, A. (2018). CSIRO: Lithium-ion battery waste to exceed 100,000 tonnes by 2036. ZD Net. 

BBC News. (2007). Amazon Kindle sells out on debut. BBC News.

Bogost, I. (2021). Ebooks Are an Abomination. The Atlantic. 

CustomMade. (2015). E-Readers Vs. Print Books. Made by CustomMade. 

D’Ambra, J., Wilson, C. S., & Akter, S. (2016). Do E-books Enhance the Reading Experience: An Affordance Theory PerspectivePerspective. Faculty of Business – Papers (Archive), 1138, 1–9.

De, S. (2021). Kindle or Physical: Which Format Is Best for Reading Your Next Book? Make Use Of. 

Errera, R. (2022). Paper Books vs eBooks Statistics, Trends and Facts [2022]. Toner Buzz. 

Faiz Aly. (2022, January 21). Why You Should Buy an Amazon Kindle in 2022 | 8 Reasons [Video]. YouTube. 

Faulkner, C., Newcome-Beill, A., & Vasani, S. (2022). Here are the best Kindle deals right now. The Verge.

Hall, C. (2020). Amazon Kindle: A brief history from the original Kindle onwards. Pocket Lint. 

Jacoby, M. (2019). It’s time to get serious about recycling lithium-ion batteries. Chemical & Engineering News. 

Norbertn99. (2021). 20 Important Things to Know about Charging a Kindle. My Reading World. 

Pirrie Adams, K. (2018). Assets, platforms and affordances: The constitutive role of media in the museum. In The Routledge Handbook of Museums, Media and Communication (1st Edition, pp. 290–305). Routledge.

Siegle, L. (2013). Should I stop buying paper books and use an e-reader instead? The Guardian. 

SLS Media. (2019). GUIDE: How to Responsibly Dispose of Lithium-Ion Batteries. Sims Lifecycle Services. 

Stone, N. (2008). The e-reader industry: Replacing the book or enhancing the reader experience? Design of Electronic Text, 1(1), 1–5. 

Shen, C. (2016). Book under a magnifying glass: affordances of a book. CCTP-820: Leading by Design – Principles of Technical and Social Systems.

Strickland, J., & Pollette, C. (2021). How the Amazon Kindle Works. How Stuff Works.