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Suspected smuggler caught at China border with iPhone ‘armor’

Many American consumers had to jump through hoops to buy a new iPhone 6 when the device was released in September.

But waiting in lines and paying huge no-contract penalties pale in comparison to the challenges faced by Chinese fans of Apple’s latest must-have phone.

The New York Times’ China reporter Chris Buckley and the Sina News service first reported yesterday the story of a man caught at the China/Hong Kong border with 94 of the phones taped to his body.

Initial reports indicate authorities were tipped off when the man approached a metal detector walking stiffly. The man reportedly made no attempt to avoid the detector before he walked through, tripping the alarm.

Sales of the new phones were delayed several weeks in China after first going on sale in America in September. A flourishing black market emerged, with some paying as much as $2,400 for the devices, according to technology news outlet CNet. Smugglers at one point even included schoolchildren.

Media reports have not identified the man or indicated what criminal charges, if any, he faces.

Is there any gotta-have-it device that you would tape to your body and risk arrest to own or sell? I’ve always wanted a mint condition Virtual Boy, but I don’t think it would fit inside my overcoat.

Provide input on Spokane online transportation map

​The City of Spokane needs your help. They are asking citizens to provide input on a new online mapping tool that will help inform an update to the transportation and utility chapter of the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Using the mapping tool, the public can note locations, intersections, and stretches of street that are problematic and those that are working well.

From the City Of Spokane: Directions on how to use the mapping tool are provided on the site, but essentially a user would navigate to a single point or draw a route and then provide comments about what’s working and what’s not.

“By using an interactive map that’s accessible on the internet, we hope to encourage participation from those who would like to provide feedback but don’t have the time to attend meetings,” says Scott Chesney, the City’s Planning Director. “We are working to reach out to the public in new ways that fit better into their busy lives.”

The transportation and utility chapter update process, which was launched last fall, is called Link Spokane. Link Spokane will address the future needs of all transportation users, including vehicles, freight, transit, bicyclists, and pedestrians, while identifying opportunities to leverage coordinated utility infrastructure improvements.

Bing homepage features North Cascades Highway

PUBLIC LANDS — The North Cascades  Scenic Highway (SR 20) is featured today on the Bing homepage, which is displaying an interactive photograph of headlights coming down the stunning highway through the national park.
The highway travels through 9 different regions across the state, from the Cascade mountains to the Columbia River Valley.
Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, presents unique images from around the world each day.
Viewers can click on hotspots throughout the picture to learn more about the highway and the surrounding area.
Bing For Schools will help teachers create lesson plans about Washington, in conjunction with the homepage image – check it out here. 

NEWTECH Skill Center gets EnviroStars certification

Good news from the Spokane River Forum: The first school in Spokane County to do so, NEWTECH Skill Center has earned an environmental certification typically given to businesses.

EnviroStars certifies businesses whose practices and policies reduce and properly manage hazardous waste and conserve resources. Because NEWTECH functions like 13 different businesses under one roof, the Department of Health approached NEWTECH with the idea of having the programs which deal with hazardous waste go through the certification process.

The auto technology, collision repair, veterinary science and dental careers programs all earned the EnviroStars certification. Custodian Tim Petty helped oversee the certification process.

Hayden School Targets Technology

Hayden Meadows Elementary second-grader Josey Damron uses an iPad in class Tuesday. Students, parents and teachers are embarking on a new curriculum emphasis: technology. (SR photo: Kathy Plonka)

Some North Idaho fifth-graders sat in their school library earlier this week and chatted with students across town on a brand-new video-conferencing system. Before long they may use the high-end equipment to embark on virtual tours of distant museums, drop in on classrooms around the world or watch a team of surgeons at work. “It’s very exciting. This opens up so much for us,” said Lisa Pica, the principal at Hayden Meadows Elementary School. Down the hall, second-graders sat quietly on their classroom floor, absorbed in interactive math programs on new iPads. They handled the tablets with the skill of a teenager. These are the first steps Hayden Meadows is taking toward an embrace of technology as a central focus of the school, like science and art are emphasized at other schools in the Coeur d’Alene district/Scott Maben, SR. More here.

Question: Isn't this what controversial Supt. Tom Luna was pushing with Students Come First?

“Big Brother” arrives downtown, wants your quarters

Over the last month or so, high tech "smart" parking meters have appeared in downtown Spokane, equipped with coin slots and credit card readers.

But yesterday, workers began installing sensors that will detect when a car comes and goes, zeroing out the meter when it leaves and beginning a countdown when it parks. Though the technology will also allow people to add a few extra minutes from afar via a smartphone app, the sensors have caused a stir among parkers.

In an earlier story, two members of the City Council referred to the sensor technology as "Big Brother," but both said they supported the new meters.

The sensors don't look like much. They're just simple grey boxes strapped to the meter's post. But parkers beware: They're watching you. 

Friday Quote: “How’d the present get so tense?”

We wake up to our phones. On Twitter, respected news organizations scramble for civilian breadcrumbs from the latest scandal, retweeting and blogging without pausing to check sources. Meanwhile, on Facebook, one friend “likes” Walmart, another shares a Sandy Hook conspiracy theory, and a third sneers about climate change while Instagramming an unseasonable snowfall. Those same bright screens tuck us in late at night, screwing up our internal rhythms and sleep. Corporations, on a constant quest for growth, and our government, in an eternal war against terrorism, gather up as much of this information as they can, searching for patterns of threat and opportunity.

Still with us? Congratulations, so far you’ve survived the 21st century with an attention span intact. That’s no easy task nowadays: We’ve become so obsessed with chasing the moment, we’re not even living in it, media theorist Douglas Rushkoff argues in his latest book Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. In Present Shock, Rushkoff attempts to make sense of a world brimming with information but free of context. He posits our society has experienced a fundamental shift in the way we experience time. If the last century was characterized by an infatuation with the future and the Next Big Thing (the title’s a play on Alvin Toffler’s 1970 book Future Shock), modern culture’s favorite tense is present.

Yikes? Technology to keep seniors driving longer

We’ve all seen the cliché elderly person in a powder blue Cadillac doing a righteous 48mph on the freeway with their turn signal on.  It’s annoying, dangerous and according to several new studies these active members of the greatest generation should be allowed to drive even longer with the help of technology. 

“For many older people, particularly those living alone or in rural areas, driving is essential for maintaining their independence, giving them the freedom to get out and about without having to rely on others,” said Professor Phil Blythe of Newcastle University.

“But we all have to accept that as we get older our reactions slow down and this often results in people avoiding any potentially challenging driving conditions and losing confidence in their driving skills. The result is that people stop driving before they really need to.”

“What we are doing is to look at ways of keeping people driving safely for longer, which in turn boosts independence and keeps us socially connected.”

As part of nearly $20million program under Blythe’s direction a team of Newcastle researchers converted an electric car into a ‘DriveLAB’ outfitted with tracking systems, eye trackers and bio-monitors to gather information on what contributes to senior drivers’ unique challenges.  The systems track things such as eye movement, speed, reaction, lane position, acceleration, braking and driving efficiency.

The Newcastle team tested older guinea pigs from the North East and Scotland in the DriveLAB as well as the University’s driving simulator to shed light on their driving habits, fears and ways to possibly mitigate them with technology.    

Dr. Amy Guo, the leading researcher on the study, explained: “…Most of us would expect older drivers always go slower than everyone else but surprisingly, we found that in 30mph zones they struggled to keep at a constant speed and so were more likely to break the speed limit and be at risk of getting fined.”

“We’re looking at the benefits of systems which control your speed as a way of preventing that.”

Other vehicle technologies the DriveLAB team is developing include night vision systems and a navigation tool dubbed the “granny nav.” 

Versus instructing drivers to follow directions by street names and distance cues the granny nav tells them to turn at landmarks that are easier to notice, such as a gas station, McDonalds, mailbox, etc.  

Hold on a second… I’m twenty seven years old and that sounds like a technology I would use.  According to an eye test I squinted through at the DMV when I was sixteen I don’t need glasses.  But that doesn’t keep me from cursing SAT NAV systems when I miss their verbal turn cues; street signs are hard to spot when navigating traffic.    

DriveLAB researcher Chris Emmerson, explained: “One thing that came out of the focus groups was that while the older generation is often keen to try new technologies it’s their lack of experience with, and confidence in, digital technologies which puts them off.  Also, they felt most were designed with younger people in mind.”

I wish the granny navy actually was designed for me – I would use it. 

I see a trend forming here. In September of this year The Harford and MIT AgeLab released a study listing their top technology recommendations for mature drivers: 

1. Smart headlights: adjust the range and intensity of light based on the distance of traffic and to reduce glare and improve night vision

2. Emergency response systems: offer quick assistance to drivers in the case of a medical emergency or collision, often allowing emergency personnel to get to the scene more quickly

3. Reverse monitoring systems: warn of objects to the rear of the vehicle to help drivers judge distances and back up safely, and helps drivers with reduced flexibility

4. Blind spot warning systems: warn drivers of objects in blind spots, especially while changing lanes and parking, and helps those with limited range of motion

5. Lane departure warning: monitors the vehicle's position and warns the driver if the vehicle deviates outside the lane, helping drivers stay in their lane

6. Vehicle stability control: helps to automatically bring the vehicle back in the intended line of travel, particularly in situations where the driver underestimates the angle of a curve or experiences weather effects, and reduces the likelihood of a crash

7. Assistive parking systems: enable vehicles to park on their own or indicates distance to objects, reducing driver stress, making parking easier, and increasing the places that a driver can park

8. Voice activated systems: allow drivers to access features by voice command so they can keep focused on the road

9. Crash mitigation systems: detect when the vehicle may be in danger of a collision and can help to minimize injuries to passengers

10. Drowsy driver alerts: monitor the degree to which a driver may be inattentive while on the road and helps alert drivers to the driving task

Just about every recommendation on the list is a safety option that’s becoming more standardized on upper-end cars.  Whether you’re a senior citizen who needs some help keeping up with younger motorists or just a crappy driver they’re designed to compensate for human error.

This list also spotlights the fact that with these new technologies cars are moving closer to being able to drive themselves.  That’s good news for seniors who can’t rely on Access buses or a caretaker to get them out of the house for every trip.   

Exactly when seniors become too old to drive is a matter of discretion that needs to be regulated more closely and researched further to do so.  For now let’s hope powder blue Cadillac’s of the future will come standard with a ‘senior’s technology package’.


Newcastle University

The Hartford


Picture: Automedia.com

Tuesday Video: What’s inside your iPhone 5?

First, the good news: The iPhone 5 isn't as bad as previous phones when it comes to toxicity.  So what's the bad news? The iPhone 5 still tests high for mercury and chlorine. It also contains trace amounts of bromine, which has been linked to thyroid cancer and lung disease. “There’s no such thing as a ‘green’ phone,” says Kyle Wiens, featured in this clip as he dismantles the iPhone 5. “There’s no such thing as a phone that has no toxic chemicals.”

Wiens organization, iFixit, has the goal of helping users see the good, the bad, and the ugly for phones, often focusing on how much toxic mercury they contain and how to safely change the battery. Video after the jump. 

Hedberg: Computers Make Me Crazy

One morning last week I turned on my computer and at first everything looked fine, but within a few minutes I could tell it wasn't. My mouse wouldn't work. And then the computer, which has been suffering lately from some form of narcolepsy, konked out and I couldn't revive it. So I called the computer guy and he came right over. I think he has me tagged on his caller ID read-out as "high-maintenance customer" because whenever I call it's like a summons for an ambulance."HELP ME. I CAN'T GET THIS DARNED COMPUTER TO WORK AND ALL MY STORIES ARE STUCK AND I NEED TO CHECK MY EMAIL," I screech in that panic-stricken tone I use whenever an inconvenience strikes. … But I will say this in my defense: I never used to behave this way when I used a plain old typewriter and paper/Kathy Hedberg, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

Question: Are you more impatient today as a result of being exposed too long to the quirks of home computers?

Fake twitter accounts support tar sands

How low can you go? An employee of the American Petroleum Institute, which supports the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline, has apparently been setting up multiple fake Twitter accounts to give the illusion of grassroots support for their devilish enterprise. Brant Olson at the Rainforest Action Network's blog has investigated the accounts, which all popped up abruptly on the #tarsands hashtag.

Naomi Shah, Google science fair winner, takes on clean air

Naomi Shah was the winner of the Google science fair in the 15-16 age group. Her project focuses on the effects of air quality triggers on asthma sufferers and highlights why other people should be environmentalists too.


Her report and speech is amazing. Shah observed that medical practitioners immediately prescribe steroids and inhalers, rather than addressing the quality of the air asthma sufferers are breathing. Why? Nobody knows exactly how much air pollution affects lung function. But she tried to find out. .

This is what a solar powered 3D printer looks like

Markus Kayser - Solar Sinter Project from Markus Kayser on Vimeo.

The Solar Sinter is a cool art project by Markus Kayser. Yeah, it's not going to replace energy alternatives- but it shows the power of the sun, using the Sahara for this project. If you doubt the sun's ability to provide truly massive amounts of energy, just show them this video.

Dear Obama: When will we see solar panels on the White House?

Back in the fall, I was excited when President Obama said he would install solar panels on the most famouse residence in America.  Energy Secretary Steven Chu made an official announement solar panels would be installed by spring 2011 on top of the White House to heat water and provide some electricity.

Here we are and summer is a week away.

 said in October 2010: "As we move towards a clean energy economy, the White House will lead by example. I am pleased to announce that by the end of this spring, there will be solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity and a solar hot water heater on the roof of the White House. It’s been a long time since we’ve had them up there. These two solar installations will be part of a Department of Energy demonstration project. The project will show that American solar technology is available, reliable, and ready to install in homes throughout the country. Around the world, the White House is a symbol of freedom and democracy. It should also be a symbol of America’s commitment to a clean energy future."

It wasn't totally unprecedented. Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush both used solar power during their days in the White House. Carter in the late 1970s spent $30,000 on a solar water-heating system for West Wing offices, only to be removed by Ronald Reagan. Bush’s solar systems powered a maintenance building and some of the mansion, and heated water for the pool.

At the time, Bill McKibben commented, “if it has anything like the effect of the White House garden, it could be a trigger for a wave of solar installations across the country and around the world.”

Now McKibben feels betrayed
 and this latest issue is emblematic of larger issues between Obama and environmentalists.

Tuesday Video: How Green Is Your Internet?

The "so-coal network," a campaign to get Facebook to unfriend coal. was a wake-up call to internet savvy environmentalists using it as an outreach tool like yours truly. It boils down to this: Technology isn't without its environmental impact. The web continues to grow so more people get online each day and with that comes more energy use and a bigger carbon footprint.

How Green Is Your Internet? from Dan Ilic on Vimeo.

first posted this video from Australian filmmakers Dan Ilic and Patrick Clair which outlines the emissions produced to deliver the internet to computers around the world. Of course, there can be a future where we as consumers can choose how our energy is produced or perhaps it can be offset in a different way.

Twitter chooses the city over sprawl

Here's one ethical difference between Facebook and Twitter: Twitter announced they are taking up offices in San Francisco, a decision that contrasts the move being planned by Facebook. Its new headquarters will be out in San Mateo County, continuing a pattern of sprawl in the area. Facebook, which has 2,000 employees now, will be remodeling the office park to be more like a real city. Twitter, which could grow from 450 to 2,600 employees in the next six years, will be in an actual city.

The Twitter location happened because San Francisco officials wanted to spur the revitalization of a downtrodden neighborhood and made concessions on the city's controversial payroll tax. It was a decision that somehow merited this ridiculous animated Taiwanese video treatment after the jump.

Tuesday Video: That Bloomin’ box

This new (and expensive) mysterious product that will alledgedly solve the world’s energy problems has been unveiled: Meet the Bloom Box.

Bloom Energy CEO K.R. was interviewed by 60 minutes last Sunday. The program said it was “a new kind of fuel cell, which is like a very skinny battery that always runs. Sridhar feeds oxygen to it on one side, and fuel on the other. The two combine within the cell to create a chemical reaction that produces electricity. There’s no need for burning or combustion, and no need for power lines from an outside source.” So it’s a fuel cell, rather than an energy source and you can read the analysis here.

Watch video HERE.




At first, we were led to believe the new iPad was the Jar Jar Binks of Apple but it could change commuting habits, or even if it sucks, the overall technology trend is in favor of mobile access to Internet and email. Hence telecommuting. These products actually tip the balance for commuters to stop driving and take transit where “dead” commuting time is now more productive. (Just as long as you’re not falling down a YouTube hole and watching newscasters laughing at inappropriate things or the proverbial “football in groin” clip. ) Two more contributing factors: Comprehensive legal bans are sweeping the nation to keep drivers from using data-driven communications on the road due to increased incidents and, at home with STA buses and other cities, more transit options are offering w-fi. Yes, the name justifiably invites ridicule but it’s too early for a Razzie. Full story HERE.

Glowing walls, big ag, and a shady mining company - Thursday news bites

In mid December we brought you the story of ASARCO, the American Smelting and Refining Company LLC, and the bankruptcy reorganization that resulted in $1.79 billion being awarded to fund environmental cleanup and restoration.  Now comes news that, Grupo Mexico, the company that bought ASARCO in 1999 may have “maneuvered Asarco into bankruptcy in an attempt to evade its environmental responsibilities,” this according to the Tacoma News Tribune.  “Grupo Mexico tried to use a bankruptcy court to avoid Asarco’s cleanup responsibilities, and they almost got away with it,” charged Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell. 

Some are calling this a wake-up call for federal regulators and Congress, while others, including Sen. Cantwell, are saying that, “another company almost certainly will try to manipulate the bankruptcy system the way they charge that Grupo Mexico did.”  Read more from the  News Tribune HERE. And we’ll be sure to stay on top of this story. 

Are you ready for light-emitting wallpaper?  In a story that recently appeared in the London Times, a London government body that supports low-carbon technology said light-emitting wallpaper may begin to replace light bults by 2012.  According to the story, “a chemical coating on the walls will illuminate all parts of the room with an even glow, which mimics sunlight and avoids the shadows and glare of conventional bulbs.  Although an electrical current will be used to stimulate the chemicals to produce light, the voltage will be very low and the walls will be safe to touch. Dimmer switches will control brightness, as with traditional lighting.”  We wonder what Thomas Edison would think?  Read more of this story HERE. 

Make sure you’re not eating when you read this: researchers say the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals has led to a plague of drug-resistant infections that killed more than 65,000 people in the U.S. last year — more than prostate and breast cancer combined. And in a nation that used about 35 million pounds of antibiotics last year, 70 percent of the drugs — 28 million pounds — went to pigs, chickens and cows. Worldwide, it’s 50 percent. “This is a living breathing problem, it’s the big bad wolf and it’s knocking at our door,” said Dr. Vance Fowler, an infectious disease specialist at Duke University. “It’s here. It’s arrived.”  Also arriving is the battle over this issue that is starting to gain steam in D.C.  Lawmakers are fighting for a new law that would ban farmers from feeding antibiotics to their animals unless they’re sick.  And as expected, this move is backed by strong convictions and big money on both sides.  “Chaos will ensue,” said Kansas Republican Congressman Jerry Moran.  Moran is backed by the usual suspects, an array of powerful interests, including the American Farm Bureau, the National Pork Producers Council, Eli Lilly & Co., Bayer AG, Pfizer Inc., Schering-Plough Corp., Dow AgroSciences and Monsanto Company.  Read more of this story HERE. 

Welcome To The Academy Of Sciences




The California Academy Of Sciences in Golden Gate Park is a modern marvel, focusing on sustainability in an interactive way. Here were thousands of visitors from all over the world, checking a climate change exhibit where kids sat at a kiosk and contacted their local representative to request carbon caps and incentives for renewable energy. Visiting from a town where, in the last primary election, only four out of the twelve City Council candidates believed humans impacted climate change, DTE felt like we had stumbled out of a bizarre dimension where hamburgers ate people.

Seriously. At the Carbon Café, you were greeted with “Food is 25 percent of our carbon footprint.” The objective: Pick a breakfast, lunch, dinner menu and then add up your points to see your score and what you could do to lower it. For example, when you ordered a slice of pizza, you earned two points since most dairy comes from industrial farms responsible for emissions. Sorry but add another point for pepperoni.

Wandering outside the climate change exhibit, every water fountain had a conservation tip. One, titled “Pure Drink or Pure Hype” said “plastic bottled water is tested less often and subject to weaker safety standards than tap water.” The museum even knocked off $3 for admission fees if visitors took public transportation.




If the title of this post looks funny to you, we might have already lost you. But for the rest of you tweeters, twitterers, twits, or twitterians – you get us and this is for you. And for the rest of you, forget about what your mother said about jumping off that cliff – in fact… tweet about jumping. There’s an abundance of information at your fingertips, most of it garbage, some of it gold – so if you have to wade though some junk to get to the good stuff – why not subject yourself to only 140 characters of crap, or better yet, follow this DTE Twitter guide and you’ll be reading what we’re reading. Hell, you could even start your own environment issues blog and beat us to the story…. Seriously though, don’t do that…errrr… us and our big mouths.

DTE’s #followfriday

@DTE_Spokane - Down To Earth blog
Bio - DTE is committed to reporting and sharing environmental news and sustainability info from across the Inland Northwest and the blogosphere.
Sample Tweet - Congrats to Tim Connor & Center for Justice for Eco journalism award-great story on soap smugglers & Spokane River-http://tinyurl.com/myock2

@Bike2WrkSpokane - Bike to Work Spokane
Bio - Bike to Work Spokane, part of Spokane’s dynamic cycling community along w/ bikespokane.net, spokefest.org
Sample Tweet -
Do you think drivers treat different types of bikes/cyclists differently? http://twurl.cc/16ca

@The Lands Council - The Lands Council
Bio - We presever and revitalize Inland Northwest forests, water, and wildlife
Sample Tweet -
We found out we have some little helpers! Check out this blog article! http://bit.ly/2Whlo


Eco Nerds at heart

DTE really admires those who spend little time online. Now that may sound strange coming from us, being that your presence on the internet is essential to our sustainability, but it’s true. It’s been years since we’ve been able to sit down in front of the computer and just check our email, or just check the score of the game.

Each time our fingers touch the keyboard, it’s a chaotic dance of key strokes, mouse clicks and rolls, and new tab and window openings. And just when we thought we’ve exhausted every genre on YouTube (we just got into street performers, awesome!), and every episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia – Google unleashes an update to the biggest online time suck of all time – Google Earth.

As The New York Times reports, “the new version of Google Earth allows users to mouse around under and over the seas, click on video clips of hydrothermal vents, read up on which seafoods are being harvested unsustainably, look at marine dead zones and sanctuaries and the like.” But what DTE found most intriguing was the feature that let us scroll back through time for a look at coastal lines and forests of the past for perspective on the human impact of natural resources. Go have fun diving deep into the ocean for a look at old ship wrecks and coral reefs and spend a few minutes considering the impact of humans on natural resources – preferably you. It’s a wild world out there, and Google has it all on your screen.

For a bit of opportune contradiction – DTE has recently switched from Google Search to ecosearch.com. We had our love affair with Blackle, only to learn that we were cheated on, and then came the inevitable revert back to the comfortable Google, where we weren’t safe either. But now we’re happy to announce that we have fired up a monogamous relationship with ecosearch.com- a search engine that plants trees for all the searches that suck up electricity and put off CO2. Using Yahoo search technology, Ecosearch helps reforesting trees and safeguard water resources in the Amazon region.

How the economy affects clean tech

Freakanomics hosted a debate on whether an investment in clean technology will be affected by the recession. It was a question that has lumbered around in our brains for a while and our apprehension was confirmed when George Tolley said “the major kicker clouding the future remains how high the international price of oil will be; this is a more powerful influence on clean technology adoption than any U.S. policy.” That statement always begs another question: When gas prices go down, are drivers contented to return to old habits?

But there are many significant indications of optimism. “More broadly, I think the financial crisis will be remembered as a catalyst for public-policy changes that benefited clean energy,” said Ethan Zindler, and he mentioned the new stimulus bill that will expand subsidies for clean energy. Full story here.

(Thanks to DTE reader Geneva for the tip.)

Goodbye, Paper. Hello, Pixels!

Are electronic book devices in the near future for reading?

The e-book industry has remained a silent secret for almost a decade, but now, due in part to sky-rocketing advertising efforts on Amazon.com, e-books’ sales will launch.

Although the book industry and technology have always been tightly linked what with online libraries, web sites, reading lights, and the ability to download documents onto iPods and iPhones, Kindle hopes to introduce a new connection.

Kindle is a wireless device with the ability to display electronic books like any other traditional print copy. The approximated cost is $359; the popularity of the product is credited mostly to Oprah Winfrey, who featured the product on her show, and in part to Amazon.com by analysts.

From the New York Times’ article on the subject:

“The perception is that e-books have been around for 10 years and haven’t done anything,” said Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division. “But it’s happening now. This is really starting to take off.”…

 …“E-books will become the go-to-first format for an ever-expanding group of readers who are newly discovering how much they enjoy reading books on a screen,” said Markus Dohle, chief executive of Random House, the world’s largest publisher of consumer books.