Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Kindle Girl

Lately I’ve been investing in some new technology. It all started back in October of 2008 with a Kindle (version 1). I was talking to my techie friend Terry one day and mentioned that I was thinking about getting one as a birthday present to myself. Well, says he, I happen to have one that I am not using if you would like to borrow it. Of course I said yes.

It took me a little while to warm up to the Kindle. I wasn’t put off by the form factor, unlike a lot of people who have been writing and speaking about the Kindle. No, I had to figure out how it fit into my life because I am a bibliophile. I have a house full of books.

I immediately took to the idea of being able to browse and buy books right from the device. So, Bruce and I would be watching The Daily Show, and Jon Stewart would have some author on, and before the interview was over I would be browsing the book in question on my Kindle and reading the reviews.

The first book that I read on the Kindle was “The Hogfather” by Terry Pratchet. This was a book a friend had recommended to me. I haven’t read any Prachet before and tend to stay away from never-ending series, but her descriptions of a couple of scenes piqued my curiosity enough that I bought it and read it. I didn’t feel bad buying it on the Kindle because it wasn’t a book that I would have bought ordinarily. It was, for me, a throw-away book, an experiment to see if I would enjoy the reading process on the Kindle. Well, I did. I like the grey-scale screen, and the page turn delay doesn’t bother me at all. Mostly, I like the fact that I can read it with no hands, which means that I can read while knitting.

The next thing that really got me excited about the Kindle was all the classics that are available. It didn’t take me long to get the complete works of Shakespeare, Jules Verne and most of H. G. Wells. Also, Jane Austin, E. M. Forster, Alexander Dumas, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scott, Dickens, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky. I now have something like 100 different items on my Kindle, including a lot of samples. That is the other very cool thing about the Kindle, you can try a sample of a book for free. The free sample satisfies the instant gratification bug without costing you anything. And believe me, the instant gratification of the Kindle is a big temptation to spending too much money on books. It is just so easy. Other than the credit card statement there is no evidence of your indulgence. You don’t even have to find more bookshelf space.

I have tried reading magazines on the Kindle, but that hasn’t worked as well. Books tend to be read in a more linear fashion, although I still miss being able to easily flip back to a previous passage. But the magazine experience is different. There is the whole layout of a magazine page, which is not reproduced on the Kindle. And you really can’t flip through or browse the way you would with a print magazine. There is no art work to catch your eye, just text. Having the latest issue appear magically on your Kindle is pretty cool, though. You also don’t want to read books that have a lot of graphics or photographs in them. The grey scale does pretty well, but it is not color. But for reading novels it is great.

I have looked at the NY Times on the Kindle, but just couldn’t really figure out how to read it effectively. It just seemed to be too big for the Kindle, you know? I also tried out some of the blogs. They’re okay, but I really didn’t like the fairly steady stream of updates being downloaded and sucking my battery life. In the end I settled on just reading books on the Kindle, mostly fiction, but some non-fiction as well. Anything in paperback is definitely a Kindle read because I can’t read a paperback and knit at the same time.

Once I got hooked on the Kindle I took it with me everywhere. Bruce even started calling me Kindle Girl. Since I got the Kindle I have been reading more. I still buy real physical books but only if I really want the hardcopy, or if it is something that the Kindle just won’t handle well, or if it is something that Bruce will want to read – he doesn’t like reading on the Kindle, he needs more contrast.

The Kindle is not the end of the e-readers, it is the beginning. The reason it has done better than the others is because it has the weight of Amazon behind it providing a lot of titles (Oprah’s endorsement didn’t hurt). Yeah, it is spendy, and the price discount on the books is not that substantial, except on the classics, and there are the issues of digital rights management (thank goodness iTunes has gone DRM-free!) but the Whispernet is great. I don’t think that Kindle 2 is that much of an improvement over 1. More contrast, slimmer, but you can’t change the battery yourself, and they did away with the memory expansion slot. They did up the on-board memory, but I’ve probably exceeded that on my Kindle 1 (I have a 15 gig SD card).

The Kindle is a sign of things to come and I, for one, am looking forward to the future.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, goody - I've been WONDRIN about these things and feel like I got a really good - well, feel. And p.s. by the way, I read this whole little review enviously: I know I should write some practice reviews for my writing portfolio and just have been lazy, lazy, lazy. And reading stuff like this, on a stinky poor-me day, it's easy to think, why bother? That was a really backwards compliment. Back to my chocolate!