One of the best gifts I’ve ever given myself...
|Blog Entry - Thursday, November 20th, 2008
||Add / Read (1)
Well, since the gift-giving season is almost upon us (and because my good friend Jonvon
asked so nicely), I thought I'd blog about my Kindle
. Right before ILUG this year, I thought I might be doing more travel in 2008 and beyond than I'd been doing for a few years, and I decided to give myself a lovely graduation gift, so I started looking at electronic books. Warren has a Sony e-Reader that he'd let me paw at Lotusphere, and I liked it, but he was already having to jump through some hoops to get books, so that seemed like a bit of a negative to me. The Kindle had been out for a while, but I was leary of spending almost $400 without touching it for myself.
Still. I figured if I bought it and hated it, I could return it, so I went for it.
Wow. I have been overjoyed with this purchase. As my poor long-suffering fiance comments - he's a Kindle-widow. I try to tell him he's a book-widow, but... Well, those of you who know me at all, know that I LOVE to read. When doing almost anything else for fun, I always have to ask myself, "But, would I rather be reading?" (Hence, my picking up and putting down all knitting and stitching type projects, stamping, jewelry-making, and other other cool hobbies that many of my friends do!). The Kindle, therefore, has made my travel life much easier - I no longer have to put 3, 4, or more books in my carry-on and my suitcase just to see me through a couple of plane flights. Instead, I pack one paperback or magazine for take-offs and landings... and my Kindle, with its over 120 books on it currently.
But let's get to the nitty gritty of this review - details!
Kindle is available exclusively from Amazon.com and the current price is US$359. It comes with USB capability, so you can upload books, text files, MP3 files, PDFs, and etc. to your Kindle from your computer. I've never used my USB cable. Instead, I take advantage of the proprietarily named Whispernet. When I turn on the wireless access, I can connect to the Web (very minimalist surfing capabilities - I'd rather use my phone's browser most of the time)... and to the Amazon Kindle Store. The Kindle store
(neither via browser nor via Kindle)is not great for browsing, although you can search by genre, and the Amazon recommendation engine is at work. On the other hand, if you know what you want to buy -- in under 3 minutes, you can find, purchase, and have downloaded the next book in that series you're reading, the new book by that author, or whatever you're looking for. Your Kindle is tied to your Amazon account, so your credit card on file is automatically charged (which can be dangerous if you're not paying attention to how many books you're buying), but the speed and ease of delivery made me a chain reader for a while when I first got my device!
Kindle books are less expensive than most of what you'll buy for a paper book, although just in the last few weeks, the prices have gone way up. For the longest time, I didn't find any books - including those brand-new hardcover bestsellers - that were selling for more than $9.99. Most paperbacks were more like $5.99 or around there. The last hardcover I bought, however, was more. Still, a quick glance through the front page of the Kindle store at Amazon shows that only three or four books on the first few pages were more than that $9.99 standard -- new hardcovers for $11.99 and $14.99. Searching from high-to-low on price shows that there are some multi-thousand dollar text and reference books available, but if you're talking your every day fiction and non-fiction that you might pick up in the airport bookstore -- you'll pay between $5-$10.
One of the things that most concerned me when I considered picking up the Kindle was book availability. I do read many of those airport books, but I also like literature, science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction... You get the idea. I didn't want to invest in this and realize I couldn't get the books I wanted! There are currently around 200,000 books available for the Kindle from the Amazon store, about 85,000 of which are fiction. I have been a little disappointed at not finding some books I truly wanted to read on the Kindle, but the selection of books they do have is pretty good. I'm not going to kid you - it's one of my wish-list items
that more books in the genres I like most would be available, but I've also found many new authors through trying what I found on my Kindle. I've liked being able to download a sample. It's about a chapter or two of the book (from the beginning) that lets you get a pretty decent page test in before you buy. Once you buy, you do have one quick chance to return (oops, I clicked the wrong one type of thing), but after that, the book is yours. No sharing (or so the rules say - I haven't tried it). It's easy to store books on the Kindle - I think I had almost 80 or 90 before I started wondering what my space was like. I bought an SD card and slid it in the back and feel like I can go on forever now. You can also delete books and redownload from your Amazon account or computer.
Battery life is great. Right up until you spend a lot of time with the wireless turned on. Wireless use really whacks the battery life, but since I'm mostly using it to buy and download a book, it doesn't impact me too much. I've gone for a long weekend with fairly heavy book reading with no need to recharge. If I don't turn on the wireless, I've gone almost a week, in fact. The joys of the electronic paper, where the battery power is only being used to turn the pages. Related to this is the backlighting and readability. There is no backlight. This keeps the battery life long and the readability high. Have you noticed that when you try to read on a computer, your eyes get tired? A lot of this is the backlighting. Kindle has none, which means that you can read just fine in bright sunlight (out by the pool, where you can't read a laptop mostly) and in any other normal lighting. I did buy an LED booklight to take for night-time flights, when the overhead light doesn't always do enough, but that's more about me getting old than it is about the Kindle, I think. I find the Kindle very easy to read. Easier in fact than some paper books, as I can up the font size at any time when I'm feeling tired or have been reading too long. Maybe that's a bad thing, but the ability to choose from about 6 font sizes on the fly makes readability pretty good. Screen is clear and electronic ink is so much like reading a printed book that almost everyone I show it to does a double take just on that aspect.
My biggest issues with the Kindle have been around how to hold the darn thing. Where the hands in the image are holding it always seems awkward to me and doesn't really work for the lying in bed reading. I often hold it where the left thumb is, but I use my my index and middle fingers (one on each side of the device), with my thumb supporting the bottom. Sometimes I use the top area to hold it. If you try to hold on the left or right wide areas, you'll see that you'd be hitting the buttons that you use to turn the pages. Which means that sometimes, you accidentally turn a page when you don't mean to do so. Not that big a deal, but...
Okay, a few more complaints and then we'll wrap it up.
- The "Back" button (NOT to be confused with the previous page button) does not act in a predictable way. Now, this is coming from someone who prides herself on knowing how to figure out technology and how things work. Sometimes the back button takes you to your book list, sometimes to a previous pages, sometimes to someplace totally unexpected. Either make it predictable or kill it.
- The book list... hmm, it works well enough when you have only a few books or magazines, but not so well after that. I've got about 27 JD Robb books on the Kindle. If I try to sort by author to find them all, well, some are catalogued with periods between the initials, some with spaces, some with no spaces, some with last name first... So they don't all show up in the same place. If I try to sort by Most Recent, well, it means the most recently touched book - either what you've just been reading, what you downloaded, or what your friend opened while you were showing off your Kindle. While the search works wonderfully, the organization should be improved so the books I've got are easier to sort. They should also have a folder or categorization system so that I can put all my JD Robb books, all my Michael Moorcock books, etc, in their own folders.
- Now, that issue with the cataloging - where the names aren't standardized. I suspect part of the problem there is the electronic production process. I've noticed that there are a lot of errors (small ones, to be sure) in the electronic books that don't seem to be as prevalent in the paper books. Things like "skirt" for "shirt" or homonyms or other small typo/transcription errors sneak in. They bug me because of my editorial eye and my persnickety nature, and throw me out of the story.
- Charging for blogs? Okay, so they're delivered more like a magazine or newspaper and it's only the "A Listers" but not worth it for me.
Bottom line, if you are a ready who travels, this is absolutely a must-have. If you need to cut down on the number of paper books you're trying to to store in your house - again, awesome. It will never completely replace paper books for me, even though I believe in trying to live a greener life - I just love books. However, I've bought more Kindle books than paper books in the almost 6 months I've had my Kindle and look forward to the improvements that will invariably come in selection and technology to improve it. If you want to ask anything about a Kindle, just drop me a note or a comment. If you want to try before you buy, I know Amazon has a way to do that, but I'm also happy to show you mine whenever you like.
Author: Libby Ingrassia
Posted at: 12:00:00 PM