Sunday, November 16, 2008

My new toy

I got my Christmas present early this year. As Oprah said, "It's the Amazon Kinnndlllleeeeeeee!" It was because of Oprah that I got it early - she offered $50 off for a week following the show in which she gushed about it.

Now that I've had a few weeks to play with it, I thought I'd offer my thoughts, as the whole concept of e-book readers is either bothersome or fascinating, depending on who you ask.

What I love about the Kindle:

1. The screen is not the typical back-lit screen found on computers and cell phones. It is an entirely different technology called "e-ink", and is extremely easy on the eyes. While I can't say that it is exactly like reading a "real" book, it comes pretty darn close. I can read for an hour or more and not feel any ill effects on my eyes.

2. It has the internet. I don't travel all that much, but I imagine that the Kindle would come in handy if you were stuck in an airport and needed to check your email. If you were bored by the 200 books you have stored on it, you could easily download one of over 100,000 from amazon, for under $10.

3. You can walk around carrying hundreds of books. Of course I can only read one at a time, but this sort of hoarding isn't any different than stuffing my bookshelves at home with books I haven't read yet, or checking out ten books from the library when I know I'll only have time to read five.

4. I really like not having to carry around huge books. I am working my way through a physical copy of Pillars of the Earth, which clocks in at just under 1,000 pages. It's taken me over 5 months to get halfway through, partly because its annoying to have to hold the huge book open. I have Les Miserables, Anna Karenina, Don Quixote, and Gone with the Wind all on my Kindle, and it still weighs 9 ounces.

Things I will learn to deal with:

1. The internet is really slow. I have found it is much easier to download books to my computer and then transfer the files via USB to the Kindle. The New York Times had an article recently on the Kindle, in which the author writes that it is basically not a cool device. It's not in color, it doesn't blink or show movies or allow you to chat with your friends. But, it does do what it is designed to do, and it does it well. It is a reader, so any qualms I have about the slow connection speeds are really just peripheral.

2. Because the screen is smaller than normal paperback books, I feel like I am constantly turning the page. Particuarly when reading dialogue, I have to hit the "next" button nearly every 15 seconds.

All in all, I really like the Kindle. It certainly won't replace books, particularly those I can read for free from the library; its just another way to read, and I'm all for that. If you are the type of person who spends a lot of money on books, then the $9.99 bestsellers from amazon will really save you money. And if you are the type, like me, who is really into reading books published before 1930, there are plenty of sites that allow you to download these books for free. ( has over 20,000 free books in Kindle format.)

If you want something that whizzes and dings, then you should probably get an iPhone. If you are a reader and want something that will enable your habit, then you should get a Kindle (or another e-book reader -- Sony has a popular one.) I think this would be particularly useful for people who travel a lot or commute on public transportation.

So, do you want one?
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