Monday, January 24, 2011

Like It Or Not: The Kindle

For many, many months now, I've been following the dawn of the digital age of the book world. While music had theirs many moons ago and digital is now the norm (when was the last time you bought a CD?), the book/literary arena had been trying for a long time.

Probably more than 10 years ago, I watched as e-books tried to get a foothold. The devices were large, clunky, heavy, and the options for books were, shall we say, limited. Rarely could one find a mid-list author, and it was doubtful you'd find a bestseller. I watched and waited as the technology improved, but the quality of the books you could get didn't.

Those days are now behind us.

I'm sure many of you know the history of the Kindle and its competitors. If you don't, it's an easy enough thing to learn about through Google or Wikipedia. The original Kindle was released a few years ago, and has gone through many advents since then.

I held out, waiting for the technology to improve to my standards.

And did it ever!

In the last six months, I decided it was time for me to jump on the e-reader bandwagon. The iPad was too expensive, plus it was backlit, so I didn't want that--it makes eyestrain much worse. The Sony e-reader, while good technology, didn't have all the bells and whistles I wanted. The Nook by Barnes & Noble, well, there was one I could get behind. But it sadly lacked a couple of options I desperately needed: primarily the ability to read .doc or .rtf files (those used by Microsoft Word.)

And there was the Kindle by Amazon. No backlit screen. Hundreds of thousands of books at the ready. Could handle, if a little clunkily, the .doc files I needed to take with me. One of the few drawbacks was the fact I couldn't have removable storage. But, with storage for about 3500 books, I didn't think that would be an immediate concern.

So, with gift money from Christmas, I ordered a Kindle.

My first purchase: a free copy of Emma by Jane Austen. I can't believe the number of free books I can get through the Kindle store! Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, L.M. Montgomery, even Winston Churchill and some interesting-looking documents put out by the OSS (the precursor to the CIA.)

My first two books read on my Kindle: Sweet Revenge by Diane Mott Davidson and A Man Called Outlaw by K.M. Weiland.

While reading, I made a few observations, and thought I'd share them with you in case you're considering taking the digital plunge as I did.

First, the reading experience. You'd think holding a book would be preferable to holding a piece of technology. But, really, I've found the experience is natural with a Kindle. I don't have to try to keep a book open, or worry about accidentally dropping the book and losing my place. I can lay my Kindle down while I'm folding clothes or cooking dinner and only occasionally press the little page turn button to advance. Unless you've got a well-worn book, that's probably not going to happen.

It's pretty easy to get your books from Amazon. I bought the Wi-Fi version, and as long as I'm within range of a hotspot, I'm good to go. So, next time I'm in the hospital with my son (hopefully a very, very long time!) I won't be without fresh reading material. For an extra $50, you can get the 3G version, so you can get books pretty much wherever you've got a cell signal.

On the not-so-hot side of things, I like the fact I can send my .doc files to my Kindle, but the formatting sometimes is strange--paragraphs or indents where there shouldn't be. Also, I haven't figured out whether I can send the file back to my computer in a usable way.

I purchased a Bible version shortly before my Kindle arrived. I love the fact I can take my Kindle to church and take notes on it, but the search function is a little clunky, at least for my version (I think I got the free ESV version. I'm looking for another version to get as well, but checking the reviews.) If the pastor is doing rapid-fire changes in passages/books, I may not be able to keep up. Fortunately, the one time I've tried this so far, there's been notes to follow and the changes have taken a few minutes to happen, giving me a chance to make whatever notes I want, then go to the Table of Contents, find the next book I need to go to, get there, then select the chapter I want.

Overall, I've really liked using my Kindle so far. My daughter thinks it's a big phone and frequently puts it up to her ear to jabber. Fortunately, I figured out real quick I could password protect the device so now she can't change my page when I'm not paying close attention.

Money-saving tip: definitely get a cover for your e-reader if you choose to get one. It'll protect it and keep the screen clean. But, be sure to check around. I ended up getting my cover at Best Buy. They had some of the same ones as Amazon, and since they sell the Nook, and the Nook and the Kindle are approximately the same size, you can purchase Nook covers for your Kindle. They ran about $5 cheaper than the Kindle ones, and the same manufacturer produces both.

In the future, I'd really like to see the functionality improve between the Kindle and other types of documents, like the .doc. As a writer, it'd be nice to be able to make notes to put onto my computer while I'm out, or when my husband's working on our computer. Also, I'd like to see the web browser and MP3 player (both of which are considered "experimental") improve. To browse Facebook, for instance, takes a lot of time, and it's almost not worth it, especially on that small a screen.

I'm actually quite glad I purchased the Kindle. I'm looking forward to catching up on my classics (I've read very, very few) and the opportunity to try new authors/books for little or nothing is something I'm ready to take advantage of.

Have you taken the digital reading plunge? Which device do you have? What are things you like? Things you'd change?

Until next time,


Karyn said...

I also got my Kindle partially so I could email my .docs to it and read my writing. I don't understand why the paragraphs sometimes show up clunky like you mentioned, but hopefully that will improve with a software update.

I've tried two different methods for editing: using the Kindle's notes feature where I move the cursor to where I want and start typing a note. The problem is it's still slower than writing on paper.

So I tried just putting numbers in my notes and then using pen and paper to write down all of my changes. That works a little better, but it's still clunky.

I really wish you could send your documents back to your computer.

For my Bible, I'm using the Kindle's search function to type the name of the book and the chapter number to at least get the chapter I want because each chapter also has the book name with it. There's no way to easily get to a particular verse. And some book names are harder to spell than others, so it isn't perfect.

But for daily reading, I much prefer to use the Kindle to read my Bible.

Sheila said...

Totally agree. The Kindle is great.

Kristina Seleshanko said...

I was such a skeptic until I got my Kindle! I don't use it to edit documents, but I do enjoy the highlighting feature when I'm reading reference books. Also, you can bookmark pages of interest, which is handy, too.

In addition, I recommend checking out places like Target, Best Buy, and Office Depot. I got my Kindle at one of these locations about $20 cheaper than Amazon sells it. This helped me get a really nice leather cover.

Oh, and if you like to read at night and don't want to disturb others with your book reading light, be sure to get a cover with a built in light! The light runs off the Kindle battery and is just right for reading the eReader.

K.M. Weiland said...

Good tip about the cover. (Extra bonus: those are always fun to buy!) The fact that so many of the old classics are available for free is a huge selling point for me. *inching closer, closer, closer*

by Pegg Thomas said...

I bought a CD at Christmas, so I'm what? 10 years behind the times? I don't think I'll have a Kindle or any other device in the next 10 years either. Some of us just don't move as fast as others. ;)

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