So after endless discussion and debate — internal and external, I finally bought a Kindle DX. As my regular readers (I’m talking to you Kirkland and Walsall) know, I love books – the look and feel of them, the way they turn to dust and crumble in your hand. I love used books that have yellowing paper that breaks off if you try to fold a corner to save a place. But there’s only so much room in my apartment.
Why a Kindle? Why not a Nook, or Sony E-Reader, or Brand X, or I-PAD?
After reading the recent New Yorker article on Bezos v. Jobs and Big Publishing, I decided maybe it was worth supporting Amazon. If we’re all going to be reading e-books in the future, it would be nice to be reading them cheap, and Bezos at least acknowledges that it costs much less to produce an e-book than a print book and some of those savings should be passed on to consumers. As a print consumer, most of the books I buy are discounted or more likely used. I like the idea of more cheap content, and Amazon offers droves of it. As a writer, I love that Kindle offers easy access to self-publishing with 70% royalty, which also deserves supporting.
I get the utility of the I-PAD as an easy display to show off your photos, watch movies, surf the web, etc. It’s great for reading art books, graphic novels and those “books of the future” with lots of live links including to video clips, photos, etc. However, for reading words on a page, the Kindle is far superior. No backlight, good contrast, and lightweight. It doesn’t give me a screen headache. Call me a relic, but I’m fine surfing the web on my computer, and if I had unlimited income I’d buy an I-PAD as well, but for reading books and other texts, this works best.
I chose the DX, a big price jump from the regular Kindles, because I wanted the screen size. The Nook, by the way, doesn’t come big. I’ve always been farsighted and since passing into my decrepitude, small print has been a lot of work. The DX allows me a full screen of text displayed in a reasonably large font. It’s a nice size for reading and storing work-related PDFs and an alternative to printing them out.
What I’ve Learned So Far:
Proofreading. Who knew?
One thing I didn’t even think would be useful is the “text to voice” feature. Just as an experiment, I turned it on to listen to my novel, Loisaida. Despite having proofread several times the old-fashioned way and with friends as readers, I was suddenly “seeing” a ton of errors and formatting inconsistencies I hadn’t caught before. I was able to note them using the mark-up feature. It’s awkward for editing as you can’t directly change the text, and the keyboard isn’t great. But the combination of being able to read something that looks like print and hear the words clearly (albeit mechanically) is a terrific proofreading tool.
Sharing, not encouraged.
I’m enjoying my two-week free trial subscription to The New York Times on Kindle. It’s great to browse through the articles one at a time and not have to move from page 1 to page 13 to finish reading something. I thought I’d be able to save some trees and chuck my home delivery subscription, however, here we run into a problem. I am pair-bonded. Even if my better-half had his own Kindle, he’d need his own subscription to read The Times on it. I suppose the idea would be for him to get his own Kindle and we could each trade off with different subscriptions, but this is not happening anytime soon, Mr. Bezos. While my husband says he’s fine reading the paper on the computer screen, he says it in an “I’ll just read in the dark” tone, so for now at least we’ll stick to the paper version of the paper.
(Of course, I’m hardly the first to notice the sharing issue and there is a less than perfect fix. Apparently, if we bought another Kindle and kept my name on the account for both devices, The Times could go to both. But that would destroy our sense of individuality and hence the marriage itself, leading to a court fights over custody of the content when we divorce.)
Thumb fatigue and the Plight of the Left-Handed
I wish there were a better way to turn the page. The button that needs to be pushed, feels counter-intuitive. Why not a touchscreen (like I-PAD) for this one feature? I noticed also when I was reading intensely (my proofreading binge), my right arm from thumb to elbow started to ache. I’m a righty, but would have liked to switch hands. The only way to do that is to turn the image upside down and then turn the Kindle itself upside down. This means, however, that the page turning arrows will be pointing in the wrong direction and the keyboard — in case you want to make notes, adjust the font, etc., — will also be upside down. I don’t know whether or not the other devices are more “left-hand friendly,” but I wouldn’t recommend this one to a lefty.
One Click Buying Adds Up
I’m no expert on the economics of the Kindle, but I imagine the main money is not in the sales of the apparatus itself, but in all the Amazon products bought once you own one. While the Kindle doesn’t surf the web, it does surf the Amazon store quite easily and allows you to purchase anything you want with just one-click. Impulse buying is encouraged and just about every periodical and blog comes with a free two-week trial, which you have to remember to cancel before they start charging you.
And Finally: The Kindle Community — Are we just talking to ourselves?
Another glitch, probably worthy of it’s own dissertation or at least a post — the Kindle of course comes with its own “Kindle Community” of forums because couldn’t we all use more social networking? There are tons of threads. Some are about Kindle devices. Many are about content, and most of these seem to be self-published Kindle authors hawking their wares. This leads me suspect that in some ways, the “Kindle Community” isn’t very different from the “Authonomy Community” with one exception. Whereas, Harper Collins allows writers to display their work for each other to see and comment on free of charge, Amazon charges for downloading other people’s work, counting these as “book sales” and gets a 30-65% (depending on price) piece of the action. While there are tens of thousands of self-published books available on Kindle, it’s not at clear who is buying other than other self-published writers.