So I received a Kindle from Thoughtful Husband for my _0th birthday this month. Before you begin to think that he must be Thoughtless Husband for giving his wife — a lover of print — an electronic reader, let me assure you that I asked — no; I hinted, then asked, then begged lest he not get the hint that the Kindle is what I wanted — for this particular gift. I know a few of you other booksellers and book lovers have a Kindle. I’ve read at least one of your reviews here. I really wanted to be able to buy books on a whim and to read online — blogs and periodicals from the convenience of this tiny handheld device. The Kindle seemed the perfect answer. Besides, if it’s true that Kindles are going to put printed books out of existence, I figured I had better check out my competition.
I won’t bore you with a technical review that you can read anywhere else. I’ll cut to the chase. My opinion: The Kindle is an interesting invention that in its current incarnation is not going to set the world of the printed book on fire (as its name seems to imply it will).
The Kindle is wonderful for reading blogs. I read quite a few blogs and now I don’t have to be sitting at my computer to do it. I can read blogs during soccer practice, reclining on my couch, or while I’m getting a haircut. That is a time saver for me. The Kindle is also pretty good for reading newspapers. Thoughtful Husband and I currently subscribe to four daily papers — one national, one regional, and two local. The idea of being able to read a couple of them online rather than recycling all that paper is a good one. We’re going to give it a try for a bit and see if we like the virtual versions of the newspaper better. The point here is that blog posts and newspaper articles are short and easy to digest in one sitting — unlike a book.
I’ve downloaded a couple of books from Amazon’s Kindle store. When I first got this machine I thought I would quickly begin digesting electronic books like so many pieces of hot buttered popcorn. The books are easy to browse, affordable (relative to hardcover prices), and download in no time. The convenience ends there, as one realizes the difference between a piecemeal snack like popcorn and a nourishing four-course meal that is a printed book.
While I might read an entire book (or books) electronically when traveling (it saves me from having to pack several big books in a suitcase), I have not much enjoyed reading entire books on a screen, even a lovely, no-glare, e-ink-based screen like the Kindle’s. For one thing, the amount of text that fits on a single page is not the same as what fits on the page of a printed book, even with the font size adjusted to book size. I complete a page faster on the Kindle and keep hitting the “Next Page” button. It’s too distracting. I also don’t like that it’s difficult to jump ahead 20 or 30 pages and then jump back, a reading habit that may not apply to everyone, but does to me. I’ll admit it; I’ve been known to start some books at the end or in the middle. Not impossible, but not so easy to do this on the Kindle. Very easy to do with a physical book.
Not all books available on Amazon are available on the Kindle as of this writing. I’d be willing to buy some bibliographies in Kindle format to use as reference, but none of the ones I want are offered as e-books in the Kindle store. If you want a top-selling title, you’ll find it on the Kindle; if you want the content of hard-to-find book, you probably won’t find it for the Kindle — at least not yet.
True, there are features that allow readers to clip and highlight passages they like, and that’s nice, but not something I find necessary. I’ll see how much I’m reading books on the Kindle in another month as opposed to checking blogs and news. For now, I see the Kindle’s true potential not as an e-reader but as a portable internet surfing tool. It’s great to have access to the internet without sitting at one’s computer, and it would not surprise me to see future versions of this product strengthen those features (likely at a subscription cost) and de-emphasize the electronic books. It’s a nice addendum to printed material and it’s got a lot of thoughtful features for readers (great screen, small size, font size adjustment), but the Kindle is not yet sophisticated enough to make me desire it over a printed book.
I’ll grant you that my response to the Kindle is based on owning it less than a week. My opinion may change with time. I like the Kindle a lot for what it is, but I still prefer being able to turn a page without charging a battery. And yes, I realize I could be wrong. The Kindle could mean doom for the printed book, as some have suggested. I think that’s so unlikley that if and when that happens, I’ll happily eat my words.
See you in the stacks!