I’ve had my Kindle e-reader for five months now, enough time to really determine whether it is, for me, a useful item. My opinion?
The Kindle could be a useful item, but it isn’t there yet.
Amid rumors that Amazon will release Kindle 2.0 today, it’s not the design or the technology to which I object. I find both those things to be unobtrusive and easy to use.
It’s the e-book selection. Despite the fact that there are over 190,000 books available in Kindle format, none of them seem to be books I want to read. Perhaps I’m not searching correctly or perhaps the bulk of these 190,000 “books” is made up solely of bestsellers and the myriad titles one finds on the “remainder” table in a brick and mortar shop. I’m at a loss if I’m looking for a specialized book, like a bibliography or reference book, a cookbook, or a travel guide.
Maybe it’s an indication of how strange my tastes are, but the last 10 books I’ve purchased are not available in Kindle format. Remember when I told you about how much I enjoyed The Provincial Lady series, by E.M. Delafield? Not available for the Kindle. How about the next books I’ve purchased, Dorothy Canfield Fisher’s The Home-Maker and D.E. Stevenson’s Miss Buncle’s Book? Also not available for the Kindle. I’ll grant you that these are older titles, published mostly in the 1930s, but they are still not out of print, so someone must be reading them. Perhaps you think that if I would just read more a courant bestsellers and the like, I would find plenty of books to read in this new electronic format.
It’s true that bestsellers abound in Amazon’s Kindle store, but they still have yet to include any of the books most all people read and use — cookbooks and travel guides. I’ve written before about wanting to have my cookbooks on the Kindle. I could then take the Kindle to the store in my purse and use the recipe as a my shopping list. Additionally, I am planning a trip to Southern California, and I want to bring several travel guides with me. Wouldn’t it be great, if instead of lugging a bag of five or six books, I could load the travel guides onto my Kindle and refer to it while out touring around? But I could not find travel guides for the places I’m going (places commonly visited by tourists from all over the world) in Kindle format.
Apparently, I am the only person who thinks that e-book availability of such books as bibliographies, travel guides, and cookbooks would be at all useful. I keep my Kindle in my purse, so I tend to use it on the go. When I am lounging at home, I almost always read a book printed on paper. When I’m out and about, grocery shopping or touring, I would love to use the Kindle. Unfortunately, I am unable to do so at this juncture because of the lack of books available.
In a somewhat-related topic, I recently received my second e-issue of Fine Books and Collections. I have to say that I really miss the print version of this particular magazine. When it used to arrive in the mail, I put it aside for when I had time to read and savor each page. I looked forward to reading it each month, and would [nerd alert] make myself a pot of tea and a special snack when I had time to sit and read it cover to cover. Now that it’s delivered via email, I find I read one or two of the most interesting articles, and I rarely re-visit. I do read many things on the computer screen, so it’s not that doing so is unfamiliar, but my previously established habits mean that the computer is for “work” and therefore my reading must be hurried and cursory. I take my time and absorb things much better when they are in print, and I associated reading FB & C with enjoyment when it was in print. Now it has become another “work” item in my email queue. Articles I would have read just because I turned the page I now skip unless the title suggests something of relevance or interest. I could read all the articles, and time allowing, I think I would, but I’m just not inclined to spend an hour or more reading a magazine on the computer. That said, I am glad Fine Books continues to exist in any format whatsoever. The book collecting world would be much the poorer without it. I hope it continues, even if only electronically.
The good news is that later this week, I will be surrounded by many thousands of print books and by a couple of hundred dealers at what is, according to some reports, the world’s largest antiquarian book fair: The San Francisco International Antiquarian Book Fair. I have a feeling I’ll feel right at home there. I wonder how many Kindles I’ll see?
See you in the stacks, where the real books live.