Aug 3, 2009

My thoughts on The Kindle

I'm still weeding through my pictures from our trip to Atlanta this weekend, and people have been clamoring for this post for a while now (well, one person has badgered me about it enough for 20 people -- hi, Mel!), so until I can decide which pictures to post of the weekend, I thought I'd go ahead and mesmerize you with My Official Review of the Kindle.

I tried to come up with a better title for this post, but I was pretty sure you wouldn't appreciate any puns about "rekindling my interest in reading," or anything like that.

So. You will remember that I received the much-talked-about Amazon Kindle (electronic book) for my birthday. And there was much rejoicing.

Now that I have one, people ask me questions about it all the time. Total strangers have struck up conversations with me at my dermatologist's office and in the break room at The Place Where I Work to ask me about it. And I have to say, I'm very, very pleased with it. In case you're thinking about buying one for yourself or a loved one, I thought I'd post a few of my Pros and Cons. Let's start with the good news:


- It is very lightweight. It weighs less than a hardback book, probably about the same as a paperback.

- It's compact and, therefore, very portable. I know paperbacks are portable, too, but I wasn't sure how easy it was going to be to carry my Kindle around in my purse laptop bag. As it turns out, very easy.

- The screen is very easy to read from different angles. It's hard to explain how similar it is to reading off of a real book page, but it really is almost exactly the same. It's not at all like trying to read e-mail on your Blackberry or your cell phone. It's not at all like reading text on a computer monitor.

- Books download instantly. When I place an order for a book on the Kindle itself or log onto to order one, the download begins instantly, and it's complete within about 30 to 40 seconds.

- It lays flat. Even with the protective cover, the Kindle lays flat on a surface, so unlike a regular paperback or even a hardback (if you're close to the beginning or end of the book), you don't have to keep your hands on it for it to remain open.

- It marks your place. If you walk away and get distracted for a few minutes, the Kindle turns itself off and saves your place, so the next time you turn it on, you can pick up right where you left off. Same thing if you turn it off yourself with the Power switch. No need to bookmark anything; it will remember where you were. You just select your book title from the menu, and it takes you to the page you were last reading.

(Unrelated note: Yes, I am finishing up the Twilight series. Yes, I was more than a little conflicted about reading four books about vampires. Yes, elements within them bothered me somewhat. No, I am not sorry I read them. Not sorry, but still conflicted. Book 4 is a pretty tough read. Now back to the Kindle review.)

- You MAY, however, WANT to bookmark or highlight something, and you can do that. You can also search within the book for words or phrases, all in the same menu and using the keyboard.

The keyboard, incidentally, is much easier to use than the one on a cell phone.

- New releases are far less expensive. Books in hardcover new release are $9.99 for the Kindle. Paperbacks are typically the same price, around $5 to $7. Since I usually buy my favorite authors' new books in hardcover, I'm saving anywhere from $10 to $18 per book by purchasing them on the Kindle.

And now, for the bad news, or at least for the less-desirable properties of the Kindle:


- I have to click a lot. You have to click "Next Page" to move on to the ... next page. Since I read pretty quickly, I end up clicking pretty often, often enough that I leave my fingers on the book at all times instead of taking them off and putting them back on repeatedly. If you're reading on a train or something, you'd probably do that regardless, but since I read on the couch or at my desk at lunch most of the time, I'd love it if the Kindle could just read my mind and turn the pages itself. Maybe in the next version.

- There's not enough text on the screen. This is sort of related to the prior point. Because I read quickly, I feel like I can take the Kindle screen in almost at a glance, meaning that I have to click forward a lot. I know I can make the text smaller or larger to make it more comfortable for my eyes, but I like the way it's set now ... at about the normal type size of a printed book.

- There are no page numbers. While many people might not find this disconcerting, I do. You track your progress through the book by looking at the Percentage Read at the bottom of the page. I have no idea why I feel so adrift without my page numbers, but I do. It's something to get used to. Especially when some books end at 94% (HELLO, TWILIGHT) and some end at 99% (like The Agency), and some top out at a nice, even 100%. I'm not sure what that's about.

- I can't pass my books on to others. I am in no way a proponent of stripping authors or publishers of their earnings, so I am happy to pay full price for every book I buy. However, I've always enjoyed passing along books I've purchased to friends I thought would enjoy them. I suppose that's, in a way, keeping the author from selling another book, but most of the time I think my friends wouldn't have spent the money anyway. At any rate, once you've read a Kindle book, as far as I can tell, it just sits on the Kindle and can't be passed on. So unless I want to loan my Kindle out (um, No), I can't share the books I've read and stored on it. Kind of a bummer.

- It blips to a grey screen between every page. Between every single blessed page. It's like this little nanosecond that I have to wait to get to the next page, and it might just be the thing I like the least about it. I read books (even Kindle books) the way I read music, which is to read to a point on the page and just before I'm really ready to flip, I take in the whole last batch of 12 words or so in one glance and then I flip. I'm ready to continue reading IMMEDIATELY on the next page, and in a hard copy world, that works. On the Kindle, I have to wait a second before the text pops up.

- It doesn't pull books down from my Amazon Wish List. I can go to the Kindle Store on the Kindle and it will let me search for any book, magazine, newspaper, etc., and then I can order it immediately. But I can't get to my Wish List from the Kindle and order straight from it, so I have two choices. I can either order a book I know I want on the Kindle and then later go take it off my Wish List from my PC, or I can go to my Wish List on my PC, click on the Kindle version of the book and tell it to download.

- The Kindle is an expensive thing to lose. At $299, it's not going to bankrupt me to buy a replacement, but it would cost a heck of a lot more to replace than your standard paperback.

Neither a pro nor a con is the fact that I recently bought a protective cover. I didn't want my screen to get scratched up (once I realized how much I liked it and that I'd be toting it around in my purse all the time), so I bought an inexpensive cover. I'm glad I did.

If you have any questions about the Kindle, please leave them in the Comments and I'll answer them if I can!


I'm a Mom!..? said...

Thanks for the info... we are having a Kindle debate here at our house, Husband is wanting to get us one, I think I would like to keep my books. I order a lot from the used books on Amazon and get them so cheap I have a hard time justifying the cost on this..

I don't know... but I do know that Twilight rocks!! :)

Melanie said...

whew! FINALLY! :-) i bet the percentage thing really drives you crazy. It seems like you made a post (a long time ago) about percentages not adding up to 100. Or I could have dreamed that.

Anyway - thanks for posting these! I'm still on the fence about it - I read a great book this weekend and thought about you every time I broke the spine and turned the page corner to save my place!

shanemotb said...

Thanks for the thoughts! I have been really interested in them, considering I go through a couple of books a week at times. It would definitely save money and space! I am hoping someone will get one that I can play with... I just don't know about my eyes and the screen. I loved all the info and pics!


Katherine @ Grass Stains said...

Overall, the Pros far outweigh the Cons, so I'm glad to have my Kindle. I am not having any of the issues that some people have mentioned on the Amazon Reviews pages ... but most of those people are comparing the Generation II Kindle to their Generation I Kindles. (Who can afford two?) Since I have nothing else to compare it to, I am thrilled with mine.

I would encourage you (I'm a Mom and Shane) to save up to buy one!

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