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First thoughts on my new Kindle (and why I didn’t go Sony in the end)

2 Mar

Finally, after much discussion on this great CILIP LinkedIn thread, and after seeing a colleague’s one, I went Kindle. Yesterday I spent a whole evening in a feeding-frenzy blitz on the Kindle store. I love it. Here’s why.

Look and feel

I have to admit the look and feel is the main reason I chose the Kindle rather than Sony. The Kindle feels smooth, lightweight and thin. The Sonys I tried in the shops were more boxy, although I have to admit my first impressions were coloured by the shop testers always looking well-worn and covered in greasy fingerprints. But whichever way you go, an ebook reader gives me that magical sensation I remember getting from my first iPod – “you can fit all that… in this?”

Convenience was my second reason for going Kindle. I already have an Amazon account and everything I need is just right there. With both wifi and 3G, I know I can choose a book and immediately it is ready to read, wherever I am. And when I was browsing Amazon in my lunch break I could buy a book and send it straight onto my Kindle at home – no  messing around with cables or switching on my PC later. Price-wise, the Kindle does well to provide all this functionality – the Sony Reader had a touchscreen but no wireless for the same money.

Uses

Reading ebooks is the obvious first answer. But it also supports .doc and .pdf files (amongst other things). Which means I can use it for work – perfect for meetings, for presentation scripts (notes), and so I can refer to a document while writing on my PC without having to juggle around windows. And since you can email documents to it, if you go out the office without your report, a colleague can email it to you on-the-fly.

Kindle vs books

I have to say, using a Kindle feels more like a book than a PC. The eInk is very distinct, and without the backlight it does feel gentler on the eyes. It also has a still, calm, object feel – no whirring fan or hard drive. And with the simplicity of the functions available to you, there isn’t the distraction of flicking to a web page for a moment, or fiddling with an MP3 player. This makes it good for a soothing bedtime read.

A lot of people say they’d miss the feel of holding a book, but here are some things I don’t miss:Big old fashioned, leather bound book

  • Losing my page – with books I bookmark, fold the corner, or balance it on the arm of a chair until later… none is quite as reliable as the Kindle’s automatic memory
  • Carrying a weighty tome
  • Carrying three weighty tomes in case I finish the other ones
  • Not having my weighty tome because I thought I might not need it and I didn’t want to carry it
  • Trying to balance it open while I do something else – and the infernal decision about whether to just crack the spine…
  • Pages falling out
  • When other people underline everything and make notes that are, of course, wrong
  • The number of bookcases I need to hold my full collection and the space this takes up.
  • Paying – there are so many great classics available for free as well as some more modern titles. For most books, Amazon is good at pricing eBooks lower than hardcopy.  And yes I know there is always the library, but I find the opening hours awkward.
  • Waiting for books to be delivered.

Remember when mp3s first came out and many people said they’d still buy CDs – for artwork, for reassurance, to lend to friends. Is that still true? Doesn’t the convenience and space-saving eventually outweigh all those nice-to-have sentiments?

Proprietary problems

The biggest disadvantage of the Kindle, which put me off for some time, was the fact it didn’t support EPUB. Yet this is the format which libraries use to support the lending of eBooks… While I don’t see Amazon rushing to change that one, there is increasing pressure in America for them to do so. Until then, if you want to explore information service usage then go for one of these options.

Personally, I haven’t come across ebook lending at my library yet, so don’t feel I am missing out. Yet. It was a compromise. The more people buy locked-down proprietary machines like Kindle, the harder it could be to implement ebook lending in the future. I’m hoping it will work out like iPods – at first there were a number of proprietary formats and proprietary machines, but eventually that opened out and DRM-free mp3s became readily and widely available to buy. It is a risk but my final reasoning was that £150 was a bargain for all the free books alone, and if I need to and EPUB lending takes off in the future I can always buy another ebook reader then – when potentially prices are lower and there is more choice.

But for now there is more than enough free and low-price reading material to keep me happy.

Coming soon…

My favourite ereads and recommended websites for ebooks.