Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kindle research

It was cold in Hiroshima and we had been wandering around a lot on Miyajima island so we decided do have some rest time in the hotel in the evening - Dennis with his music and a book and me with the complimentary Internet. A good opportunity, I thought, to look into these Kindle things.

Now I already understood that the major plus of these things is that it saves you weight when you travel. So you might think that my research was a bit late. But, for most of this trip we have not been weight challenged and when we realised needed to slim down for our forthcoming two economy trips we decided to gift some read paperbacks to relatives or hotel receptionists or waitresses - anyone who said they would enjoy them. One I sold to a second hand shop to fund a new purchase. Granted, it was a bit painful to give away such a beautiful item as a book, but if I want to read them again I can have a new copy at very little cost and I know that they are being appreciated more probably by their new owners than they would have been sitting on my shelf at home.

But there are lots of Kindle owners and not all of them are travelling so there must be more to this Kindle thing than lightness. I did some online research and the basic points seem to be these:

1. Kindle books are cheaper than actual books.
This may be true. Except that you cannot loan, regift, or sell them. So you are getting less value for less money. Nor can you touch them, smell them or weigh them in your hand. That these latter qualities were important to Dennis and I was emphasised when we both found ourselves lingering in an Japanese bookstore where we did not understand a word of the content just because books were so - well beautiful. No matter how streamlined, the same cannot be said for a Kindle. Further, the new bigger, better Kindle costs $489. That means I have to read a lot of books before I save the cost of the machine that gives me the savings on the books. And by then a bigger, better more expensive one will be out. And before then the Apple Tablet will be out to complicate things even more.

2. You can get Kindle books in 60 seconds.
This is I admit a huge plus for an impatient reader. Less so for someone who already has a stockpile of books to get through and who never forgets to take one with her. I frequently pack three in a case and one in my handbag just for an overnight business trip. I am never going to be bookless for having to wait the whole 24 hours it takes to get a real one in the post.

3. A Kindle looks like a real book.
Good. But you know what - that means my books look exactly like a Kindle. And they smell better.

4. Amazon envisages having all books available for Kindle.
And I envisage making all the quilts in my head before I go back to work in March, Not going to happen. I did a scientific test. That is, I took the list of books I have found as I have been travelling that are now on my Amazon wish list. Of a list of 34, 4 were available for Kindle. To be fair, I have found a lot of art and textile books. But of the non-illustrated 'reading books' (8), 4 were available.

5. The new Kindle will read to you.
This did get me interested. It would be nice to have the ability to continue my book as I drive which this lets you do. However, the Kindle costs $489. Of the 8 'reading' books, 6 were available on Audible ( the 2 not available were non-fiction), an Amazon owned company incidentally, at less costs than the Kindle version and are downloadable on to a cheap MP3 or a CD. I can read more than one book at a time so I can happily have one in the car for driving and more for reading in paper versions.

6. The Kindle holds 3500 books.
So does my house. I have never felt the need to carry more around than I can carry in my luggage. And I can carry a lot in my luggage. Which is where I came in.

Verdict: I want to want a Kindle. But I don't. I do want those 34 books though.


tangoandcha said...

You've expressed very neatly my problem with the Kindle and its' ilk - it's not like a book!
I have tried taking ebooks on my palmtop when we travel and what happens is that I don't read, or only read a small amount.
Besides, books make a house feel furnished, don't you agree?

Feather on a Wire said...

I have thought and discounted the idea of having one but for different reasons.
In terms of numbers, the books I buy most are thrillers which send me to sleep (why murder sends me to sleep I have no idea). These I buy from a cheapie bookshop at 3 for £5. Same shop sells audio books cheaply too. I never read these twice, they go straight to a friend and/or one of the local charity shops (who sell them for more than I originally paid, perhaps they should cut out the middle man).
Then I have my inspiration books and magazines. These are left open on different pages and in different places for days at a time, just so I can cast my eyes over something. There might be five or six or even seven books like this open at any one time, They all might be changed for a fresh group on the same day or slowly over a month or so.
What good would a Kindle be to me?

Denise in PA said...

Your verdict sums up my toughts on the Kindle exactly! I gladly accept if someone gave me one, but don't feel the need to buy one! I'm loving the travelogue!

Karen Wester Newton said...

To each his own. I love my Kindle because I only have to carry it (a Kindle 2 fits in an average-sized purse), and I have a whole library at my disposal. I find this makes it easier to read more, because I have no down time without a book to read. I will say, too, that if you have only read ebooks on a phone or PDA, that's not nearly as nice an experience as reading a decent-sized e-ink screen. And you don't need the DX to get the text-to-speech function; the Kindle 2 will read the book aloud, so long as the publisher hasn't turned that function off.

But, if paper books do it for you, then don't bother.

Kay said...

Down with the Kindle! Besides the other things you mention, the negative effect on the publishing business and writing in general could be very serious. In addition, you don't really own the book you downloaded to your Kindle, not even in the limited way you own your Itunes download.

Diane said...

I am a hard-core book lover (the PAPER books with their inky smells and lovely feel) but I love my Kindle, too. I don't think it's an either-or thing. The Kindle makes reading in a variety of situations easier and more convenient -- traveling and carrying fewer books, on the treadmill at the gym where I can increase the size of the font (increasing the size of the font may not be so important to you NOW, you youngster you, but wait a few years...) It's handy for reading in bed, as you don't have to juggle a big hard-back to turn the pages. I still read 80% of my reading in real books, and am hauling home just as many books from the library as I always have. But at times the Kindle is wonderful.

You realize the $400+ one is a large screen (magazine sized, I think) while the $250 one is like a paperback size page. I think the larger one was designed for those who use it to read newspapers.

ALSO, if you have work documents that you need to carry around, you can convert them to PDFs, email them to your kindle email address (Which Amazon gives you for free) and then you'll have your docs on your kindle. That was very handy when I had trial transcripts I wanted to take with me on a trip.

So, it won't replace books. And it shouldn't. But that doesn't mean it's not wonderful too.

Diana said...

I'm like you. I can see advantages and disadvantages. For me the cost is the barrier. And I have a question. When you pay for and download the book, is there a time limit on it? Is it possible to go back to reread a book a year or five later? That would make a big difference for me.

Terry said...

I'm waiting for the price to come down. I'm sure it will. Then I WILL have one!