If You Don’t Have One Yet… June 22, 2010

If You Don’t Have One Yet…

The Amazon Kindle is now available for $189.

I’ve been using mine for a couple months now and I’ve been able to make the transition from “real” books to the Kindle pretty easily. If you don’t have one, I’d seriously think about getting one.

I’m currently reading Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali on it and one of the great things about the new Kindle software is that certain passage are “pre-underlined” for me, representing sentences that other people found most fascinating. I’m doing quite a bit of highlighting myself and I’ll share those passages with you soon.

Side note: There are a ton of fantastic articles about how the Kindle could be made better.

The biggest thing I want to see is the ability to choose who I want to follow (and whose highlights and annotations I want to read).

Can you imagine reading a book like Hitch-22 with a local atheist group? You could share thoughts/annotations/favorite passages digitally and then have more in-depth discussions in person.

I already read constantly, but I think I’d carve out even more time for it if that happened…

Baby steps, I guess.


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  • tim

    I read books using the Kindle and iBook apps on the iPad. Frankly – if I can’t get it in electronic form – I don’t bother buying it.

  • Potco

    I love my kindle so much, it makes reading even better, I highly recommend it. I no longer am willing to buy regular books because they are a hassle now. If you like reading, this is the only way to go.

  • neil

    ipad, and now there are free apps for kindle and nook to load up the features you want (or there bookstore) on the ipad there is no excuse.

  • Matt

    I got a first generation Kindle the first Christmas they were out and I haven’t looked back (They were ~$400 then). While I haven’t used annotations too much, the ability to have as many books as you want on your person within a small package is very appealing – especially for long trips or flights.

    One of the greatest things about it for me though is it makes reading while laying in bed much better. Before you had to had to either hold the book in a less than comfortable position or had to roll over after each page. But with the kindle, I can just lay down and enjoy my book.

  • I’m not sold on the idea of ebooks quite yet. I don’t like the fact that I can’t lend one to a friend, or donate it to a library when I’m done with it. There’s something very aesthetically pleasing about an overflowing bookshelf that I quite enjoy as well.

  • Tracy

    I’m saving my money for the iPad. It does everything that I need, including eBooks. I can’t wait!

  • Potco

    ipad is not as good as a kindle because of the backlit screen. This can tire your eyes out or give you headaches. The kindle is truly like reading a real page which is nice.

  • Matt

    @Tracy I wouldn’t recommend using the iPad as an eBook reader either. If you want it for other things and read the occasional book, it will probably be fine. However, if you plan on doing a lot of reading, as Potco mentioned, the backlit screen will start to tire your eyes and make for an uncomfortable experience.

  • Samil

    iPad is the way to go

  • My only reservation in moving to a digital-only format is the inability to purchase “books” second hand. For example, I purchased all seven books in the Dark Tower series by Stephen King at my local used bookstore for less than $15. When I’m done with them all, I return them for a 50% credit. I’ll basically have paid $1 per book.

    I know there are a lot of DRM-free titles out there, but I’m not quite willing to make the switch.

  • No thanks.

    When I buy a book, I expect to be the owner of a book. Paying for an e-book from Amazon for Kindle only grants temporary permission to access the text of a book stored on one of their web servers, access to which can be revoked on a whim at any time for any reason, as large numbers of people have discovered for themselves. Since you haven’t bought anything, you have no legal rights in the matter when it happens.

    Not to mention that Amazon can, at any time, access a Kindle remotely to tamper with it. Last year, thousands of copies of books written by George Orwell, JK Rowling and others went *poof* when Amazon did exactly that.

    When someone makes an e-reader that will display e-books from any source, e-books that I properly and legally OWN and that cannot be tampered with remotely, then I’ll buy that one. Until then, I’ll keep buying dead trees.

  • Bob

    I’m with Rooker.

    The problem with eBooks where the material can be edited/removed after the fact should be apparent. Imagine eBooks used as history textbooks, and then a wave of religious idiocy from the likes of Cynthia Dunbar in Texas. There’s no dissenting version in print, because it never existed, and all digital versions have been revised to meet some committee’s views. They’ve already taken an ax to Thomas Jefferson; eBooks do not offer a remedy, only a greater ease with which to whitewash free thought.

  • David

    As far as the iPad being hard on your eyes is concerned, I’ve read several books on my ipad, and for about a year previous to getting it every book I read was on my iphone. No eye strain or headaches so far.

  • WetMogwai

    I almost bought one today. I intend to get one. I prefer real books because I can buy them used, but there are lots of free ones available for Kindle. What really made me interested in it is the fact that you can load PDF files on it. I’ve gotten free books from Tor just for being on their mailing list. I can also copy documents from lots of sources onto it. I’ve been using their software on my iPhone for a while now. I don’t think I will likely ever actually buy an eBook, but I will get a Kindle.

  • Euan

    Eh. I’m not a quick reader, typically it takes me at least a week to read an average length novel.

    I’m less than enthralled with the mandatory DRM imposed by Amazon, even for titles which the authors wish to be in the public domain (such as Cory Doctorow’s works).

    When I’ve finished a novel I nearly always give it away to someone I know will enjoy it, I can’t do that with a kindle. Now people may say that’s depriving the author of revenue but that’s not understanding how reading works. Reading is a social activity, how we get to know about other authors is from our friends giving or lending us books they’ve enjoyed. The DRM model of the kindle destroys that.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    I find that the print in a book is easier to read than that on a Kindle. I buy 2nd hand books in great shape and even some brand new ones all for a total of around $7, including shipping on Amazon. I don’t read tons of books, so the initial output of around 400 for the larger Kindle would be a waste of money. I can buy around 57 2nd hand books for that. I recently bought a new hard back of Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution is True for a total of $7 in brand new condition. It had a black mark across the closed pages which didn’t appear on the page itself. You can’t beat it. If there is one negative, it is that I am running out of shelf space. However, I have a number of books I no longer need for reference, so I will simply get rid of them. So, for now, a Kindle has no real appeal.

  • flatlander100

    For recreational reading, I use our public library. Can’t beat the prices. For keepers, I’d rather own the real book [usually bought second hand], not an e-version for lots of reasons, many summarized by folks above [look and feel, danger of subsequent editing, by Amazon or whoever owns the e-text, because you don’t, and so on.]

    As for the pre-underlining: well, whatever floats your boat, M. But if I had a Kindle, I’d disable that feature immediately. Two reasons: (a) reading a substantive book, I’d much rather read it without anyone else’s ideas about the important bits crowding in as I went along. Engage with the author myself over the whole course of the book without having my reactions shaped by anyone else along the way first time through. (b) since the owner of the text [and that’s not me or you, M] can get constant feedback on what people are underling [and therefor what they are not], seems to me when the data becomes massive enough, there’s a risk of the publisher saying “people seemed to like this kind of passage in this kind of book, and almost nobody underlined that kind of passage. So, authors, we’d like you to produce books with more of these kinds of passages and less of those.” We do not need more data driven content in the world of books than we already have, FSM knows.

    Reading is, IMHO, a particularly personal activity: me and the author. The idea of someone reading over my shoulder, noting what I underline, and breaking into my reading of the book with other peoples’ ideas about what should be highlighted is…. well, creepy.

  • Ed

    I have to agree with Rooker and I’ll throw in something no one has mentioned so far, the “pre underlining” is a horrible turn off. There is nothing more awful than reading a pre highlighted book. It is intrusive, inconsiderate and disrupts the flow of thought and enjoyment of what I am reading. Apparently the inconsiderate buffoons who like to scrawl their banal notes and excessive underlining throughout a book have made it into ebooks as well! Yech.

  • WetMogwai

    I was wondering what was going on with the underlines. I’m re-reading something now and I didn’t remember the underlines from before. They can be disabled in the iPhone app so I expect they can be disable on the real thing. That should solve Ed’s complaint. Highlights when you want them, none when you don’t. I think that is one of the few real advantages eBooks have over real books.

    Shelf space is a major problem for me. There are so many books that I want to read. Many are classics that are available for free online, so not needing more bookshelves for the next few hundred thousand free books sounds nice. If I really like one and have to have a real copy, I’ll go get one for $5 at a used book store.

  • I’ve always preferred paper books, but curiosity and a lack of shelf space in my room lead to me buying the nook (Barnes and Noble’s e-reader). The features on the Kindle sound really cool, and I hope the nook soon has more features like the one’s you’ve just described.

  • MissAJ

    The only time I could see myself using a Kindle would be to read in bed. Otherwise, I prefer real pages. I bet it must be handy to be able to obtain and read a book anytime you want, but the fact that the books can be “revoked” at any time is really scary to me.

  • Katie

    I agree that ebook readers are awesome… but when I got mine last year I went with the Barnes & Noble nook. I looked online into battery replacement, and for the kindle, you have to ship it back to Amazon and pay about $80 to get them to service it. One of the big turn-ons for me with the nook was that B&N sells a battery replacement kit you can use, yourself, for about $24. If you’ve ever had the battery go out on an expensive device, had to pay an exorbitant sum of money to get it replaced, and wait for a month to get it serviced and get it back, then you know where I’m coming from.

    My experience with the nook has been great- it’s mind-blowing to be anywhere there’s internet and say “Hey, I want a book” and to be able to get right on from the device and purchase/download in under a minute. Although it certainly makes impulse buying a lot easier!

    The nook plays music, supports PDFs, has a basic web browser, etc, like the Kindle. The main difference is that in place of the kindle keyboard, the nook has a touch-screen. When it needs a keyboard, it pops up a virtual one but otherwise the menus change depending on what you’re doing, allowing you to change the font size, put in bookmarks, navigate to different points in the book, and so on. One of the other features about the nook is that you can lend ebooks to your friends for two weeks, either via their own nook or an ebook reader installed on a smartphone or PC.

    If you’re thinking of getting an ebook reader, shop around. See if anyone you know has a kindle, and have a look at it. Go into Barnes and Noble and check out the nook display. Find which one works best for you. They are a lot of fun!

  • Nakor

    I like eReaders, but would hesitate to buy one that allowed the company producing them to remotely yank books off my device. Also, Amazon tacks an extra $2 on the price of all books they sell to us Canadians (or anyone else outside the states). (Free books are now actually free — they used to be $2 to us too — but all other books appear $2 more expensive when you either view the site from a Canadian IP or log in a Canadian account.)

    They claim the $2 fee covers wireless, but I’d rather just have the option to buy them without the wireless transfer for $2 less a book.

    There are many other options out there, and many are better; it really depends a lot on preferences (battery life, refresh speed, storage, wireless, dictionaries, etc., etc.), but Sony and Aluratek make good ones for example.

  • sarah

    I like old fashioned books. I tried an e book. I like holding a book, I like the smell of the pages, leafing through pages to see how much I have left, the cover art, the spine art, the back cover art, the way the book cover feels…

    yeah, I will just stick with the books.

  • CJ :)

    I have a Sony Reader, which I massively prefer to either of the other eReaders. There’s no one getting into my reader to “manage” my stuff, and I certainly don’t want to read a book someone else has annotated – I used to by my college texts new if I couldn’t find one that wasn’t marked up.

    My Sony Reader lets me put books on SD cards so I can share them if I care to, or store them however I choose. What I purchase is mine.

  • Rev. Nathan Speer

    eReaders are cool and all, but if you snoop around enough, you can get books DIRT CHEAP. Check your library if they have a withdrawn store. Books from .50-4$. Lots of out of print and hardcovers, usually in good condition — you can flip them right around on eBay if you wish and actually double your earnings. Also Goodwill has a bookstore and drop-off near me… I scored a brand-new copy of Dianetics for $30… score! If all else fails, I check it out from the library.

    Just a thought. A lot cheaper than a kindle.

  • Richard Wade

    Can it help me read faster? Being left-handed and dyslexic to boot, reading is full of starts and stops, jumping back and going forward. It’s slooooooowwww. It goes faster if I just read it aloud like a narrator. Reading a whole book takes many weeks of dedication.

    So much I want to read. It’s like being a starving man trying to eat a thick milkshake through a very narrow straw.

    I love the feel and all the sensual things that sarah said about a real book, but if technology could help get the info in, I’ll try anything.

  • ASD

    While I do like the weight of a good hardcover, e-readers are a lot safer than physical books. I’ve lost many books over the years to carelessness, pets, insects and general mishaps. At least with e-reader files you can have multiple backup copies for free.
    My main worry here is that an e-reader would prove a lot easier to damage than a book – and it costs less to repair a couple of torn pages than to replace an e-reader.

  • Nakor

    @Richard: The screen isn’t significantly different from a normal book (it’s designed to be a paper-like reflective screen so that it doesn’t cause the strain that backlit monitors or TVs can cause over time), so it probably wouldn’t be any better than a book in that respect, but it is possible on the vast majority of eReaders to zoom to your preferred viewing size. If large text helps you, then an eReader may be a good alternative to trying to hunt down large print editions of books.

    Here’s a photo of my Libre at full 400% zoom compared to an average hardcover (not large print): Link

    Ignore the shadows on the Libre; they showed up due to the flash, and you don’t see anything like that when normally using it.

  • Mark

    This is great. I bought my Kindle last week at my local Target, just before the price drop happened, but I took my receipt back there today and they refunded me the $74 or so difference. Amazon will do the same if you purchased yours directly through them within the last 30 days.

    As for the iPad vs. Kindle thing — they’re both great devices that suit different needs. If you’re reading PDFs or documents that rely heavily on graphics, go with the iPad. If you want to be able to read outside (I love reading on the beach) or if long battery life is important to you, and if what you’re reading consists primarily of text, go with the Kindle.

    Also, in my experience, reading for extended periods of time on backlit LCD screens is not nearly as comfortable as reading on the paper-like Kindle e-ink display; your mileage may vary, of course, but I think most “hardcore” readers will prefer the Kindle hardware, whereas the iPad is a multifunction device that one typically doesn’t buy solely for reading eBooks.

    As a side note, I like the way Amazon is making their Kindle store platform-agnostic; you can read Kindle books on Amazon’s Kindle hardware, or on a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, and soon Android phones and tablets. So when you buy eBooks from Amazon, you’re not locking yourself into a particular vendor or hardware platform (as with iBooks, for instance), at the risk of losing your library should you want to buy a different company’s hardware in the future. So even if you choose the iPad over the Kindle hardware, you’re probably better off in the long run if you buy your eBooks from Amazon rather than from Apple.

  • Richard Wade

    Thank you very much, Nakor!

    That’s very interesting. I don’t need the large type for vision problems (yet) but maybe a larger size font could help get the vision-to-perception-to-comprehension process going a bit faster. I’ll experiment with that.

    Did you take that picture just to show me?

  • Mark

    @Richard: I’m dyslexic too, and I do think the Kindle helps me a bit compared to reading regular books. Now as Nakor points out, the Kindle’s e-ink display essentially replicates the appearance of plain old ink on paper, but even so there are some practical differences that seem to help in my case.

    1) I really like the Kindle’s font, it’s a nice serif that just seems to flow very well. The Kindle has just one font (although you can adjust its size as you please). So I don’t have to deal with typographical differences from book to book; I know that any book I buy through the Kindle store (or any article I email to my Kindle for later reading) will be rendered in a font that’s relatively easy for my dyslexic brain to handle.

    2) The dimensions of the Kindle’s screen mean you have slightly fewer words per line than the typical paperback (and you can also adjust this independently of the font size). This, too, makes reading a little easier for me.

    3) Unlike the pages of a paperback, the Kindle’s screen is perfectly flat when you’re reading it, it doesn’t bend or flop around. I think this helps me more than anything.

    4) The Kindle has a text-to-speech capability if you need to give your eyes a break. It’s a synthetic, robotic male voice, but it’s actually fairly good as these things go. Be warned, though, that text-to-speech isn’t available for all books, since the greedy publishers pressured Amazon into letting them disable it (apparently they’re afraid it will hurt audiobook sales).

    I can’t promise the Kindle will be as good for you as it is for me, but yeah, I think it really helps with my dyslexia. I’m certainly reading more than I did before I got the Kindle, and while I haven’t actually tested myself to see if I’m reading any faster, I backtrack less often and the whole experience is far less frustrating — and for me, that’s the important part.

  • Slickninja

    Y’know, the Kindle is just one of those things you have to see first hand. My dad bought my mom one (she turned out to be a geek and never knew it until she was 50) and she only now buys books she cares to “own” in paper.

    While people want to get in on the iPad vs Kindle war, because both can read books, play music and surf the internet, (kinda on the Kindle), I’d say its Apples to oranges. The Kindle is tailored to one task, and the iPad is tailored to many. The prices say it all. While I might want an iPad personally it doesn’t make it better than the Kindle as if I was only concerned about reading Ebooks, I’d get the Kindle, for the screen and battery life alone.

  • Derek

    Just a note in response to Rooker’s comment, Amazon has changed their terms of service after the 1984 debacle. They can no longer remotely delete purchased books, and they refunded or restored all deleted copies. Also, J.K. Rowling’s books have never been available in e-book form, she thinks it promotes piracy (although it really just exposed her as a Luddite.)

    Changes after 1984 controversy.

    J.K. Rowling on E-books.

  • Nakor

    @Richard: Yeah, I had my camera handy and had just been to the library to get the hard cover in question, so it was just a minute’s effort. 😉

  • SickoftheUS

    An electronic reader is one more pricy device to break, made from minerals and oil which are nasty in extraction all ways around, and is likely soon enough another contribution to the consumer waste heap. How many devices do we need?

    Why is it so great to be able to carry around 100 books in one device? Do you read that many at once? Just pick up another book when you’re done with the last, or carry a couple in a backpack, like people have been ably doing for ages. This is artificial need.

  • Richard Wade

    Thanks, Mark. all that is encouraging. I’m a little hesitant about the book integrity and reader’s privacy issues that Rooker, Bob, flatlander100 and others have mentioned, but CJ🙂 says Sony has more owner’s autonomy and sovereignty. Clearly I have to do some research.

    Thanks again, Nakor. Very cool.

  • KM

    Actually when i read a text i do NOT want to know what others found interesting or what passages they liked most. At least not when i read it for the first time. I prefer thinking and reasoning alone first.

  • Judith Bandsma

    Richard, I’ll also weigh in on the Sony. I love it. You can change orientation from portrait to landscape, change the touch screen to favor either hand, select font size from small to extra-large. It also handles pdf format.

    SickoftheUS, to continue my book buying at the rate it has been for the last few years and we’ll have to buy a new house just to store them…in spite of the fact that I donate, yard sale and participate in Book Crossing. My ereader helps eliminate -some- clutter. (I still buy ‘real’ books, just not 50 to 75 at a time 3 times a year at our library sales.)

  • Personally, I prefer the scroll. I never quite got the hang of how to operate a book.

  • Loren Petrich

    I have a Kindle app on my iMac – you can also get OSX and Windows Kindle apps.

    It worked nice for me, though the main deficiency was lack of a search facility. Is that a problem with other Kindle apps and with Kindle hardware?

  • Angie

    Hemant — I’m looking forward to your commentary on Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s NOMAD when you finish reading it.

  • Dawn

    I tried out both the kindle and nook before deciding on the nook. I agree with the person that said you just have to see it first hand. I love that I can borrow eBooks from the library. And really it’s just more convenient to read from for me.

  • Jen

    I am a bit of a late adapter, and the price is still too high for me. When there are generic Kindles, I will buy one. Right now, between all the books I own I haven’t read, and all the books I want to read at my library, it will be a while before I need to buy enough books that ebooks will be cheaper.

  • Enn

    I am always amazed at how much conversation the kindle generates! My husband bought me one right after they came out and I love it! I only read the free books that amazon offers on it and I usually use it for treadmill reading at the gym. Much easier to read on a kindle there than a real book or magazine. Strangers have literally stopped me on the bus or in coffee shops to look at it. People seem unsure about it most of the time but strangely attracted to it. I still buy tons of used and new books and attempt the public library (though ours is small and doesn’t have the best selection). Love it or hate it, I don’t really care. I do think that making books available in electronic form is going to make them much more accessible in the future to people who might not normally pick up a book, especially if the price comes down on ereaders in general.

  • Liudvikas

    The problem with ebooks is that you don’t own the actual book. Until every purchase from amazon is 100% certain to remain available for you forever, I see only one use for ebook readers – reading pirated books, at least those can’t be stolen from you.
    So I’d rather buy the paper books for now. Smell alone is worth it.

  • muggle

    I bought my Kindle (finally been wanting a long time) a couple of weeks ago. When I got it, Hemant, I also thought it fitting that I try it out by downloading something else I’ve been wanting and procrastinating on — “I Sold My Soul on E-Bay” so you have the honors of being the first book on my electronic shelf.

    I love love love my Kindle. If you have disabilities this is the way to go, at for arthiritis and poor eyesight. It doesn’t hurt my hands and wrists as books often do now. And the choice of 6 fonts sizes is great.

    I tried the voice. You can pick male and female and found it a bit faulty as it’s totally phonetic which means it pronounce some things weirdly but if I ever go blind, it’ll be more than doable.

    Can’t get the smell but the look is that of a page and there’s page turner buttons on either side and you can set it portrait or landscape. And I bought the leather case for it and that utterly makes it feel like carrying a book. But light and easy, not heavy and painful on my wrists and hands like real books.

    Some things here I’m finding disturbing though. I’ve got to make sure annotations are turned off because I hate that too, finding someone else’s underlines. And I didn’t know that when you buy a book, they can yank it on you later! That’s wrong.

    I only glanced at it and bought Hemant’s book and one other. I only have a few books stacked up and am making myself finish those first so no review of yours yet but I compared it to the nook. I chose the kindle because I could care less about chess, the four colors isn’t that big a deal to me and my eyes aren’t what they used to be. The nook doesn’t have the ability to read to you. And Amazon keeps you books stored on backup at their site.

  • My friend has a Kindle and loves it. I didn’t see much with it, so never got interested in one. But now that I have an iPad, I’m starting to see the benefits of eBooks.

  • Katie

    The nook from B&N has a selection of 3 fonts and, with the newest update, 6 font sizes. As for handedness, I’m a lefty, and the nook works for me because it has both forward and back buttons on either side of the screen. You can also turn pages by swiping the touch screen at the bottom of the nook.

    Also I did a search for “0.00” via the “Shop” button on my nook last night, and got about 95,000 hits for free books. Hehe.

    Here’s a link to a youtube video featuring the recent 1.4 software update, showcasing the different font sizes among other things.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrXb3pdmOM4