Friday, January 7, 2011

Kindle II: Revenge of the Kindle

I Could Write a Book - Harry Connick, Jr. (mp3)
Calling America - Electric Light Orchestra (mp3)

NOTE: Bob wrote a piece on his new Kindle back in July. Read it here, ‘cuz most of what he observes, I ain’t gonna re-observe.

I got the super-simple stripped-down Kindle for Christmas. After a month of somewhat intensive research and contemplation -- iPad? Droid Pad? Kindle? -- I decided the wisest move was to go with the cheapest and simplest option, the option that is almost universally loved in spite of its vast limitations. I’ve yet to hear someone complain that their Kindle “is too complicated” or “doesn’t do everything I expected it to” and that they regret the purchase. (I’m sure they’re out there, but not in my circle.) And, ultimately, isn’t that the best we can hope for in our modern capitalistic world?

Two weeks into my ownership, I’m giddy at the call. Worth every penny.

Yes, the weight and size are great. The user-friendly nature of the device is great. The ability to control how the text is presented in about 10 different ways is incredibly useful. But here are the 2 ½ most compelling reasons I’m loving this Kindle:


You can download an introductory chunk -- usually the first chapter -- of almost any book sold for the Kindle free of charge. While far too many books cost a little more than I’d prefer when all you’re getting is the digital residue -- not like I can trade it into a used bookseller when I’m done, and paying merely for the information feels steep at times -- free samples are guaranteed to save me between $50-100 every year.

You see, pre-Kindle, if a book intrigued me, I had two options: (a) buy it and put it on my “In the Queue” shelf at home, where a long stack of books I bought in the hopes of one day reading linger, sad and forlorn like ugly pound puppies, or (b) make a mental or physical note of said book and hope to God I don’t forget or lose the note until some magical future time when I have time to give a flip. Neither of these options were ideal, and Option A can be painfully cost-ineffective at times. Buying a book used is even more doomed, because my screwed-up logical self then decides that, since I didn’t have to pay as much for said book, I need not feel the same urgency to read said book.

Now, if I want to keep a book in mind for consideration, I just download the free sample. It sits there -- Free. Brief. Harmless -- until I read that chapter. When finished with that chapter, I can then decide whether I want to pay for the whole book. This feature, dear friends, was made for idiots like me.


Anyone who writes a blog for three years without ever earning much or building an arena-sized following must be in love with their own clever thoughts. But I’ve always been handicapped about marking up books I buy, and I have no logical explanation for it. I don’t like having to keep a writing utensil handy, and something about soiling the pages bothers me, but I don’t see how these reasons are quite enough.

Regardless, I bet I haven’t scribbled notes or underlined passages in more than half a dozen books since I graduated college. Yet here I am on my second Kindle book, and I’ve written more than 50 comments to myself and highlighted more than 100 passages. This is almost certainly New Purchase Overkill; however, something in me has long been wanting to have this power -- to add my own side commentary or observations to works with which I’m enthralled -- and it’s already clear that jotting notes and highlighting passages allows the book to make a deeper mark in my memory.


One of my biggest and baddest reading habits is to predetermine where I will stop reading. I find my bookmark and then immediately flip ahead to see where the chapter ends or where an ideal stopping place seems to be. Not having this ability on Kindle actually results in me reading more. I also now have the Kindle app on my Droid and, if stuck in a dark place with nothing to do (or the toilet stall next to Bob in the mall), can get through a few more pages on my phone.

So, in conclusion, It fits nicely and lightly into my backpack. It helps me better remember what I read. It minimizes my unnecessary purchase of books I might never read, and the books I do buy are a little (sometimes a lot) cheaper. And I read more ‘cuz I can’t as easily predetermine a good stopping place or too easily read the last page in advance.

Amazon, feel free to send all my advertising royalties ℅ “Bottom of the Glass.”


Bob said...

I asked my students. None of them have Kindles. They even, though many of them hardly read, get all nostalgic about the feel of a real book and see the Kindle as some kind of violation. Funny.

Billy said...

I guess we chalk that up to the fight against "foolish consistency"? If Kindle could download SparkNotes, they'd be all over it.

Or is it because they simply can't grasp the dollar value for a technological device that serves, basically, a singular purpose? (i.e. Sir Ken Robinson's observation that the younger generation doesn't wear wristwatches)

cinderkeys said...

While I could see the value of an e-book reader, particularly for textbooks, I haven't had the urge to buy one. There's just something about the feel of books. Holding a Kindle in my lap wouldn't be the same.

One of these days, maybe I won't have a choice -- printed books won't be available. Hopefully the readers will prove me wrong when that day comes.