Pooks in the 21st Century

I have not been interested in eReaders.  I didn’t want a Kindle, a Sony, a Nook. I assumed I’d wait for an Apple reader which will be vastly superior to anything before it, and cost a lot more.  BUT– suddenly, at 6:00 on December 23rd–I changed my mind. Sam ordered my Kindle with overnight delivery, it arrived on Christmas Eve, and I quite like it.

No, it will never replace “real books” for me. It’s not a good substitute for books with color illustrations since it’s black and white only. [BTW, the Nook has color book covers in the strip across the bottom, but the text of the books themselves is black and white, so even though it touts “color” it’s used in a limited–but pretty-way.] But as I’m surrounded by so darned many “real books,” many that I’ve never gotten around to reading, this became more and more tempting, and now that I have it, I’m very glad.

Here are some reasons why.

ONE: Their customer service/tech support ROCKS. If I were more tech-savvy I wouldn’t have needed to call to get help with an upgrade.  The minor issue with my account that caused my first book purchase not to go through was a nit, quickly settled, but still, it required a phone call.  So here is the deal.  First call, Christmas Eve in the evening. Less than one minute wait. Polite, informative, fast. Second call, Christmas night. Polite, informative, chatty, fast. And yes, I’ve had enough issues with various tech support entities in the past decade or so that I will totally be influenced by good tech support, so am mentioning this right up front.  A million Kindles were mailed during the Christmas season, maybe more, and most of them were probably opened and activated on Christmas Eve and Christmas.  Even so, each of my calls was answered in less than a minute and handled extremely well.

TWO:  Space saving. The “too many books” issue.  Sam has encouraged me to get an eReader of some sort to get rid of some books. And suddenly, that idea seemed very comfortable to me.  Mind you, many of the books I have aren’t available yet, and it would also mean buying them again, but this is starting at a place of, not buying as many new books in paper form.  There will always be books I want in paper form, the ones I love, the ones I want to be able to see on my shelves, friends both old and new. But I also have more books than I want to admit that I bought and haven’t read.  Someday I will.  But, somehow I never am in the right mood to read that particular book and these many, many books just get moved from one stack to another, from one box to another. My Kindle will eliminate most of that, because it holds thousands of books, and for two other reasons, which follow.

THREE:  Too damned easy. While my Kindle was out of sight overnight Christmas Eve, waiting to be a “gift” the next morning, I went online to buy a book or two to put on it.  I didn’t want an empty Kindle.  I also wanted to have a few books on it so that when I passed it around Christmas day, people could see how it works.  I almost bought a book, but realized I wasn’t sure if it was a book I wanted to read right this minute, and there might be something else I’d rather have instead and–I noticed the “sample chapter” option.  I downloaded the first chapter free and figured people could see how it works, and I’d read later and decide whether to download the entire book.  Which led to me downloading 7 or 8 sample chapters (they’re free, why not?) which totally tickled me, that I was already loading up my Christmas gift which I haven’t even received yet. So in some cases I’m going to actually save money by not buying a book at all, because I am pretty sure that some of these sample chapters are going to end up like these stacks of books, waiting for me to get around to reading them, until I lose interest.  Or I may start reading and say, “Never mind,” and delete. Money saved is a good thing. Space saved and trees saved are equally good or even better things.

SIDEBAR:  In case you aren’t aware, the Kindle works wirelessly.  You don’t have to hook it up to a computer. It has a wireless connection straight to the Amazon store that will allow you to purchase and download books wherever you are in the world. Dangerous, when you consider the impulse shopping that could result, when one click, and you have a new book on your Kindle 60 seconds later.  (I seem to have subverted that by impulse-downloading sample chapters, instead.)

FOUR: Free books. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Complete Adventures of Peter Pan are public domain books I got from the Kindle store.  The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, The Celtic Twilight, A Popular History of Ireland, also public domain books I got from the Kindle store. I found about ten last night that I downloaded as potentially helpful research sources for my trilogy. And I’ve discovered that I can import other books that I downloaded elsewhere into my Kindle so they are at my fingertips, too. ALSO, Kindle has many free books that are recent.  I have no idea how and why that is negotiated and wonder what the author and publisher get out of it, but for example, I downloaded two free books that I would not have bought anyway, The Crossroads Cafe by Deborah Smith being one of them, and also being the book that my sister is now going to buy, having started reading it yesterday on my Kindle. There are a lot of free books available that are recent. Since I’m not looking for casual “oh this might be good” reading–no time for that–I just skimmed through, but a lot of people could really go to town finding all sorts of good stuff to read for free.

FIVE: Girl Scout Cookie books. When I sold my first book, one of Sam’s friends asked me where it would be for sale and said he’d go buy three or four.  “Three or four?” I gasped.  He said, “Well, when people around the office are selling girl scout cookies I always buy several boxes. It seemed like the least I could do for you.” The idea was sweet but kind of astounding, that he was going to go buy several romance novels that he would never read, because he knew me.  Many years later I was at the Austin Film Festival and Callie Khouri was on a panel where she urged people, “Support the kind of movie you love. Opening weekend is so vital. Even if you don’t have time to go see it, call the theater and buy a ticket or two, or buy them online. Don’t pick them up, don’t use them, but let your support help the good movies have good opening weekends.”  Whether you subscribe to the “Girl Scout Cookie/Callie Khouri” philosophy of supporting writers and books and movies or not, if you know many writers, you may do something similar.  You buy books because friends wrote them, even though you may not want to read them. Or because you’re invited to a book signing. Or for other reasons. And then you end up with these books making you feel guilty because you aren’t reading them. (Okay, maybe this doesn’t happen to you, but it does to me.) Now, most of those book purchases are going to go on my Kindle.  Then I don’t have to see them taking up space on my bookshelves. Plus, they will often be much cheaper.  So I can support writers and the publishing industry I love w/o gaining weight or adding to the piles of books in my office. I call this a win.

SIX: Adjustable font size. Yes, my eyes appreciate the fact that I can enlarge the font.

SEVEN:  And more about public domain books. This is more specific to me as a writer and researcher.  I mentioned those free, old public domain books I downloaded. I have a number of those on my bookshelf right now that I downloaded from Google Books and then printed. Downloading them to my Kindle may be a halfway house.  I may skim, read, etc. and if I find one that’s going to be particularly helpful that I want to highlight, post-it, mark up, then print it out anyway.  But having all of these on this device in my purse is going to be very handy, because there are many times when I am away from home that I would like to be able to choose between reading a century-old history book, a novel, or something else to pass the time. Believe me, sometimes I have four or five books in my shoulder bag for that reason–because I’m not quite sure what I’ll be in the mood to read, or how long I might end up being gone. So I may end up printing out some anyway, but I have some on my shelf right now that I never would have printed out if I’d had a better way to peruse them first. And the Kindle is going to be much easier for me to use that way than my computer, and that will vary for other people, but for me, it’s already proven itself so.

EIGHT: The keyboard at the bottom. I haven’t used it much yet, but it will be easy to make notes, etc. as I’m reading because there are real keys at the bottom. They are tiny, but spaced widely apart so that I can type in information as needed. I like that a lot and it will end up being important.

So, bottom line, after about 24 hours, I’m very pleased with my Kindle. Whether or not you’re interested, or think they’re worth the money, or want to wait to see what Apple might come up with, or wait for later generations is up to you. You may decide a Sony or a Nook is more to your liking.

But I’m more than thrilled with my choice.

I’ll probably post pics later, but for now, here is a pic I found on the intertubes.  There are several “covers” that rotate through when it is powered down.  These are two of them. It will give you an idea of screen image, until I can find something better.


Filed under Books, Kindle, Writers, Writing

14 responses to “Pooks in the 21st Century

  1. I got one, as well. I like it for all the reasons you named. There are a few improvements I would love to see:

    1) longer battery life. Though it says it lasts for up to two weeks, one week if the whispernet is turned on, in reality, if you’re reading, it doesn’t last nearly as long. I think mine was fully charged (I charged it before using it), and then I read a book. By the time I got to the end, the battery was running low. I’ve sense turned off whispernet, so I’ll be curious if the batter lasts longer this time.

    2) backlighting – I sometimes read in bed, and I got confused when buying, thinking the Kindle had a built-in light that could be turned on, or a backlighting system. It doesn’t, and so it’s got to have another light source for reading in dim lighting. I hate having a book light, because it disturbs my husband, so that makes the Kindle a fail for me there. Of course, with lighting, the battery would need to be more impressive, as well.

    3) toggle to color — there’s no reason at this point that the Kindle couldn’t have had color screens. The iPhones do, and they’re priced about the same. If color screens take up battery power, a toggle to B&W would solve that issue. But really, as advanced as the iPhones are, I would have thought the Kindle would have taken advantage of the newer technology.

    4) touch screen notes / highlighting — again, on the iPhones, if I want to copy and paste something, it can all be done by touch. Kindle needs an app store or a built-in app that would allow for the same kind of highlighting — which would be particularly useful for college students. (And yes, I know there is a highlighting button / toggle feature, but I find it clumsy.) Plus, a built-in stylus for making notes would have made me love them forever.

    Like you, I wanted to hold out for the Apple pad, because I suspect it’s going to solve the above problems and be a significant “wow” factor in advancement. I hope so. I have the Kindle, though, for the same reason you do–books piling up, need to save space, and sometimes, needing to have a source book with me when I’m not in the office. I love that when I travel, I can “bring” a huge number of options with me or buy something else that I’m in the mood for.

  2. David Pogue reviewed the B&N Nook which has the touch screen: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/10/technology/personaltech/10pogue.html. Not very positive.

    A backlit screen would bother Sam just as much as a book light. I listen to my iPod at night for that reason (audiobooks) rather than read. And even then, if I have to fiddle with it and the backlight comes on, it will wake him up. So I wasn’t too hot on the backlight. He, on the other hand, was going to order me a book light for it and I told him not to. I’m sure he didn’t intend for me to use it while he’s trying to sleep. I may change my mind about that later.

    Since none of them are full color yet, I have a feeling there’s a legitimate technical reason, and my guess is that it requires a lot more battery life than black and white, and if you’re using it to read, most books don’t have color illustrations. When a reader comes w/color Sam will be more likely to use it because he reads magazines more than books. Color will make it a better magazine reader, I think.

    Wait! You read a book on it?

    Huh. I’ve been feeding mine and choosing pretty covers for it. I haven’t actually read much yet. You bought a book and I bought a doll? And you’re the one complaining about lack of color? LOL

    (I’m reading Sherlock Holmes first to get in the mood because baby, we are going to see RDJr. Only, erm, Sam thinks we’re going to see Sherlock Holmes. Silly man.)

  3. Oh yeah, turn off the whispernet if you want it to last a long time. Everything I’m reading on the discussion boards makes that caveat. People are saying a week to ten days w/o wireless turned on.

  4. Yeah, I know (color / read a book already / still complaining). LOL.

    I didn’t think the color thing would matter at all to me, but I had used the Kindle app on my iPhone and then I could pop over to my internet on there and read websites. It’s a little too small, though, for reading for any length of time, and I love the variable fonts on the Kindle. Still, I got used to the flexibility of the iPhone and I suspect when Apple comes out with theirs next year, I’m going to be gnashing my teeth in envy and wanting to buy that one.

    I think the booklight will bother Carl, too, but he thinks I should order it. I’ll go check out the Nook review (I hadn’t heard a lot of great things about it, and I kinda hate buying the very first iteration of hardware–there are always bugs to work out at that stage.)

    Read a book yesterday because I was too brain dead to write, after the holidays.

  5. Yes, the Nook has lots of problems, it seems. And yes, when the Apple comes out, it will rock, be the best. OTOH, maybe I’ll then give this to somebody else and get an Apple. Or… well, I’m rarely first adapter on anything (but the original Macintosh in 1984) so chances are I would have waited awhile, anyway.

    I have a real book I’m reading right now, and another real book in the wings (that I would have bought for Kindle if I’d known the day before I was going to get one). I was tempted to download it for Kindle just so I could read it there but so far am being good about things like that.



  6. Congratulations on your Kindle. I’m “old-fashioned” enough to stick to reading my ebooks on a Palm Treo (auto-scrolling text makes up for the small screen), but the Kindle is a nifty device.

    If you’re interested in sourcing public-domain books outside the Amazon Kindle store, by far the simplest place to go is ManyBooks.net. That site provides Kindle versions (along with just about every other format) of the texts from the venerable Project Gutenberg. (Google Books has greater breadth, but Project Gutenberg etexts have been proofread by human beings.)

    Finally, one option you may want to look into — depending on your own outlook on fair use in the electronic age, and your patience with the fiddly bits of computing — is whether your local library lets you borrow Mobipocket e-books online through a service like OverDrive. The caveat here is that only way to read such “Secure” or “Protected” Mobipocket books on your Kindle is to perform a modification on the file which (a) is easily found through a web search, (b) is trivial to perform and (c) does not actually crack the copy protection on the book you borrowed, but (d) is very much not what Amazon would like you to do with your Kindle, when you could be 1-Click ordering all those books from them instead.

  7. I’ve downloaded some “mobipocket” short stories from the tor.com site. (They have some splendid short stories from some of their top writers, and others as well, for those who like science fiction and fantasy.) On the Kindle discussion boards people recommend calibre and other programs for converting files to be read on the Kindle. Is that some sort of ethical issue in some circles? I’ve seen such recs everywhere and didn’t think it a problem.

    However, I’m very much against pirate sites that take author’s copyrighted works and put them out there for people to steal. I’ve read the debates on that one and find it difficult to believe that anybody thinks it’s not stealing. (wry smile)

  8. I own quite a few technical (web design and programming) books, and the Kindle would be a great boon for me as I wouldn’t have to lug these books around with me all the time. Web design books tend to have a lot of colored illustrations, so a color ebook reader is a must, and I suspect that the Apple tablet would be such an ebook reader. There’s rumors going around that it is in the works, and there’s a special event that has been scheduled at the end of January, so it could very well be that fabled tablet.

    I tried the Nook at BN, and wasn’t impressed with the screen – flickers too much when you turn the pages and the navigation is not quite easy to figure out.

  9. Such an great, informative post Pooks. Thanks. I got Blane a Kindle for Christmas and sent him a link to your post to read.

    Have a Happy New Year, Pooks.

  10. There is a FREE Kindle App for the iPhone. Sandi likes it.

  11. I hope he likes his. I have become addicted to mine. I’d rather read on it than a real book.

    April, I don’t have an iPhone! My son told me I should have gotten an iTouch instead of the Kindle, and I did consider it, but I really do love the Kindle.

    Of course now Apple is probably about to announce theirs so…

  12. I did chuckle at the (likely) unintended ironic sequencing here– you rave about your Google e-reader in the post immediately preceding a wwarning about the dangers of Google’s grab to secure unlimited material to push onto their e-readers.

    Not judging you on either post — I too love the idea of being able to have access to ALL my books (all of EVERYONE’S book!) anytime anywhere, but it’s a curious set of conflicting greedy desires we juggle here: our desire to see our own written material available in some mode that provides some reward for our creative efforts, against our selfish desire to be able to play with everyone else’s toys anytime we like.

    And I’m one of those goofs who’s long used his laptop as a reader (rotate the text 90 degrees and then read the laptop in familiar “book” orientation — it works amazingly well).


  13. Google doesn’t have ereaders so whatever their motivation is, it’s not that. However, if there is irony in these two posts being back to back, it’s not quite what you describe.

    The fact is, the Kindle and B&N Nook make it easy for people to BUY books legally. Google (and worse sites) are stealing work w/o compensation, and that’s the difference.

  14. Amazon, Google, Arby’s… they’re all in cahoots, I tell ya.

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