12.16.2008

Kindle? Does Anyone Use These Things?

I'm curious whether any of my fair readers have any experience with the Amazon Kindle or any other hardware devices designed to read ebooks? I have long been a proponent of "the real book experience," and I prefer to own the books I read, to have them on my bookshelf, to feel the heft of the book and the pages between my fingers. But I'm curious how the technology has progressed, and whether an ebook reader is starting to become a plausible alternative.

There are also downloadable ebooks that come in PDF format that one can read on the computer, and some allow limited printing. But I can't imagine wanting to print a 300 page book, and thinking about reading an entire book on a computer screen makes my head hurt. I wonder if the Kindle is any better?

So, do you have any experience, good or bad, with ebooks of any variety? Is the Kindle an up-and-comer, or a non-starter? If an author you liked published a book in one of the various (non-Kindle) ebook formats only (like a PDF that you can read on a PC) and you didn't own an ebook reader, would you buy the book? My thoughts are that I would buy it if it allowed printing, but would think twice if it didn't. If it was important enough to me, I'd find a way to print a 300 page book.

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Update: The more I look into the Kindle and similar devices, the more intriguing they are. If you're interested, take a look at this matrix I found comparing the various devices. In particular, the iLiad by iRex looks quite interesting. It has a bigger screen and is compatible with a ton more ebook formats. The Sony eReader seems like more of a direct competitor to the Kindle, both price and size-wise, and allows multiple formats too. However...

As is the case with all leading edge devices/technologies/products like this, it's difficult to figure out which one will become the iPod, and which will become the Zune. At least those products both play the same format content -- MP3s. It doesn't appear that ebooks have settled on a predominant format yet, and Kindle's is proprietary -- a big negative. Despite the advantages the iLiad and Sony seem to have, Amazon's Kindle has two huge things in its favor.
  1. It's Amazon. Where do you go to buy books online? Amazon. That's where the overwhelming majority of people go. This 800-lb gorilla-ness can easily make up for other issues.
  2. Immediate purchase and download of new books without connecting to a PC. This is HUGE. Imagine sitting in an airport, deciding that you want to read the new release by your favorite author, but you don't have your laptop with you. As long as you're in the US, you can just download it with the Kindle.
I tend to be a very late adopter of new gadgets like this. I can't think of much that would be more infuriating to me than to drop $400 on something only to find out three years later that the lack of a market for the product effectively kills expansion (i.e. no new books) and it becomes a doorstop. That said, this is looking interesting...

10 comments:

softwareNerd said...

On a forum I frequent, someone posted a good review, and appears happy with the product.

C. August said...

Thanks for the link! That whole thread is very interesting. It was written at the beginning of 2008, and the author mentioned that Amazon has 90K titles. They now promote on their site that they have 200K+ titles.

Cogito said...

I got the Kindle as a high school graduation present... And I love it! About half of the books I consider buying are available on Kindle (and I'm much more likely to get a book if it I can get it cheaply and quickly to my hands). I too have a limit to how long I can spend reading a computer screen, but the Kindle is nothing like that; it actually looks like a page out of a book. As an added plus, you get free access to the internet over Sprint's network.

Rational Jenn said...

I have a Kindle and use it frequently. Some don't care for the "gray on gray" display, but I rather like it. Looking at a bright screen bugs my eyes sometimes, and I don't have this issue at all with the Kindle.

I, too, enjoy the tactile sensation of holding a great hefty book of marvelous literature. But mostly, I've decided that that's less important to me. I like having many books--and therefore, options--on one small device. I like that I don't need bookshelves for all of those books! I like being able to bookmark a page or passage easily, especially when I'm reading non-fiction and would like to refer back to it at some point.

The Kindle is easy to use, although it's easy to accidentally forward through pages since the "next page" button is next to my hand. But I've figured it out. I liked being able to download the next book in the series I'm reading instantly--no trip to the bookstore!

As far as I know, there's no way to print directly from the Kindle, but that's not something I've really looked into. I know that you also have an online library of sorts, kind of like iTunes, so maybe that option is available that way.

In short, Kindle = YAY.

Rational Jenn said...

Also, new comments format--I like! How did you do it?

Clay said...

My only suggestion is the same advice I would give for any portable media device. Namely, avoid DRM of any sort.

Otherwise you might find yourself several years down the road the proud owner of an extensive library of "books" and have no means by which to view them b/c the DRM prevents conversion and transportability.

Anonymous said...

I bought and returned a Kindle. I love the concept and I'm eagerly waiting for a revised version of the product. But Kindle is just too awkward. I found it impossible to prevent accidentally hitting the page turn button. In its current implementation it's also too slow - it takes between 1 and 5 seconds to turn a page with an odd amount of variance through that range, so you can't even make a habit of starting the page advance a few lines before the bottom of the page. 1-5 seconds doesn't sound like much, but if you count it off at the end of a page in a real book, you'll realize how much this interrupts reading flow.

Tomlin said...

I got my Kindle first day
Got quickly used to its peculiarities
and have taken it everywhere since
Don't get one . . . sure
In the meantime
I've enjoyed mine daily
for over a year
:>)

Anonymous said...

I understand Amazon will be coming out with a Version 2 of its Kindle that is even lighter and thinner, has a larger viewing screen and even more storage capacity. In addition, word is the price will come down to $299 or even $249.

Karen in TN said...

I've had mine for months and love it - I do own the books (although only for my Kindle devices, it's true), but don't miss the physical storage required (I have dozens of shelves of books, there literally isn't room for more). The price is a bit steep up front (but so is a television set, which then requires cable or satellite in some areas or for "better" programming, or a good stereo or MP3 player needed for buying songs, so buying a gadget to use to buy content isn't something new or that most are opposed to, it's just "new" for books).

There is even one method that may get you a Kindle for Christmas (without resorting to sky-high ebay prices) -- the refurbished Kindles keep coming back in stock at Amazon. There were several available on the web site yesterday, appearing at times from very early morning until midnight. From the comments and emails I've received from those who grabbed one, there must have been at least dozen in stock in the morning and several more in stock in the afternoon and evening, so it pays to keep checking the link:

http://www.tinyurl.com/RefurbKindle

Note that if the refurbished units are sold out, that page will also display "used" Kindles being sold by third parties, not Amazon. Generally these are new or only slightly used units, sold at a premium due to the shortage. I know that many dozens of the refurbished Kindles have been sold and shipped since Dec 1, but they go in an out of stock quickly. They don't last on the site very long, so if you want one, you must order it immediately if you find one in stock. If you they are out of stock when you check, be sure to read my blog for tips on getting one:

http://beesontheknob.blogspot.com/2008/12/kindle-lotto-score-kindle-by-christmas.html