Sarah Reviews the Kindle at Dear Author.com

Over at Dear Author, I’m reviewing the Kindle, which I own, and now owns .39% of my soul and counting. Here’s a sample of my review:

KindleMy present option for ebook reading was my Blackberry screen, which was all of this big—> . My external reader options included hacking an iPhone should I buy one (oh, how I lust for thee, sweet iPhone) or an eBook reader. But like the VHS/Beta debate, eBook reader manufacturers can’t seem to nail a format any better than ebook publishers can nail good cover art that depicts people nailing one another, and I’m left with a six-to-eight step process to get one ebook on my Blackberry. Used to be I was happy to hack my way through multiple steps. Now, I don’t have that kind of time.

This is where the Kindle excels. Yes, I am aware I am tying myself to Amazon and giving them a measure of control over my purchasing, my ebook ownership, and my choice of formats – in that I don’t have a choice of formats. The Amazon integration with the Kindle unit is so fan fucking tastic I am happy to give up that measure of control, just like I’m happy to strip naked and walk through security control at Newark Airport if it’ll just get me there quicker oh, my God, this line is six years long. It’s all about expediency and efficiency; the Kindle drop kicks awesome through the goal posts of life.

Categorized:

General Bitching...

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  1. 1
    Peaches says:

    As a gadget and fanfic whore I have to say that the idea of an ebook reader appeals to me because it’s A) shiny! and B) a portable screen!  But there’s two reasons I’m not getting a kindle no matter how awesome it looks.  The main reason is that it’s too expensive.  I could buy so so many regular books (not to mention other stuff) for the price of a kindle.  And unless I could get a kindilzed textbook for a fifth of the price, it would take me a while pay for the kindle in terms of usage.  The second reason is that the kindle books dont have a big enough price difference from their print counterparts, so I dont feel like I’m saving much money if you dont count the shipping costs (which I dont have to, because I can go to Borders and have them order books they dont have in stock for free).  Finally, I’d need more books available in kindle format.  I’m all for saving trees, but aside from romance novels I’m usually not perusing the best seller list for my reading, and that’s where the beamable books tend to hang out.

  2. 2
    Peaches says:

    Thought of more to say.

    Another big reason I have for not kindling is that when I really like a book, I want to have it on my shelf.  It’s like the difference between owning the dvds of your favorite series and having it on Tivo—something’s gotta get deleted eventually.  Which means that if I read it first on kindle, I’d have to buy the same book again. 

    But what would be a huge plus for me if I got the kindle is the ability to pack a vacation’s worth of books without actually having to cary pounds of books on my vacation! That sounds awesome.  The only trouble is that I already bought my To Read list.  If the kindle versions were cheaper, I could justify buying them again and saving myself carrying the weight, but it’s just not there yet.

  3. 3
    Melissa says:

    I went on a dogged search for an e-book reader just a couple months ago. And the Kindle was SO not the best out there. The Sony Electronic Reader – now that’s a keeper. It allows multiple formats to be used. So the gobs of e-books already on my computer are now on my e-book reader. Simple. And the flexibility of formats is the reason I got the Sony in the first place. Expensive? Hells yes! But oh so enjoyable. And every time I pick up that reader, knowing that I have over a hundred books at any given destination, gives me a He-Man complex like no other device. I HAVE THE POWER!

  4. 4
    Iasmin says:

    I must be incredibly behind the times. Sure, I’ve sold my soul to iTunes for music and movies, but for a book? The purist in me recoils in horror. How can sob my heart out over the misfortune of a heroine or squirm with unfulfilled longing when hot monkey sex happens in my favorite trashy book and not….hurt myself with an eBook reader or a Kindle? You can’t clutch one to your breast without serious damage. You risk shorting it out with your tears. And quite frankly, if you need “me” time after a hot scene, do you really want that thing stabbing you in the gut on the back as you thrash around on the covers? I’ll take my nice and comfy paperback, thankyou very much. And if it happens to be a hardcover, at least when it gets kicked off the bed in the throws of passion I won’t fear for the recover of the electronics. At least I can use tape to repair it if I manage to ding it.

  5. 5
    Jane says:

    I’m jealous that you have one and not because I particularly want it but because it is the new hawt ebook reader.  I’ll scratch your eyes out in SF over it.

  6. 6
    Kristin says:

    I’m not a keeper of books. I don’t like clutter, and when I see those home renovation shows where people have bookshelves stuffed to the gills, I actually shudder at the thought. Oh, the dusting!  Oh, the waste of space! Oh, the pain of boxing up and carrying those books from one house to another!

    Once I read a book, it gets passed on. Either donated or given to a friend. I don’t usually go back and re-read books because I know what happens, there’s no surprise left. And I’m all about the surprise. Only a few classic books get re-read and saved. That’s it. Beyond reference books like dictionaries, a thesaurus, editing books, and the like.

    So, the Kindle would be ideal for me. I read in bed, and I hate holding a book open while I read. And if it’s a hard back…ugh! And I’m a spine-cracker, because I really hate it when the words are too close to the edge of the page. I want to see what I’m reading!

    When the Kindle is cheaper and comes out with a new model that works out the few kinks I’ve been reading about, I will definitely consider it.

  7. 7
    Fiamme says:

    I live in New Zealand, so shipping costs are murderous.  I also have a major home clutter problem. I bought my first e-books a month or so ago (through Baen’s site, I think it was, not Amazon) because a series I’d lusted after for over a decade was out … but only e-book (the Kencyrath series by PC Hodgell… why oh why did it only come out in a limited run for real books!)

    Anyhow, I looked around for an e-book reader and then argued with myself that it was too expensive for something I’d use so infrequently.

    But … maybe it is time to switch from print media to electronic, if only for the sake of my groaning (and not dusted, but I’m not one of nature’s dusters) bookshelves.

    Security word Poor22… yeah, that describes me and my book habit ;)

  8. 8

    Don’t ask me how to do it because I don’t know, but apparently you *can* get other non-Kindle books on to the Kindle including Cerridwen and EC—I think there are some instructions on the EC/CP website though. (end promo)

    Enjoy your new toy!

  9. 9
    Brandi says:

    I still can’t see owning a Kindle or ebook for recreational reading (though if it means that the Gutenberg Project will have a standard ebook format I might consider—reading them off the computer screen is a PitA)—but I think ebooks would be GREAT for academia; there were very few books I wanted to keep when classes were done (especially in the sciences, where the low-level books that aren’t big references like the CRC aren’t interesting). Professors being able to make handouts downloadable instead of cranking out tons of Xeroxes would also be a Good Thing.

    [Recreational readers who could really benefit from ebook readers would probably include people with vision problems—need large print? Just zoom in! This could turn out to be quite a selling point as the baby boom ages.]

  10. 10
    xat says:

    My guy got me a Kindle for Valentine’s Day.

    Soon after, I left for a trip back east with a lot of short flights and layovers. The Kindle rocked. Normally, when traveling for a four hour flight, I’ve got to carry at least four or five books, or dash into bookshops at airports buying whatever trash is available. (Hi, my name’s xat and I’m a bookoholic.) Not only did I have only the reader and the power source to carry, but I was able to download new books as I finished the old ones. What a relief.

    Now the reader is great for carrying with me while running errands, waiting in lines, whatever. I take it to the gym and read it while walking on the treadmill. Hell, last week I was reading a TRN (trashy romance novel), got bored, and downloaded another one—while working out. How decadent is that?

    It’s also great for cold weather reading. You just have to stick one hand out of the blankets to hold and turn the pages. Rock…hell, it boulders.

    I have been assimilated. And it’s delicious.

  11. 11
    SonomaLass says:

    I am very conscious of the advantages of e-books, but so far I have only bought a few (titles not available in print, or much more expensive in print) and gotten a few as freebies (Tor!). So far, in my limited experimentation, I just use my laptop as a reader.  Of course, I also use it as a music player for my iTunes library (my iPod mini finally died).  It’s portable enough to take on vacation, although not really suited for long use on planes or trains (battery life, you know).  I guess I don’t see myself fully converting to the e-book format any time soon, if ever, so I don’t really need a reader that is as portable as a paperback.

    My one concern is ethical.  I am a keeper and lender of both books and music, and have been since my teens (many decades ago now).  I re-read and re-play favorites, and lend them at the slightest provocation to those willing to be enlightened and entertained by them.  If I lend a paperback, or a CD, that’s cool as long as the borrower doesn’t make a copy, right?  But can I lend an e-book, or a digital album, with equal ethics?  I don’t think I can, short of handing over my laptop.  So while I will buy experimental e-books and download some digital music, anything by a favorite author or artist (anything I expect to like enough to lend) gets purchased in an old-fashioned format.

    I admit that I looked at the Sony reader and thought it was teh sexxy—as is the iPhone.  But I wouldn’t use either enough to justify the price; just thinking about it makes me want to give another hundred bucks to earthquake relief.

  12. 12
    Emmy says:

    If I lend a paperback, or a CD, that’s cool as long as the borrower doesn’t make a copy, right?  But can I lend an e-book, or a digital album, with equal ethics?  I don’t think I can, short of handing over my laptop.

    That’s a whole other issue, one of those infamous circular arguments where everybody shouts, nobody listens, and we all do whatever we want anyways, because who’s to stop us. I’ve always disagreed with the idea that I pay for something and can’t then do what I want with it. I paid for it. It’s mine. Mineminemine. If you want to control what I do with my property, charge me less, or make some sort of notice during the checkout process that I’m only borrowing the book and you want it back after I’ve read it. Make it self destruct after the second reading or something.

    But again, that’s off topic. It’s been debated before, it will be debated again as more bibliophiles start running out of physical space to put books and look to the more efficient ebook for the answer.

  13. 13
    Anne Douglas says:

    The main thing holding me back from any of the new eBook readers is not so much that I want them to do ‘everything’. I just want them to read everything. Not one single one of them reads every format well. One does x well, but y badly, the other does the opposite. And I’m just pedantic in that I’d like to leave my options open format wise, lol!

    While I’m in the USA currently, chances are high of a move back to NZ and like Fiamme I can see my eBook reading will be skyrocketing. But why buy a kindle when a big chunk of the reason to buy it – the fact I can download on the fly – is totally negated as the service is unavailable outside of/ and even in certain places in the USA.

    Le Sigh – my eBook collection for a well priced (ie $125-$180) reader that can support all the formats.

  14. 14
    Tracy says:

    I don’t have a Kindle but an ebookwise ereader.  It seriously is the best thing evah!  My hubby hates it cuz I finish one book and can immediately move on to another!

    Congrats on your new toy.  Enjoy!

  15. 15
    lizziebee says:

    I desperately want an eBook reader. I read a lot of eBooks on my computer, and find my iBook relatively bulky to read them on. Really looking for something I can just stow in my purse and take with me, especially when I’m traveling. I’ve been looking into the Sony eReader for a while, but not the Kindle. Why? I read a LOT of fanfiction, and want to be able to put a few different file types on it. But why don’t I have one? They’re blooming pricy.

  16. 16
    Ms Manna says:

    Before I consider buying any e-book reader, it has to meet one simple criteria for basic usability: will it keep working after I’ve dropped it in the bath?

    Then there’s all the other stuff, like proprietary formats, support of multiple formats, forwards compatibility etc, etc.  But first of all, bath-proof y/n?  Because if it isn’t, then at some point it’s going to be transformed from shiny tech gadget to rather damp paperweight.

  17. 17
    Charlene says:

    I will be happy when Canada gets reasonably-priced and accessible wireless coverage. If we had Kindle it would cost the user more per download than it would to buy the damn book, because our monopolistic private wireless services charge an arm and a leg for the fantastic 1994-era technology they provide.

  18. 18
    sistergolden says:

    I have an iPhone and a Kindle (I’m a technogeek and this is my version of crack, ok?).  No way can I read a novel on that tiny screen. The iPhone is GREAT for what I can do with it (movies, mp3s, phone and emergency internet use).  The Kindle is GREAT for reading novels—that’s what it does really, really well.  There’s a place in my heart and my briefcase for both!

    PS – Someone asked about how to waterproof a Kindle: Ziploc bag.  Really.  Cheap, see-thru and all buttons work as normal.

  19. 19
    Suze says:

    PS – Someone asked about how to waterproof a Kindle: Ziploc bag.  Really.  Cheap, see-thru and all buttons work as normal.

    AWESOME!  I love low-tech solutions.  It reminds me about that story that was e-mailed around the world about the problem astronauts faced trying to write things in space, because pens all rely on gravity to get the ink flowing, and so NASA spent $$$$$ and years developing a pen that doesn’t rely on gravity, and can write underwater, and on oil slicks, and stuff and things, and yay, technology!  And the Soviets used pencils.  Tee hee.

  20. 20
    AnneD says:

    It was my birthday yesterday, and hubster had an epic fail on the cake front, and I’d said since we are doing a big trip home next week not to worry about a present. But this morning I’m having a case of gadget envy and am feeling like revengefully ordering ALL of them so I can have a gander and a fiddle… He should have ordered me the damn cake!

    Does just thinking about it lose me good housewifely points?

  21. 21
    Castiron says:

    I love the idea of an ebook reader; when I still had a working Palm OS PDA, I had a nice library of Project Gutenberg ebooks and fanfic that I’d converted to read on it, and it was extremely handy for reading in odd moments. But after having three PDAs die on me over the course of eight years, I’ve realized that ebook readers aren’t yet at the price where they’d be worthwhile to me.  (The fact that I haven’t bothered replacing the Palm OS device after the third one died, in spite of the many things I used it for besides ebook reading, tells me that the dedicated ebook reader at $399—or even $150—isn’t worth the price to me either.)

    Which doesn’t keep me from drooling, of course.  But I figure, in another ten years there’ll be a device that costs the equivalent of today’s $50, reads books in a wide variety of formats, makes it easy for me to take notes, has an inexpensive user-replacable battery and can also run on solar power, and holds my address & phone book, MP3 library, Life Balance or Remember the Milk data, sky chart program, needlework project information, and shopping lists.  I might as well wait ;-).

  22. 22

    You will probably like the Kindle and other electronic readers less when the manufacturers start doing things like:

    1) charging more and more for each read (you won’t “own” the books you buy, just “license” them, like software) – oh, and forget about lending them out for free.

    2) shut down your reader or otherwise hijack it when you fail to pay an upgrade fee, or charge a “premium” for reading some other corporation’s media, etc. Or, simply shut it down when their corporate strategy changes. (Which has already happened with other DRM-corrupted electronics.)

    3) use information collected from your reader either to sell you stuff or turn you into the government. Soon, the government won’t even have to threaten librarians with jail time to find out what you’ve been reading.

    Make no mistake – this is an issue of freedom and it is the fundamental struggle of our age. As more of our culture becomes digitized, and thus more cheaply available to many more people, corporations and governments are grasping for ways to make money off it and keep controlling those who use it. This is a step *backwards* from our current expanding, glorious, increasingly democratic age of YouTube, Creative Commons, blogs, a new long tail model for supporting artists, etc. back to when (for instance) a few record studios ruled the earth and had near-unlimited power to exploit artists. Please see http://www.freeculture.org for more info and get on the right side of this issue.

    As per B. Franklin, those who sacrifice freedom to security deserve neither. In this case, it’s not even security but convenience and slick package design we’re giving up our freedom for.  As writers and critical thinkers, we can do better.

  23. 23
    Trix says:

    I’m with Hilary Rettig with my doubts about using proprietary software and hardware, as with a Kindle.

    With a Palm or Windows PDA, you can get a nice big screen (granted, not as nice as the “e-ink” type readers), and you can install a number of different software readers (Mobipocket, ebookman, Acrobat, MS Reader) so you can choose which vendors to buy from, and what formats you want. With many of those formats, for example Microsoft Reader, you can convert them to HTML or plain text for truly portable reading (dubious legality, but since I paid for ‘em, and I’m not distributing them, I feel I can do what I like).

    Since the debacle with Microsoft yanking the licence servers for music bought on MSN (so tough shit if you want to play your purchased music in future), and Sony Connect going down the gurgler (ditto), I’m extremely wary of any technology that locks you into a single digital format from a single vendor. It’s even more ironic given the current trend towards removing DRM from music.

  24. 24

    Thanks, Trix!  And here’s the flip side.  One of the best techniques I’ve found for promoting my (non-romance) book is to have released part of it for free under a Creative Commons license. It’s not just $ free, but anyone is free to copy, distribute, alter and otherwise use the content noncommercially so long as my attribution remains intact. 

    I released the free version in mid-Dec. More than 4,000 have since been downloaded from my site alone, and it is now all over the Web. And guess what – my royalty checks for the last half year (almost exactly the same period) **doubled.**

    Science fiction writer Cory Doctorow is a pioneer of using Creative Commons distribution for his works, which are also published commercially. He says the real enemy of the artist is not piracy but obscurity, and CC turns his novels from nouns into verbs. Here’s his great essay summarizing his views:

    http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/7774

    The Kindle, DRM, proprietary media, are the enemy of all of that. Does anyone think that Amazon would not charge me for every time someone downloads my excerpt if they could?  They already treat small and independent publishers heinously.  And how willing do you think they would be to fight a govt subpoena if the govt thought my book was subversive and wanted to know who downloaded it?

  25. 25
    Sandia says:

    I currently own a Kindle and let me start by saying that I absolutely LOVE it. 

    I don’t want to be considered a “fan-girl” by any means but there are so many misconceptions about the “formats” that the Kindle can read.  The native format for the Kindle is the same as the Mobipocket reader (.prc).  If you buy Kindle books from Amazon, it reads a “Kindle” format (.azw).  This format is essentially the Mobipocket format with DRM built in.  It’s very similar to buying songs from iTunes and using an iPod.  The iTunes store sells a .acc format – but the iPod can read either the .acc (proprietary Apple DRM format) or .mp3 – generic format.  The Kindle works the same way. 

    So for example – with an iPod, you can rip a copy of a CD you currently own – and it will either translate it to .acc or .mp3 in iTunes for you.  You can load it as either format on your iPod.

    The corollary on the Kindle would be: you find fanfiction/text/html formats that are non-DRM on the the web (via Gutenberg or wherever).  You can translate it to the .prc format using the Mobipocket creator (free software) and load it onto your Kindle reader.

    You are buy no means limited to only Amazon when you purchase a Kindle for content, just like you are not limited to iTunes when you purchase an iPod.  What the Kindle offers is a delivery format for content in the Kindle store that is easy to use and a wide variety of content.  But you don’t HAVE to buy it from Amazon.

    Additionally – all the Gutenberg texts that have been published as ebooks have been formatted for the Kindle already.  If you go to http://manybooks.net you will find text that are in multiple formats – one of which is the Kindle .azw format.

    I’ve wanted an eBook reader for a LONG LONG time.  The reason I never bought the Sony Reader is the lack of periodical content.  I said when Sony launched the Reader is that as soon as there is a way to get the WSJ delivered daily to my eBook reader, I’ll get it.  I think that this is one of the BEST things about the Kindle that people don’t even talk about.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE getting my newspaper delivered and being able to read it without my fingers getting a ucky.  None of the other eBook content providers have any sort of periodical subscription service.  And I love being able to buy a Sunday NYTimes without having to leave my house of put on more than my bathrobe.

  26. 26
    Joy says:

    Ok, OK, I LUST for any ebook reader echoing those who cite portability and currently use my (inadequate) pda for ebooks now and then. BUT, I also LOVE audiobooks.  No, they’re not the same as actually reading but I can drive and still enjoy a book—a no, no with a print or ebook.  Fell in love with LaNora’s audiobooks—great performer for them!—and it gave me incentive to buy an MP3 player primarily for audiobooks.

    BUT, can’t I get both, I whine. NO!  Until they have an ebook reader that will also let me use it for audiobooks (GLORIOUS DAY I WISH YOU WOULD COME), I’ll restrain my lust and merely sigh with longing.

  27. 27
    Sandia says:

    The Kindle can be used to play .mp3’s and also books from audible.com!

    I believe the Sony Reader can also play .mp3’s but I’m not sure what other audio format it can play.

  28. 28
    kt says:

    After much research (and some skepticism), I just purchased my Kindle two weeks ago. I’ll be working overseas next year and after realizing I couldn’t bring a year’s worth of books with me—nooooo!!—I decided to look for new resources. Anyone who travels for work, pleasure, or has to go abroad for a time might really want to check this out. I’m now able to take 200+ books with me to a country where its pretty hard (and expensive) to find books in English.

    That alone is a big benefit, but even here in the USA I’m really enjoying it, particularly the web browser. The Kindle gets a signal basically everywhere, so you don’t need to poke around for free wireless or anything like that. Instead, I can just surf the web, including reading/responding to my web-based email, wherever I go. That is pretty cool. Particularly when my friends with an iTouch are still pecking at their screens with one finger and limited to finding free wi-fi hotspots.

    Things that a lot of people get confused about:
    You *don’t* need to be limited to Amazon’s store and you *don’t* need to pay to convert non-amazon files. They’ll convert it for free, if you’re willing to upload the files yourself, via a USB. Also, the Kindle reads HTML and TXT files, so any ebooks you have in these formats should work right off the bat.

    Also, I suspect any folks who read fanfiction might find it helpful for reading stories on the go and I know a lot of comic book readers who read scans are starting to test out their options. (Kindle also reads JPGs and GIFs.)

    One other random feature that I love? Kindle NowNow. Its like a reference librarian in your pocket. You send them (real people) a question via your Kindle and they’ll send you answers via email in minutes. They’re awesome. Particularly when you get into fights with your friends at 1am over whether the movie Juno did or did not win any Oscars. :)

    So far, I’m having a really positive experience with it. Having said that though, I don’t think the Kindle will work for people unless they’re already reading some e-books or interested in converting over to ebooks. There may be some environmental and cost benefits to doing this, but I think it’s still a choice and commitment the user needs to make.

  29. 29
    Janet Miller says:

    Hubby got me a Kindle for Mother’s Day saying that I needed “the latest in ebook reading technology”.

    My biggest objection (outside of price and the look of the thing) was that the Kindle had its own format and I wanted to be able to read all those ebooks I bought at Fictionwise on it.

    Well low and behold it turns out that Mobipocket books read just fine on a Kindle already and secure mobipocket formatted books could also be downloaded with a little conversion. So while it is downright trivial to buy a Kindle book off of Amazon, using the USB link to move either unsecure mobipocket or converted secure files wasn’t difficult at all. In fact it is easier to load files onto my Kindle than onto my Palm TX which was my old ebook reader.

    So I’m pretty happy with the thing, particularly since the battery life is at least three times as long as my Palm.

    Just right for very long airplane flights.

  30. 30
    Laura D says:

    Okay, am I the only person bugged by this one little detail—whence the name “Kindle?”  From what/where/whom is that weird little nom d’eReader?  “Kindle” does not define what it does, who made it, or even what type of gizmo it is.  Did I miss a press release about this?  Just my paranoia, but I don’t want to buy something that feels like an inside joke that no one let me in on.

    Okay, re-reading that, it does sound a little insecure.  And whiny.  What-ev.

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