Monday, May 4, 2009

Kindle 2.0

I finally gave into temptation and got a Kindle 2.0. A friend had accidentally ordered two of them, and offered to sell me the spare rather than ship it back to Amazon so I didn't have to order one and wait for it. I've had it for some weeks now. I didn't have a cover for it, initially, but got worried that it might be scratched or damaged and after looking over the various cover options, decided the synthetic covers didn't look functional and went with the standard leather cover. We don't do much leather in our household -- no furniture, coats, etc. But some of our shoes are leather, and some of our dog leads. I would have gone with a synthetic or fabric option if a decent one had been available.

Elly was not enthusiastic about it, initially. I think she was worried I would be ordering books from Amazon every time she turned around. I guess a lot of people have been doing that, judging from Amazon's stock price. But I assured her I am much more interested in older, out-of-print books from places like Project Gutenberg. So far, I have only ordered one book from Amazon -- the Kindle 2.0 Cookbook. It explains how to do lots of things with the Kindle that are not covered in the manual. And that only cost $4.

I've loaded about 50 different books on the reader, lots of John Burroughs, E.F. Benson ghost stories, Willa Cather, Jules Verne, William James, and the like. A friend sent me a paper he had written on mysticism. It was a Word document. Amazon has a nifty service that converts standard document formats, like Word, into the Kindle format. You can even have it done for free if you download the converted document to your computer (instead of having Amazon send it to your Kindle directly) and then use the USB cable to load it on your Kindle. The Word conversion works exceptionally well, converting note numbers to hyperlinks, and doing all sorts of nifty things like that.

I have been extremely pleased with the reader. It is fun to read with, especially in bed, because it is thin and light and the page turning mechanism is super ergonomic. I have heard some users don't like the short pause when changing pages, but I think that is ridiculous. I mean it takes about an instant. Easier than turning the page in a book, honestly. The ability to highlight passages and add notes is wonderful. Also being able to do full text searches. You can go for weeks without recharging if you switch the wireless mode off. The Wireless feature consumes a lot of power if you leave it on, and you have to recharge every few days. Since I download Project Gutenberg books to my computer, and then put them on the Kindle with the USB cable, I rarely ever need wireless connectivity and leave it off most of the time.

My one complaint is that I wish there were a way to organize books in the Kindle so that I could arrange them in groups. Everything just goes into the main list in whatever order it likes. It is easy enough to locate whatever book you want with search and filter features, so the objection is a minor one.

I've been reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and have been loving it. It will be the first book I finish on the Kindle reader. I've meant to read it for years.

Is the Kindle the future of reading? Nope! I'm amused be predictions that print books are going to go the way of the Dodo. Print books that were made over 500 years ago are still readable today. Think about it. Paper book-making is a sustainable technology that does not have to rely on petroleum. Kindle readers are just the opposite. Moreover, electronic files that were made only 20 years ago now can't be read because the technology used for them is obsolete. My prediction is that paper books will still be read when Kindle readers have gone the way of the Dodo.

In the meantime, though, I'm going to enjoy mine.


david said...

I don't know Fiske. I have seen those in bookstores and often think it would be like trying to read a computer screen. I find that if I have to read a scientific paper or review some kind of document that has been sent to me electronically, I have to print off a hard copy to be able to fully comprehend what is being written. Also, call me old-fashioned but there is just something mesmerizing about being able to hold the actual book in your hands and reading the printed word.

Fiske said...


The display is what is called electronic ink. It is not backlit or anything. In fact, you can read it as easily in full sunlight as a regular paper document. You have to have a light of some sort to read it, just like reading a book. So it isn't like reading a computer screen at all, despite how it might seem.

Don't get me wrong, I won't be getting rid of the thousands of printed books in our house. :-) And we won't stop buying them, either. On the other hand, I'm not worried about tracking down out-of-print copies of John Burroughs books now. Or any of the other older and enjoyable authors who are hard to come by.

I wasn't sure how much I would like reading books on the Kindle, to be honest. I decided to go ahead with it because some things are just much easier to come by through Project Gutenberg and the like. When I started using it I was surprised by how much I really do like reading books on it. And I like being able to carry thousands of books (literally) in a convenient, small package. And being able to search any of them (or all of them) at once. And being able to quickly return to passages I have highlighted or find notes I have written.

It isn't an either or choice for me. I'm happy with print and electronic books.

Also, for whatever reason, I have no trouble working with electronic documents, reviewing them, editing them, etc. I guess it comes from being a technical writer for years and getting used to working with documents online. Being a programmer, too, I'll tell you there is no way you're going to print code listings and work on them in hard copy. That would be ridiculous. Compared with working on thousands of lines of code in an electronic file, reading a document is a piece of cookie. (As a karate teacher of mine was once found of saying.)

And that is to say nothing about the environmental impact of printing hard copies of everything. And you drive a Prius, too, don't you. You should be ashamed -- printing all those hard copies... :-)


waxwing said...

I love gadgets. Love. Love. Love.

When I first saw the Kindle on the Amazon site, I thought I'd want one.

Call it sour grapes (or something listed in DSM-4) -- which it very well might be -- but I changed my mind after thinking about reading. One of my secret pleasures is smelling books. New paperbacks, old hardbacks, used books -- I sniff them -- which adds to the pleasure.

Someone in my book group has a Kindle. She's one of the biggest anti-gadget people I know. She loves it.

Weird. Don't know what's going on here. Some sort of shift.

Although, the reading in bed thing would be cool. My husband doesn't like the sound of pages turning when he's trying to sleep.

Fiske said...


I understand what you are saying. I feel much the same way about books -- like the feel of them, the smell, the craft of book binding, everything about them.

I pondered the Kindle decision for a long time before actually buying one. It really wasn't an either or decision for me. Like the kid says in A League of Their Own -- "Can't we do both?" :-)

I just wasn't sure if I would like it enough compared with reading paper books for it to be worthwhile. It turns out that I do. I suspect if you ultimately decide to get one, or if your husband gets one for you, you'll like it too. You'll probably find yourself reading at times when you otherwise might not be simply because the Kindle is so darn convenient.

BTW, on the sound of pages bothering your husband, it may be that he has hyper-sensitive hearing. People suppose that having super acute hearing is a good thing, but it can actually cause problems, especially with sleep. Elly has complained to me about the noise made by bubbles popping in a can of mineral water. (I'm not making this up.) She occasionally complains about how "loud" I snore. It puzzled me at first because I've done overnights with astronomy buddies and some of them REALLY snore. The noise was stunning to me, and I can tell you for sure my snoring is mild in comparision. But not to Elly.

I mentioned it to my doctor, and he told me it is actually a medical condition with some specific name (which I have forgotten, of course).

If people who work for Elly knew how acute her hearing is, they would be FAR more careful about saying things when she is in the vicinity. She can be in the back office and hear every single thing said in the store. What is worse, she never lets on that she has heard what is being said. At least, not until it suits her. :-)


Lori said...

Good for you! Wish I had one, but can't justify the purchase yet. And about those old non-copywrite books - I love them and can probably spend the next few years reading them. I like to work out on the treadmill with my mp3 player loaded with free audiobooks from Librvox. Nothing like mixing the latest technology with old literature!