A month with a Kindle

Amazon Kindle in Duragadget case

Everyone seems to be writing about their Kindle but I’m going to jot down a few thoughts anyway.

The Kindle was a Christmas gift from my wife but I’d known it was coming so I had preloaded it with a couple of books and when I turned it on on Christmas morning, they appeared on the screen along with the Kindle Guide and the dictionaries.

I read a book of short stories on it first and found that I enjoyed the way I could add notes to the text, look words up in the dictionary and forget about where I had got up to in the book (knowing that when I turned it on again it would go straight to the place I had left it).  More importantly, the experience of “flow” was pretty much the same as with a printed book.

I then read Philip Kerr’s A Quiet Flame, a much longer book and sped through it, enjoying the sheer convenience of the Kindle experience.  There are various situations (like lying in bed) when the device is easier to hold than a book and I particularly like the Duragadget stand which lets you prop the Kindle up on so you can read while eating.

All this is pretty mundane stuff so I’ll now focus on some of the ways of using the Kindle which I’ve found most useful.

Its not just Amazon

Most reports of the Kindle say you’re locked into Amazon’s store and that you don’t “own” the books as such.  Looking at my Kindle today, I have more books on it from non-Amazon sources than from Amazon.  I particularly like Project Gutenburg and its derivatives like ManyBooks.net.  These sites let you download in Kindle format so all you have to do is to connect the Kindle to the computer and drag the downloaded books across.  Similarly, you can drag your Kindle books across to your computer and back them up.

Ancient gems

Its been great to be able to locate e-versions of some old favourites and to put them on the Kindle.  Some are pretty obscure tomes which would be difficult to locate in physical form and also expensive, but the Gutenburg project has gone so far now that many classics and out of copyright books are freely available.

Calibre

I also use the free Calibre e-book management program on my PC and what’s really great about this is that you can convert books to and from Kindle format, which really gets around the problem of not being able to lend Kindle books to owners of other e-readers.   This program also has a “news” feature that lets you download the whole free content from newspaper sites like The Guardian and then transfer them to your Kindle.  This makes a mockery of newspaper subscription schemes – if the papers offer their content free on their website then inevitably someone is going to write a program that grabs the whole lot and formats it for the Kindle and other e-readers.

Making difficult-to-access documents accessible

I have found the Kindle very useful for letting me read lengthy pdf files.  For example, my camera comes with a manual on disc which is far too long to print off on paper.  By mailing it to my free Kindle email address the document gets converted to Kindle format and is readable and searchable on the Kindle.  I’ve even had a publisher send me a book for review in pdf format and this is much preferable than getting yet another printed book to add to my huge stack of books to be read.

“Flow”

Most importantly I’ve found that the Kindle provides a reading experience which is equivalent to a printed book – I can get just as “lost” in a Kindle book as I can in a printed book. OK, I miss the physical features of a book -  the whole look and feel of it, but I’ve traded that for incredible convenience, so much so, that since Christmas I’ve only read books on the Kindle and don’t really want to go back to a printed volume.

Availability of books

This says much about the way the publishing industry is going to have to go for I know I’m far from being alone in feeling like this.  I was initially worried about the lack of the titles I wanted in the Kindle store but this Saturday I went through the Guardian review section and searched for the books which were covered in it.  I found fourteen were available in Kindle format and only nine were not, so I can see that the problem of availability is going to eventually go away.

So, after initial reservations I’m now pretty happy with the Kindle and can’t see me going back to preferring printed books.  Its a great device and I think I now actually read more because of it.  I’ve read it while sitting sat on a bench in a shopping mall while waiting for my wife, I’ve read it while waiting in a queue at the Post Office and while sitting in the car.  I could do all that with a book, but there’s something about the Kindle which makes me want to take it with me when I go out.  Yet I’ve loved books all my life but can’t help feeling I’ve betrayed them somehow – as I look behind me and see hundreds of books on a book case (quite a few of which now exist in e-book format on my Kindle), I can’t help feeling rather sorry that I’m looking at a collection which, in a few years time, may seem as obsolete as a pile of typewriters.

22 comments to A month with a Kindle

  • Oh, wow, Tom … you’ve converted faster than I have. I really enjoy reading and holding my Kindle but I still feel there’s something “physical” missing and I think it’s to do with being able to “flick” through the book. I know it tells me how much I’ve read – and I like that a lot – but it’s the “flicking” through that I miss and I’m not quite sure what that is about. I suspect I’ll get over it because it has so much going for it.

    Do you use the notes function much? And if so, have you got special tricks for making them work. I always make notes when I read but I haven’t quite worked out how best to use this function in Kindle. I can’t “flick” through the books and immediately see my notes – I can just see where the notes are. If I go to the notes view function then I see all the notes but away from the context of the text. Any hints would be gratefully received. I’m wondering if I have to change the way I take notes.

  • Alegna

    I liked your positive take on the kindle. The one thing that makes me hesitate to buy one is the size of the screen. There seems to be such a small amount of reading displayed. Do you not find that a problem?

  • I love my Kindle, but I can’t see myself using it for every read. I’m still buying books by the truckload, which is rather disconcerting (because I thought having a Kindle would curb my book buying addiction). I suppose its the fact that I’ve downloaded nearly 80 books on my Kindle (the majority being free classics) that I want to read, but that I’m not dying to read. My intention with the Kindle was to read the classics and those trendy books that I don’t want to purchase in physical format because they will clutter my shelves – and so far, I’m achieving that somewhat. I’m hoping that like you I find myself reading more because of my Kindle. I’m just not sure that like you I’ll be able to give up my tangible books. Of course, that being said, who knows. Thanks for sharing Tom.

  • Although I’m very happy with my “old-fashioned” books, Tom, I have thought about getting an e-reader so I don’t have to lug longer tomes around with me all the time. Won’t be getting a Kindle anytime soon I don’t think, but I did enjoy hearing about your early experiences with it. Very eye-opening. Cheers!

  • Tom

    Richard – thanks for your comments. I am sure I will be reading “real” books again soon, but I am enjoying the Kindle at the moment

  • Tom

    Hi Nadia – perhaps I shouldn’t have been quite so enthusastic in my article. I am sure I will be returning to “real” books before too long. I am a bit of a gadget-man and take to new technology like a fish to water. I am nowhere near 80 books on my kindle yet, but am heading there! Thanks for visiting

  • Tom

    Alegna – thanks for visiting. No, I don’t find the screen size a problem, and its very easy to turn the pages

  • Tom

    Sue – perhaps I was more enthusiastic in that post than I should have been, and I’m sure I’ll read real books again before too long.

    I agree with you that its hard to see notes in context. Also, the flicking through the book is not easy and its something I have missed. However, I have much appreciated the ability to search a book – yesterday I forgot who one of the characters was so I searched on his name and all the references to it came up with enough context around them that I didn’t have to go back to the pages the character appeared on. I quite like the idea of being able to see all my notes in one place however, so that’s a small positive perhaps?

    I am mostly pleasantly surprised by how many books are available on the Kindle – I looked up two more newspaper reviews this morning and both books were available – at a price however! I don’t think I’ll be buying many books on the Kindle!

  • Nice piece Tom. This has been very much my experience also. I no longer buy books in hardcopy if they’re available on the Kindle.

    Going forward, I expect to make exceptions for publishers such as Pushkin Press or Peirene where the books are physically beautiful, but otherwise I expect more titles to turn up on Kindle and for that to become a more and more common reading platform for me.

    The price of the books doesn’t bother me much. It’s still generally less than the hardcopy. Of course if Amazon goes bust I lose those books, but it’s an acceptable risk and in the meantime I don’t have to find storage space for them.

  • I received my Kindle a couple of weeks ago and my experience has been exactly the same as yours, Tom – rather to my surprise. I actually find it easier to concentrate on my reading with the Kindle, probably because like Whispering Gums I used to flick through my books a lot. Unlike whispering Gums, though, I don’t miss the flicking.
    I am also very much taken with the highlighting function, especially since I can see my highlights on my personal Kindle web page and copy and paste them for my reviews – no more laborious typing!
    Best of all I love how little space the Kindle takes and how lightweight it is. I read a lot while commuting and now it has also solved the problem of how I am going to take enough books with me on a mountain trek in Nepal where I am only allowed to take 10 kgs of luggage with me (including a sleeping bag). I have never had the luxury of taking dozens of books with me on holiday. For me the Kindle is a wonderful piece of equipment.

  • bookaroundthecorner

    Hi Tom, thanks for this.

    I have the same experience and I’m particularly happy with the conversion of pdf files since the kindle store doesn’t have a lot of books in French.

    As my native language is French, I really enjoy the automatic dictionary when I read in English. It’s so convenient and I think I won’t buy paper edition of books in English anymore.

    The only problem is that the kindle isn’t practical for extreme reading like on the beach, in a bath and when waiting for the kids at the school gates by -5°C! Electronic devices are more fragile.

  • Tom

    bookaroundthecorner – The Kindle adverts show a woman reading on the beach – but they haven’t thought about the problem of sand getting in to the keyboard! I agree, its fragile and needs to be treated with respect

  • Tom

    Anna – thanks for your interesting reply. I have yet to copy and paste my highlights – definitely something that’s going to be very useful for book bloggers. I agree its the lightweight and small size of the kindle which is so impressive – particularly its thin-ness. Perfect for travelling

  • Tom

    Max – thanks for visiting. I suspect it would take an economic cataclysm for Amazon to go bust – but then there have been plenty of those recently haven’t there.

  • I m having to replace a broken e reade I think I will go with kindle great look at living with one I happy now know it can download from Gutenberg,all the best stu

  • Tom

    Stu – I think Kindle seems to be the only choice for an e-reader these days – unless you can afford and ipad!

  • Over here, the Sony eReader has been getting good reviews, and I have a friend who has decided to go for it. Does anyone else have an opinion on it? Has anyone experienced it?

    Oh, and the search function is good. The dictionary can also be good but is a bit limited – it’s often more encyclopedic things I want to look up I think, because they are often not in the dictionary!

  • Tom

    Sue, the Sony eRader is very good no doubt. Alas, Amazon have priced the Kindle to undercut the others. The Sony is backlit whereas the main feature of the Kindle is its e-ink screen I think, which is pretty incomparable.

  • I’m really interested in your experience with this, Tom, especially in terms of the note-taking. I’ve heard that this is possible, but I don’t know anyone who has done it. I’m wondering if it’s possible to retrieve all the notes in one spot, or do you have to go through them page by page. And can you flip back and forth to compare notes? Will be looking forward to hearing more about this. (Just read through the other comments and see that you have addressed some of this with Sue, who seems to have the same questions that I have.) Best, Mary

  • Tom

    Mary – thanks for visiting. Yes, you can see all your notes in one place – there’s a “view my notes and marks” screen which contains everything you’ve done on that book – both notes and highlights. One book blooger (I think it was Max of Pechorin’s Journal but am not sure) connects up his Kindle to the PC and then downloads all his highlights from a book so he doesn’t have to retype them. I will try that soon.

  • This gives whole new possibilities to the Kindle for me. Will have to take a much closer look. Thanks for the info. Best, Mary

  • Tom

    Mary – thanks for visiting.

Leave a Reply