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A Kindle for Christmas!

The Kindle, sleeping

The Kindle, sleeping

GC gave me a Kindle for Christmas! It’s a wireless electronic book reader from Kind of like an iPod for books. It’s a very cool thing. I can purchase and download a book in less than a minute, directly from the unit, and it can hold up to 1500 books. I can also buy newspapers, but without the images, and magazines.

It’s the size of a very slim book. The battery lasts a week between charges. It’s much easier on the eyes than a computer screen. It’s got a built-in dictionary, access to Wikipedia, and it can read out loud. Best of all, I can download a sample of any book and read the first chapter for free before deciding to buy it.

E-books are cheaper than regular books, but in some cases, not by much. I bought Galore by Michael Crummy yesterday, which I’ve been wanting to read for months – it was about $3.30 less than a paperback copy from Amazon. (On the other hand, I can purchase the complete works of Shakespeare for $2.99. This almost makes me wish I liked Shakespeare.)

My current table of contents

My current table of contents

I like my Kindle very much, though I admit to having had mixed feelings about them when they first became available to Canadians a few months ago.

That’s because I like books. I like bookshelves. Books have substance and weight and value. They’re more than just their words. They hold memories. They have spines and covers and pages and depth and character. They are physical objects. They are real.

Of course, because they’re real, they require real space. And I decided a long time ago that all my books had to live on my three Billy bookcases. If I ran out of space, I’d have to stop buying books or else give some way. But that’s getting harder and harder, because I’ve already given away pretty much all the books I don’t feel attached to.

The Kindle in its case, with Duncan illustrating scale

The Kindle in its case, with Duncan illustrating scale

So the idea of being able to store 1500 books in a tiny machine is very appealing. I like that I can start reading a book one minute after hearing about it. I like not carrying around a big fat hardcover book to read on the #14. The Kindle will be ideal for traveling and vacations. As far as the technology goes, I’m finding it’s a comfortable way to read. No complaints there so far.

A page from Galore

A page from Galore

Psychologically, though, it’s a bit of a leap. The Kindle separates reading from books, which seems practical and efficient, but leaves me feeling a little bereft. I just can’t see it replacing books, at least not for me, so I’m not approaching it as an either/or kind of thing. I have to decide upfront whether a particular title is one I want to own in book form, or whether I just want to read it. And that of course begs the question, why spend the money buying a book and the time reading it, if you don’t hope to form some kind of attachment to it?

When I switched from a typewriter to a computer back in 1988, it was a bit of a psychological leap too. I struggled most with the loss of tangibility and the loss of pages and drafts. Suddenly each document was like one long page with the potential to expand infinitely to accommodate its content, and the rough draft morphed eventually into the final draft. I don’t know why this troubled me so much, but it did. In time, of course, I got used to it and now I can’t imagine going back to a typewriter.

It’s not a great analogy, because I don’t see the Kindle replacing books the way the computer replaced the typewriter. The Kindle will supplement books. I’ve recently started downloading audio books, too, because I can listen to them while knitting. So I’m not completely inflexible about the idea of books having to be books. I’m just struggling with it, a little, conceptually.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about reading, books, audio books and the Kindle.

18 comments to A Kindle for Christmas!

  • I am very apprehensive about the Kindle – though I can definitely see your point about space. But I love books – the smell, the feel, the sound of the pages turning, the cover art (I read fantasy so some of the art is pretty cool), they way they look all lined up on my shelves, and stacked on various surfaces around the house. I also have a tendency to take my books in the bath tub – if you drop one it’s not a huge deal – they do dry out – the Kindle… might be a problem. I also have a tendency to sleep with my books. I read and hour or two before bed, then just slide the book under my pillow and go to sleep. Every time I set a book down, Rocky immediately perches on it – sometimes sitting on it, sometimes just putting his upper body on it and sitting like the Sphinx. He gives me a look that says, “good now you’re done you can pay attention to me!”
    I have nothing against the Kindle – I think anything that gives people access to the written word is good… it’s just not for me.

  • Jo

    I saw the CEO of Amazon interviewed on the Daily Show and he was asked what he did about reading in the bathtub. He said he puts his Kindle in a large ziplock bag and seals it, which seems like a good solution to me.

    That said, I don’t know if I’m a Kindle type person or not yet. I’m doing this experiment to decide if I should get an iPhone, where everytime I’m in a situation where I think, “oh, if I had an iPhone I could do/check/accomplish this” I make a note on my calendar. At the end of the year, if my potential iPhone uses are consistent, then I’ll get one. Maybe I’ll do the same with the Kindle!

    Thanks for the report, Zoom. Keep us posted on how you use it.


  • Connie

    I have a 1st generation kindle that I bought used from ebay. I really like it alot. The free first chapters are a great way to see if a book interests me, and Amazon has a lot of free books, some of which are pretty good! That being said, there are some books I want to have in book form, so I do buy both.

  • reb

    I would love to check out a kindle or one of the other ebook readers.

    I did download some free pdf books on my netbook but I am watching to see which reading devise will win in price and ease of use.

    Can the Kindle save your place in 2-3 or more books {or other documents} at once?

    Can it be used one handed?

  • Jen G

    I’m in favour of anything that keeps the written word flourishing. If it’s portable, easy on the eyes and makes new books more accessible – sounds awesome.

    Your memories of switching from typewriter to computer were interesting to read. In 1988 I was in high school, and I remember my English teacher was very interested in how using computers might change the experience of writing for my generation.

    Since I am in the field of writing studies now, I often talk about the writing process with my students, and I find that the concept of drafts is alien to many. I wonder if it is related to the fact that they have been writing on computers for their entire lives.

  • My only suggestion is to check out the Gutenberg Project and the Gutenberg Project Canada as a huge resource of free books. All the books on there are in the public domain. A lot of the books have audio versions too. Their goal is to eventually have all literature that’s in the public domain up. I want to volunteer in reading e-books but I need to get a better mic and sound card.

    Give it a try!


  • I can only opine from the (perhaps somewhat sanctimonious) point of view of one who doesn’t have a e-reader and can’t afford one. I do love the physical, sensory experience of browsing through books at the bookstore, the look of books in my house (even piled up and in need of shelf space), the low-tech-ness of them. I don’t need batteries or WIFI or an internet connection to read now and I don’t want to need them later. Of course, that last thought might go right out the window if I received a Kindle as a gift, as you did. I do feel fairly sure that I won’t be buying myself one anytime soon.

  • XUP

    I have no interest in owning a Kindle. I don’t even like reading newspapers online. On the other hand, I don’t form attachments to books. Once I’ve read a book, I’m more than happy to release it into the wild. I have a small shelf of cookbooks I keep in the kitchen and another small shelf of books that are special in some way — either they’re out of print or I’m very fond of them and they were signed by the author or they are reference books whose information isn’t readily available onlin — though I don’t even think that’s possible anymore. So, no Kindle for me. (PS: Does this mean the GC won’t be reading out loud to you anymore?)

  • Gillian

    I’m not certain that an e-book is for me. I know that podcasts, webinars and audiobooks from the library just don’t get hold of me, although I’d certainly be pleased to knit while listening.

  • Maureen

    A few of my siblings own Kindles and they love them! I’m not quite sold on them yet. The screen seems small with a medium grey background and uses dark grey fonts for letters (too blah for me). I don’t think they have resolved how to improve the visual reading experience without draining the batteries too quickly.

    Plus, I pick up a book when I want to step away from everything electronic and/or technology oriented (computers/tv etc..). And I like the textile feel of holding a book or turning pages so the Kindle does not appeal to me right now. Though I have recently started listening to audiobooks on my iPod and I love them.

  • DW

    I am not opposed to the Kindle or other e-Book readers (I use the Stanza app on the iPhone but only with Project Gutenburg books) but I don’t think I’d buy an e-book, just like I wouldn’t buy an MP3 from iTunes…

    I like to own the physical object. Call me a Luddite but I’ll buy CDs (though now mostly LPs), new or used, that I’ll rip to MP3, and if a friend wants to borrow a title I’ve purchased, I can lend it too him, trade or just outright give it away. Can you lend an e-book like you can a regular book or CD? I know the big thing with the Kindle is the WiFi for instant purchases, etc. but is it locked down to prevent sharing of books? The lack of fair-use with intangible electronic copies really bugs me. You don’t really have that problem with the physical object.

    The other big thing is if Ottawa’s library will get on-board with an e-lending scheme, I believe they want to and with the Kindle in Canada now support might come along quicker. Most of my reading material comes free from the public library, at least as a trial read. If I really like something I’ll buy it (I too have a 3 Billy limit, though the wife recently added a 1/2 Billy in her office for her own books to skirt our self-imposed limit). If the Library will support it, I wouldn’t hesitate to use an e-reader with a library loan but I wouldn’t want to jeopardize the viability of the library’s main purpose for it to do so. A plus is if they did support it, there would be no more late fees, they could just have time expiry loans that automatically delete after 3 weeks.

    Another thing that would help me change would be if the book publishers start to do what the studios are now finally doing with DVD/Bluray releases (and new LPs but curiously not CDs) by including a voucher to get an electronic copy for a portable player. The latest Pearl Jam LP had a coupon to go download the MP3s for example, and many new movies include a copy for a portable player right on the disc, rather than having to rip it yourself.

    If publisher’s got on-board with a scheme like that, you could own the physical book and have it for an e-reader as well. That doesn’t solve the physical clutter dilemma, but would be the best of both worlds in many ways.

  • The tech toy geek in me really, really wants a kindle. But the book lover in me is incredibly hesitant. I love the physicality of books. The feel, the smell, the look — it’s all incredibly important to me.

    So my compromise was to try the new ebooks thing that chapters has going — it was, now I think it’s kobo. They offer an iphone app, and you can access the text online as well. I’ve bought one book. At first it took me an incredibly long time to even start reading it. I didn’t like the act of reading on my iphone. But once I started to get into the book I really loved being able to whip my phone out of my pocket, bag, etc., and just start reading wherever I am.

    All that to say — I’m still undecided. I like the ease and portability of ebooks, but not sure if I like it enough to shell out the cash for a kindle. I might just stick with the iphone app.

  • Julia

    Peter got the Sony Reader and really likes it. It is especially handy on the bus, standing up, for reading with one hand while hanging on with the other. He got the Sony because he didn’t care for the proprietary-ness of the Kindle.

  • Thanks for all your comments – I meant to get back to this discussion before this. I hope it hasn’t lost all its momentum.

    Valerie, I know, I feel the same way about books. And I find it so odd to be separating reading from books. It’s like separating eating from food.

    Jo, I’ve never been a reader in the tub, so that won’t be an issue for me. 😉 I like your strategy with the iPhone decision. I sometimes use a version of that when shopping. I see something I want, I don’t buy it. If I continue to want it days and weeks later, when it isn’t in sight, I go buy it. Most of the time, though, I just completely forget about it after I walk away from it.

    Connie, I love the free chapters. But there are no free amazon books for Canadians. I think there’s a $2 surcharge on everything (plus the exchange), even the ‘free’ stuff (except the free chapters, of course).

    Reb, it saves your place in all your books simultaneously. As soon as I open a book, it takes me to where I left off. Can it be used with one hand? Not easily.

    Jen, I was fascinated by your observation that contemporary students are often unfamiliar with the concept of drafts. I think you’re absolutely right that computers did that. In your experience, does it make a difference in the quality of their final products?

    Junkie_monkey, thanks, I’ll check it out, but I tend to like contemporary and literary fiction more than the classics.

    XUP, GC continues to read out loud, as the Kindle doesn’t handle the out-loud part very well (it’s a computer voice). Right now he’s reading Alice in Wonderland.

    Gillian, podcasts are the bomb for knitting. Neither can hold my attention for very long individually, but the combination is perfect.

    Maureen, I find the Kindle screen is just fine for reading as long as there’s enough light. I might buy one of the book lights for night reading. The screen isn’t backlit, as I understand it, because it doesn’t use pixels the way a computer screen does. It uses actual ink and a technology called “electronic paper.” It’s a higher quality for reading than a computer screen.

    DW, you’re right about that. I can’t lend or borrow my ebooks. It’s locked down tight. I love the idea of borrowing ebooks from the library, but as far as I know, that’s not a reality yet for the kindle. (And I don’t know what, if any, the plans are in that respect.) I am concerned about protecting authors’ rights and income, so I wouldn’t want it to be wide open. But I think we should have the same ability to lend that we do with a ‘real’ book.

    April – but wouldn’t the phone app display be incredibly small? I think I’d find it frustrating to try to read a book in a tiny window like that.

    Julia, that’s interesting. The Reader is less proprietary? Can he borrow books from the library on it?

  • Lo

    I got a kindle for xmas too!!!!
    And I am a huge book lover and collector but some books I read i don’t really care to own…and then there’s the convenience when traveling. Well, I just got it yesterday so will have to use it a bit and get back to you and we can swap stories about our experiences:) Now I must go and buy a case for it!:)

  • Malva

    You can buy stuff for the Kindle that you’d be embarrassed to buy at the local bookstore. Just sayin’…

  • Nancy

    I got a kindle for Christmas too and I love it. We have six enormous bookcases filled with books double-ranked and I hate to get rid of a book so storage is a big problem. I find it really comfortable to read and I don’t have any problem reading one-handed. My main problem is availabilty of books – some books I want are not available on the kindle and others are available on the kindle but not in Australia.

  • felonius bunk

    so burning a book (as one would a c.d.) actually means the opposite now – is it recycled kindle? (i hear they do that with wikipedia) the advantages of plastic/metal over paper for any sort of record-keeping were settled decisively during the ‘re-election’ of george bush; are books about deforestation counter-intuitive? i believe deforestation has been an issue since the time of the crucifiction…