There’s a lot of debate among the book-loving community about e-readers. They seem efficient and there are some great features, but what about books. You know, real bound reading matter with words printed right on the page?
I recently received the Kindle 2: Amazon’s New Wireless Reading Device, so I’ve been trying it out. These are my observations — things I love, and things I’m not crazy about. If you have specific questions, or experiences with your own Kindle 2, please leave them in the comments, and I’ll come back and address them.
I think that’s the biggest obstacle, or it would have been for me. I want to be transparent in saying that I won mine (I actually earned it with about 30 hours of hard work, but I didn’t pay for directly). At $359, that’s fairly spendy — BUT think about the money that people spend on digital music players, and phones with added features. If you’re a booklover (and a little techy to boot), this may be a gadget that is calling to you. Additionally if you purchase a lot of books, you will realize savings. Almost every book is $9.99 or less and there are even a fair number of completely free books. As far as selection, almost every new book is available on the Kindle. Backlist titles are fairly available as well. If you buy 12 hardcover books a year, that’s an immediate savings of over $100.
Speaking of “immediate” savings reminded me of a feature that I love. Because it has “whispernet” technology, You can browse books, read reviews, and purchase for immediate delivery almost anywhere. This is a fun feature, because I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time browsing amazon, reading other people’s reviews, seeing what’s popular. The Kindle 2 will hold over 1500 books, so you aren’t going to run out of reading material when you’re away on a long vacation!
If you travel a lot (for business or pleasure), I think that this portability and convenience is an extraordinary feature. When my husband and I slip away on our relaxing Caribbean vacation (which I don’t plan on being able to take for another 5 years or so), we read. What better way to spend time lounging in the beautiful outdoors? But it’s always a dilemma for me. How many books do I bring? I don’t want to run out, but I don’t want to overpack too many heavy books either. The Kindle 2 would be perfect for this.
If you are a commuter, or spend lots of time waiting around (hello — any carpooling taxi-driving moms out there?), the Kindle 2 is also convenient. It is very slim and portable and lightweight, and you can literally take it anywhere. In fact, I recently ate dinner alone when I was out of town, and didn’t bring a book or anything, and I wished I had remembered my Kindle 2. Reading a book might have made me a bit self-conscious, but with everyone else around me tapping on their Blackberries (whether they had dining companions or not), the sleek, savvy Kindle 2 e-reader would have been perfect.
One problem with airplane travel is that it IS electronic, and like your ipod or laptop, they will ask you to turn it off when taking off and landing, which can be a fair portion of a short airplane ride, so you would need some other reading material for this time.
Now this is the other big stumbling block. Some people say that they just love books and want to be able to display them on their bookshelves (honestly, my bookshelves are full enough thankyouverymuch), and hold them and feel them and touch them.
The weight and ease of holding it is a big plus in my book. I could hold it one-handed (while waiting and holding a child’s hand in the other, for example). I also am not a fan of big heavy hardcover books ever. If I’m snuggled up in bed and reading a big heavy book, it feels awkward and uncomfortable.
One problem is that you can’t share books from your Kindle. My friends and I like to pass around books, and this takes away that option.
The screen surprised me. I had assumed (without reading up on it too much) that it was backlit, like an ipod screen, but it’s not. That would be a pro in some cases (reading in bed while my husband was trying to sleep, or while riding in a car at night), but I think it’s a part of the e-ink technology. I have read for over an hour at a time, and it does not affect my eyes. It’s very comfortable. The goal is that the Kindle 2 just fades into the background, and I think that’s somewhat true. The screen size is fairly small and contains less than a regular page of text, but turn pages are fast and doesn’t delay the reading.
Another benefit of this e-format is the ability to highlight or mark passages, which is helpful and time-saving for me as a book reviewer.
No, this is not the same experience as “reading a book,” but neither is listening to an audiobook — and that is quickly becoming one of my favorite new media experiences. I think that it will be a different experience, and like the audiobook, it will seem better at times and less satisfying at other times.
The Kindle 2 page at amazon.com has videos and many many other testimonials for you to check out (at this writing, there are over 3100 reviews, and 85% of them are 4 star or 5 star). By the way, you have to check out the most favorable helpful review (at the top of the page in the box when you click on the number of reviews to show all of them). It gives a perspective that I had not even considered — that the interface is easier than a “real” book for a person with disabilities to navigate. I would think that’s a real plus for those who need it, and with the other features I mentioned (price, selection etc), it would be an amazing gift for someone who might need it for this reason.
Managing Editor Jennifer Donovan also blogs at Snapshot about life with her tween daughter and preschool son.