Saturday, September 26, 2009

Six Months of Kindle

I received my kindle in February of 2009. I've been using it to read books, magazines, blogs, and newspapers for over six months now. I still read paper books and magazines from time to time, but I actually miss the kindle when I switch back to dead trees.

I've read over 30 books on my kindle so I have some experience to work from. I also have a couple of reference books on the kindle that I search when needed. I subscribe to Reader's Digest on my kindle. For a while there I subscribed to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine too. I read those mystery stories to my Mom. I also tried the Chicago Tribune for a while, but I'm not a newspaper person. I also subscribed to a couple of blogs for a while, but I can follow blogs much easier on my computer. I already subscribe to too many paper periodicals, and in most of them the color pictures are something the kindle can't reproduce, so I'm sticking to paper for magazines.

I really like my kindle. Most of the things I've enumerated below are things you just can't do with a paper book. There's a short list of things you can do with a paper book you can't do with a kindle book. You can't riffle through the pages looking for pictures, diagrams, or maps. If there's a way to do this on a kindle I haven't figured it out. You can't lend a kindle book to someone else to read, or sell one on eBay when you've finished reading it. I miss those things.

I like being able to search kindle books the way I can search other documents on my computer. I like being able to turn pages with one hand and never have the wind blow my book shut or make me lose my place. I like that I can find lots of books for free and most for less than $10. I like the way the battery seems to last forever if I turn the wireless off. I love my tooled leather case from Oberon Design. I like that anywhere I am, I can order a new book and download it in minutes. I like that my kindle is small enough to fit in the pouch of my hoodie and is light enough to carry there.

I like that I can convert just about any file I have on my computer to a format that my kindle can read. I like that I can set bookmarks anywhere I want and go back to them later. They never fall out of the kindle the way they do from paper books. I like that I can read multiple books on my kindle and it remembers right where I am in each one. I like that I can look up a word I don't recognize right there and then, without having to carry around a dictionary. I actually find myself putting off reading some paper books I still haven't read so I can read something else on the kindle.

There are a few things I don't like about the kindle. Note, these are not comparisons to paper books. Rather these are design flaws or missing features of the electronic device or the books provided for it.

I don't like the way some books are not formatted well for the kindle. Some are obviously shoehorned in after the fact and are far from a perfect fit. They're readable, but it's annoying at times. Magazines and newspapers have this same problem when displayed on the kindle.

I don't like that the kindle doesn't have a touch screen. Come on! Even my phone has a touch screen. It's so intuitive these days that it's a huge letdown every time I have to use the little dip stick to navigate. Huge letdown.

I don't like that it can't read PDF files directly. The newer kindles can. It's just software people. Why can't my kindle be upgraded to do what the newer ones can? That's very disappointing.

Finally, the kindle costs too much. For the average person the initial cost is out of reach and the long term savings are very long. According to an AP-Ipsos survey from 2007, one out of four adults didn't read any books that year. If you throw out those non-readers the median for adult readers was seven books a year. I doubt that number has gotten higher in the last two years, so let's figure seven books a year.

Assuming the kindle lets you purchase a bestselling book for $9.99, and assuming the price of that same book in hardback would be about $16 on Amazon, you'd have to read about 50 books for the savings to pay for the current $299 kindle. That means the average reader would take over seven years to recoup the cost of their kindle. Too expensive.

All that said I don't regret buying my kindle one bit. I waited for version two to come out before I took the plunge, and I did a lot of research first. Basically I got what I expected. How many things can you say that about? The only reason I'd give up my kindle is for a touch screen color version. I'm waiting Amazon.

UPDATE: 11/29/2009

I installed the latest software release for my kindle and now I have PDF support. The update also enabled screen rotation, which is helpful for PDF files since you can't zoom in on them. It also extended the battery life by 75%. My battery life was great before because I leave the network off, but more battery life is always better. If you're interested you can win a new kindle at the noobie site.

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