One Month With the Kindle

Since I’ve spent over a month with the Kindle I thought I’d write up some impressions.

More Reading

The reading experience is indeed flawless. Of course, the page turning could be sped up and made less disconcerting where you see a flood of e-ink come and go as it re-draws the text. However, that said, if you’re between an iPad and a Kindle and you nominally want it for “reading” then it’s no contest. Sure, the iPad has a great fallback plan when it turns out that your ADD-addled mind is beyond hope to actually sit down and read something for five-minutes without being overcome with a panicky urge to check Facebook. If you stop reading, the Kindle becomes a useless gray digital slab.

My primary use of Kindle was to read The Economist and my ungodly amount of backlog. As you will see when you check the “official” Kindle offering for The Economist, you get an angry mob of people clamoring for blood because the “official” version seems too steeply priced. It’s sad that these people are leaving 1-star reviews for a paper that could never be less than 4 (depending on your political leaning) simply because they’re unaware of alternatives. Just pay the digital subscription and be done with it.

I’ve used my Kindle sitting, standing, in a crowded train standing, holding it in my left hand, right hand, both hands, in sunlight, low light, and even in the dark. You definitely can’t read it in the dark but otherwise it’s just like paper. Only you always get the same font and size. Let me repeat that. Same font and size. Having a unified interface (the font) with digital page turning allows you to read more.

Especially with magazines that use really small fonts strewn across 4 or 5 columns interspersed with ads from luxury goods to executive openings it’s sometimes hard to focus on content. With the Kindle you’ll get an ad-free reading experience with text adjusted to your liking. I was able to get through the magazine in one sitting provided I had a block of time. Battery life is excellent if you turn off wifi, around two weeks with heavy reading (several hours a day).

Less Awareness of Volume

As a result of this, I sadly had to cancel my print subscription. After switching to the Kindle, the paper copy would arrive after I read the entire issue. While the color pictures are nice, you could get those off the web if you needed them. Throwing away a pristine magazine copy even though you “read” everything in it is a painful thing to do.

On the other hand, no matter how much you read on the Kindle it’s hard to get a sense of volume. It’s like an all you can eat buffet with no scales or mirrors. You could read the Complete Works of Shakespeare and no one would be none the wiser. Of course, you’d never get past your front door lugging that tome around or be able to turn a page on a crowded train, but you wouldn’t be able to set it back on the shelf with the spine slightly creased and say “yeah, I read that book”. The satisfaction of throwing away a well-read magazine after reading it from cover to cover just isn’t there.

The benefit is that you keep going and going until you hit the last page. However, it’s easy to get overloaded with information and burned out by too much intense reading if you don’t pace yourself. The lack of physical volume can be a double-edged sword, but you can get away with reading your guilty pleasures in public without drawing attention as long as it’s in your Kindle.

Closed Platform

Some aspects that may concern some people is the accessibility of the platform. Amazon practically owns the book space and Kindle and digital books are out-performing traditional books already. When you consider that digital inventory for one unique book is essentially the same for a million multiplied by minuscule (compared to cover price) bandwidth price, you have a bright future ahead of you. So it’s only natural that Amazon wrongly has no support for the open epub format and instead rely on their own proprietary one. Fortunately, programs like Calibre can convert a variety of formats to prevent you from getting too locked in. Still, when you buy something from Amazon they can delete it from your Kindle on a whim and you can’t do anything about it.

My primary use for the Kindle is to replace newspapers and magazines. I’ve yet to read a book with it as I’ve been occupied quite fully by The Economist and The New York Times occasionally. However, technology like this that restores a certain balance to the reading experience for those of us that actually remember what life was before the internet and computers is quite welcome.

Right now I can’t really say if my Kindle phase will last but it’s definitely earned its money’s worth in the short time I’ve had it.