A Quick Kindle Bleg Before Getting Back To Serious (ish) Stuff

Anyone out there have one?  Use it? Thoughts.  Does the large one make sense if the major intended use is books?  (I.e. — I can see how more real estate is better for magazine and newspaper reading, but what do folks think about the limits to portability in their experience w. the little one).

Finally — as someone (a) in the writing trade and (b) teaching younger writers some of their craft, is the Kindle a device that helps reshape our craft, or is it just a convenient bucket.   That is:  do I have to have one if I’m going to presume to profess writing, or can I get by with a laptop and dead trees for the next while?

Any and all reax gratefully received.

Image:  Scribe’s exercise tablet with hieratic text. Wood. Dynasty XVIII, reign of Amenhotep I, c. 1514-1493 BC. Text is an excerpt from The Instructions of Amenemhat (Dynasty XII), and reads: “Be on your guard against all who are subordinate to you … Trust no brother, know no friend, make no intimates.” Image uploaded by One dead president, David Liam Moran.

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6 Comments on “A Quick Kindle Bleg Before Getting Back To Serious (ish) Stuff”

  1. Eric L Says:

    I am a PhD candidate (working on my dissertation) and hopefully someday-published author, the owner of a decent-sized library (maybe 1200 books) and a Kindle on iPhone user, so I think I can approach this from both sides of the question.

    First, I love books – reading them, buying them at the bookstore, organizing them on my shelves – and I hope that they aren’t going away anytime soon, since I’d like to publish at least one before they’re a dead format. I submitted my MA thesis via an ETD (Electronic Theses and Dissertations) initiative that my former institution was testing, and the hard copy sadly never made it into the public stacks at the library. I like being able to annotate books, loan them to friends, find them in libraries near my original target, all things that rely on the physicality of books.

    That said, I am discovering that I love to read books on my iPhone Kindle app, and I’ve considered buying myself the dedicated reader. Now, I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who has vision problems, because the only way to get enough text on the page (mostly to avoid repetitive strain to my right thumb) is to use the smallest possible text size. That would be less of a problem on the full version, though. It’s not that bad, though.

    What I love most about the Kindle is the storage. I am in the process of moving from the city where my wife went to medical school to where she will begin her residency. Those 1200 books referenced above currently occupy about 50 or so _very heavy_ boxes, which some nice men from Mayflower will carry up to my new third-floor home office. If I were moving on my own, I’d be selling books before box #20 made it up 2.5 flights of stairs. Some of those books are specialized volumes that are closely tied to my own research and writing – I like having them as hard copies. A lot, however, are on other topics (including _Einstein in Berlin_ and _Measure for Measure_, by the way), which I consider to be my ‘fun’ reading. I wouldn’t mind having 50 or 60 of those in electronic form.

    The second thing I like is the immediacy. The only reason I started buying Kindle books is that I am moving soon, and I didn’t want to run the risk that a backorder might push the ship date past my change of address, so I bought a couple Kindle books to read on a recent trip. I might have gone to a bookstore, but even that requires time and the willingness to browse through a Borders or B&N looking for something interesting to read.

    I also like the ability to download ‘samples,’ and have occasionally bought the full version immediately after reaching the end of the sample. That probably says something about the importance of a catchy introduction for a writer’s Kindle sales figures.

    There are a few disadvantages, though. One is that the prices still *seem* a bit high, considering the costs of paper, printing, and distribution – and I doubt the authors are getting an extra cut. I also can’t loan a good book to a friend or family member, one of the advantages of the hard copy Of course, I also can’t loan it to a professor who will subsequently lose it, forcing me to buy a second copy (how _does_ one bring that up in polite conversation).

    Is the Kindle a game-changer? I hope not, for the sake of books, but I think that it can have a positive effect. It does enable the frivolous purchase without worrying about shipping, or what my wife will say when *another* book arrives on the doorstep (even though I just *had* to have Jasper Rees’ _A Devil to Play_). It’s also much easier to travel for a week without packing 4 or 5 books (or more) in the carry-on. I’ll never completely give up my hard copies, but if the Kindle will help me conserve shelf room for my more important books, I’ll gladly read others electronically.

  2. Michelle Says:

    I think the laptop + dead trees approach is still good enough, at least for a while. Specifically, I don’t think you need a Kindle just because you’re a professor of writing.

    That said, they can come in handy for a few things. Like Eric L, a friend of mine is a current PhD candidate, and he actually just used some cash he won in a research competition to buy a Kindle 2.0. His reasoning: instead of lugging ten pounds’ worth of printed research papers home every night, he can put them all on the Kindle (2.0 has native PDF support, which the first version did not). However, he did say that there’s no way he’d be shelling out for it if he hadn’t won this research award, and he doesn’t expect it will be the greatest user experience in the world. In short, he’s ok with going into the purchase with low expectations only because he’s essentially getting it for free.

    More food for thought: the Kindle is only the first widely adopted e-reader. Even with the backing of Amazon, it’s unlikely to remain the head honcho forever. Personally, considering how cheap and popular netbooks are becoming, I think it’s far more likely that widely available e-reading software will win out over e-reading specific hardware like the Kindle, or that Amazon will do what other companies have done and license the software to other outfits. You can get an Acer Aspire One for $250 or less; the Kindle 2.0 checks in at $360 right now. It seems kind of silly to pay $110 more when for $250 you can get an actual computer with wifi.

    Other thoughts from an actual Kindle user: http://www.crunchgear.com/2009/02/25/10-reasons-to-buy-a-kindle-2-and-10-reasons-not-to/

  3. ajhil Says:

    As a long time student, a former researcher, author, and inveterate reader since childhood, I approach this issue from a number of viewpoints and with a variety of emotions/ conflicts.
    Having witnessed as an adult the advent of the Internet, I’m still awed by this endless cornucopia of information. Not long ago for an issue of my own Internet newsletter I investigated web-sites (such as Bartleby.com) that offer libraries of free on-line books and was impressed at the number and quality of offerings. The concept of a “pocket library” like the Kindle has undeniable appeal, especially when one considers Eric’s thoughtful observations (above) about on-line reading.
    On the other hand, for purely esthetic reasons, I still prefer conventional books and magazines for recreational reading. I like sitting in my library – or any library for that matter – surrounded by books! Is this a generational characteristic? Time will probably tell.
    For research and academics electronic media are hard to beat, if for no other reason than the extraordinary ability of the hyperlink to organize and access information.
    Are there more fundamental differences in the way we perceive and process what we read via different media? Probably. Could these differences be acquired? I should “google” the topic and find out. (Isn’t this in itself a telling statement?)
    A last and unabashedly egoistic observation: I’ve had a couple of books published and must confess, there’s nothing like walking into a bookstore or library and seeing ones name on the cover or binding of a book. From this perspective electronic publications seem dismayingly evanescent.

  4. NoHeroine Says:

    Don’t buy a Kindle. Get something that doesn’t tie you in to Amazon. As a historian, you’ll almost certainly want to be able to get PDFs and ePub (an open source XML-based format) books from Google Books (and elsewhere). The choices aren’t great at the moment unless you have the money for an Iliad (mmmmm….), but they will get better. I’m personally waiting to see what Plastic Logic come up with.

    Full disclosure: I have a Sony eBook. I love it.

  5. Loves my Kindle, though I’m sure other readers are fine as well. Use it mainly for reading downloaded pdfs (formatting after conversion can be uneven).

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