Monday, January 04, 2010

Kindle This!

Well, happy new year everyone! After fighting off the snow, indulging in copious holiday treats, dealing with two weeks of having the kids monopolize my computer, and travelling about the region, it's nice to get back into the old routine.

NOT. Getting up at 6:15 a.m. this morning was definitely not fun. Oh well, get used to it.

Anyway, the Curmudgeon did get one new toy over the holidays, a Kindle "e-book" reader from Amazon. A year ago, we would've thought we'd be one of the last to jump aboard the e-reader wagon, but we were wrong. And many of you will have shiny new e-readers before long, too.

Let's face it, books have had a great run, and they'll still be around for a few more years, but it's time to move on.

As a general rule, we really like the Kindle. Even with it's (separately priced) leather case, it has the weight and heft of a medium sized children's paperback book. Yet, it can store hundreds of books. No need to lug around a separate bag of books on a long holiday anymore!

What we like best is the ability to instantly download a book after deciding you want it. The other day we were reading a magazine article, which referenced a book that sounded interesting. After a quick check on the web to make sure it was something we wanted, we purchased it on the Kindle and were reading it 15 minutes later.

This is particularly useful on a trip when you suddenly finish a good book and get that panicked feeling about not having anything else to read.

If you read a lot, the Kindle will pay for itself pretty quickly (at least, if you tend to buy books). Most bestsellers on Kindle are priced at under $10, with many other books selling for less. (You can get Landstrike for $8.99, and quite a few Kindle owners have done just that.) For the Curmudgeon, that means the Kindle should pay for itself in just a few months.

The Kindle is not perfect--it's still an early generation of e-readers of the future. One problem is that it's not easy to navigate around in a non-fiction book where you might want to look at a footnote, table or some other page in an appendix. We also like to jump to the back of a book sometimes just to see how many real pages there are left to read (i.e., excluding footnotes, appendices, etc.), and you just can't do that with the Kindle. For now.

That's mainly because the Kindle is, for now, taking a physical book and tranlating it to an electronic format. In the future, we expect that e-books will be specifically designed for e-readers, with options that make them much more versatile.

A couple other drawbacks: graphics, such as maps, graphs, tables, etc., reproduce poorly on the Kindle. Again, in the future, we'll see big progress on this front. The Kindle is also all black and white, so you don't get much out of photos, but surely color is on the way!

There are some nifty features, however. You can highlight text and make notes, just like on a real book (but without the guilt!).

You can also use the Kindle to read long documents not yet in print. We had a manuscript from a friend, which we'd been slogging through on the computer. But then we learned that we could upload the Word file for it to Amazon, who for a small fee would then download it back to our Kindle in e-book form (you can avoid the fee by taking an extra step and having it sent back to your computer, where you then upload it). Once we'd uploaded the manuscript, it was a cinch to finish reading because we could take it anywhere.

Another nice feature--which we haven't tested yet, however--is the ability to subscribe to various newspapers and magazines (and blogs, but who reads those!) on the Kindle. We can see the benefits, especially when traveling, but the graphical limitations could be more annoying here.

While we expect future versions to have various new features, one of the most appealing aspects of the Kindle is it's simplicity. We were able to get going on it in a matter of minutes, with most of the operations being intuitive. So we hope they don't ruin it by making it everything for everyone. Just give us color and "HD" graphics, and we'll be pretty happy.

So what are you waiting for--go out and get yours, too!


Lee Bass said...

Hi, I have received the link to this blog from the Bass family paper (I am Lee Bass, Raymond Bass's son, Samuel Bass's Grandson). I enjoy your blog and am glad you enjoy the kindle. I love it and am one of those who have bought Landstrike on it. Wish that your dad's books were available on it as well. I also use it to look through large word files and also to download classics (Can be had for less than a dollar mostly) that I never got around to reading. I am currently midway through War and Peace ($0.99)and am glad I don't have to drag that around with me. Anyways, enjoy your blog and commentary. All the best. Happy New Year

X Curmudgeon said...

Hey Lee--great to hear from you, and thrilled that you read Landstrike on Kindle! I'm working on a Bass family history that should be out this summer--maybe we'll get that one on your Kindle too.