Nifty Gadgets

February 09, 2008

My Kindle. It gives me goosebumbs.

KindleThe Kindle, which I received as a Christmas gift, is something I was initially unsure about. When it first broke onto the scene, there was much snubbing from the geeky blogs and outright hostility on Kindle's Amazon reviews page. They said it was ugly, that it looked like a toaster from 1986; they said it was expensive; $399 for the thing and I still have to pay for the books? Why, it's an outrage, Sir! An OUTRAGE!

For me it is a blessing. I worked for over a decade in bookstores - I had an employee discount and I wasn't afraid to use it, son. This has resulted in a virtual Everest of books. To give you an idea of the current book state in the house, when looking at prospective houses the first thing we look for is a space big enough to hold the library, which needs its own room. If the ceilings are too low for the book cabinets, that there is a deal-breaker no matter how sweet a deal it is. Frankly, the books rule our lives. And as much as I love them, it has gotten a bit out of hand. I needed an intervention.

I had looked at Sony Readers before and was tempted, but never took the plunge for one reason or another (we have had so many rotten experiences with Sony customer support that we stubbornly swore off all Sony products). Enter the Kindle. We did some research - read the arguments for and against - and when I suggested that it might help to curb the spreading library, I knew I would find it under the tree on the day.  And I did. And it was beautiful. I personally don't find the design ugly; I certainly don't see it as something that would have fit in on, say, the Cosby Show set. I realize now that the dull white color helps the eye to comfortably focus on the screen without distraction or contrast spots. The page buttons are large and unobtrusive. The Kindle is light and comfortable to hold in the hand or lap. The screen is easy to read (font size can be changed to make the words smaller or larger to fit your needs) and is visible in nearly all lighting conditions save complete darkness.

And that price of $399? Worth every penny I say. I can surf the Internet on my Kindle from a pub or store or back seat of a cab. Before I purchased a BB Curve, I used the Kindle to look up directions, make reservations, and gather information on the Web. All inclusive in the retail price - there are no fees for the service. Books are downloaded to the Kindle inside of 30 seconds, from anywhere a signal can be found.  The other night I was thinking to myself, 'I'd quite fancy reading this-or-that sort of book. Guess I'll have to stop in Barnes & Noble sometime tomorrow, ugh,' completely forgetting about my Kindle. A minute later, after slapping myself in the forehead with my palm, I was looking up said type of book and was happily reading it shortly after. And I didn't even have to get up from the sofa.

There are some negatives, mind.

  • You do have to pay for each book you download, although the price is less than retail. For example, a newly released hardcover that retails for $30 can be downloaded for a price between $6 and $10. Paperbacks are the amount of a typical movie rental.
  • The Kindle does not display color. This doesn't annoy me so much as I use it mostly for novels, and do most of my Web adventuring from my PC and not the Kindle.
  • Not all books are available for download. Amazon has thousands and thousands of books available for the Kindle, although it is eventually likely that you will want one that has not yet been 'kindlized'. When this happens, I typically just search for another.

In the end, I find myself clutching my Kindle to my chest and making "Mmmm Mmmm Mmmmm!" happy sounds whenever I pick it up. It's not absolutely perfect, but I love it nonetheless. And my library is breathing a bit easier now as well. It has only seen additions of design, photo, art, and other non-fiction books with gorgeous color photos on their pages. The thick paperbacks are becoming a thing of the past, and I'm not terribly sad about it. Perhaps one day there will be a machine/gadget on which one can store every single book (in color) in one's library and carry it around effortlessly; I would certainly purchase one. But I will always have printed books in my life, always. There is nothing quite like coming home to books.