Over the weekend I got the Kindle. Being someone who likes to read a lot, I have been watching the Kindle go through its various iterations, wondering if I should get one. Up until the Kindle 3 I have been rather hesitant because of some lacking features, but the newest version finally addressed them.
After playing around with it for the last few days, I have discovered that it is quite wonderful to read on. While it’s not the snappiest piece of hardware (or software) ever developed, for the most part it is very responsive. The page turning via the buttons on the sides feels seamlessly integrated into the reading experience after the first few minutes of using it. Of course, the major draw of something like a Kindle over a device like the iPad is the E-Ink screen as opposed to a backlit LCD. The advantage of the E-Ink screen is that by using ink microcapsules in the screens (and redrawing the positions of the micro-capsules for each page refresh) it can more closely mimic the printed page better than LCD screens, thus (so it is reported) reducing eye strain over prolonged periods of time. Because it utilizes reflected light, you can read it at noon on a sunny day whereas an LCD screen would be all but worthless, unless you were in the shade. (Which, if it was hot enough, you may very well be!)
I was torn between the idea of something like a Kindle and that of an iPad, mostly because the Kindle is a one-trick pony, so to speak, whereas the iPad can do what the Kindle can do as well as so much more. For me the screen wasn’t as a big of a deal (I stare at a computer all day anyway). Rather, in the end it came down to me deciding that if the choice was going to be for something to use for reading, I was going to get the one that did it really well.
One really amazing thing about any kind of electronic reading device is the sheer amount of access one has to books and knowledge and the like. Within one device you can search quite a large portion of all available books anywhere in the world, buy them (or get them for free) and be reading them within seconds. While the printing press was certainly a huge step forward for the advancement of knowledge, this seems like an even bigger one, at least in the long run. For example, I was able to find and download all the works of the American edition of the early church fathers in digital format. Since they are in the public domain, they were free. I bought this same 37 volume set back in college for around $350, and have had to lug them around all over the country. In one afternoon I was able to download them all for free and have them all stored in the size of a small paperback book. That to me is pretty amazing.
Anyway, I have a penchant for older books- classic literature, theology, philosophy, history, etc. Google (and others) have been digitizing libraries worth of books over the last decade, and there are now thousands of rare, out-of-print and public domain books sitting on Google’s servers. It is pretty sweet to be able to search through Google’s archives and find books that I read about in other literature. It’s even better to be able to get them for free.
The Kindle 3 has much improved pdf support, and so I have been grabbing ebooks, papers and such in .pdf format where the .mobi files aren’t available. In fact, sometimes it seems that the Kindle displays the pdfs better than the .mobi files, although I suspect that is a problem on the end of the person doing the conversion.
So after about 5 days of reading on the Kindle, I am quite pleased with its performance as an e-reader. The only complaint I have is that there isn’t really any quick way to organize it. For example, while you can make collections on it, (like I have) you have to do this one book at a time, which, when you first get into it, can be quite the daunting task. I spent a couple hours just organizing my Kindle to avoid having to sort through a long list of book titles. The only other complaint is that there isn’t a solution for metadata. Unless you have a third-party solution like Calibre, you are at the mercy of whoever created the ebook file. Some of the metadata I have encountered in my first few days of searching for literature has been rather atrocious- misspellings, non-intuitive author sorting fields, incorrect information, etc. The difficulty is that if you want to update something’s metadata, you have to do delete it off the Kindle, update it in some third-party software, and then re-sync it to the device. Amazon could (and should) solve both of these issues with a software solution. It is somewhat surprising to me that into the 3rd iteration of its flagship e-reader Amazon hasn’t developed this.
Anyway, I am excited to use it some more and to see how many books I can actually cram on it! If you have a Kindle or an e-reader, let me know your thoughts on the experience.
Verdict: I like it!
For repositories of free books, visit the following: