Sunday, March 22, 2009

Kindle Thoughts

Having played with it for a couple weeks now, I can say definitively that the Kindle 2 is pretty darn cool. As far as the reading experience itself goes, I much prefer holding a lightweight device with a paper-like screen and flipping pages with the push of a button to holding a real book and flipping manually.

The really cool thing about the Kindle, though, is the infrastructure they've built up around it. With wireless service included in the cost of the device, it's incredibly easy to browse the online store, buy books, and read them without dealing with the hassle of downloading first to my computer and then synching files to the device via USB cable. I especially love that everything has free samples--the first chapter of books or the first two weeks of a magazine subscription--so I can get a better idea of what I'm spending my money on.

There are only two things that are holding me back from using the Kindle exclusively for all my reading. The first is that I'm not in the habit of buying books--generally I borrow from the library, and if I'm going to buy a book it's either that I can't get it at the library or that I like it so much that I think I'd like to lend it to friends in the future. Owning an electronic copy of a book negates the possibility of lending unless I want to lend out the whole Kindle, but for books I can't get at the library the Kindle is a great option. As it happens, I currently have a job that frequently gives me Amazon.com gift certificates, so getting in the habit of buying books is more economically feasible than it has been at other points in my life.

The second thing holding me back is that a good deal of my reading time is devoted to comic books, which are not largely available in Kindle format and even if they were, its black-and-white and just-a-little-too-small screen make the Kindle less than ideal for the medium. If Amazon or someone else were to produce a similar device with a larger screen in full color, though, I would love to see the world of monthly comic book publishing go digital. I likes me my new comics every Wednesday, but who needs boxes and boxes of old comics cluttering their house? If they were digital I'd always have them available, without the clutter.

For the time being I mainly use my Kindle for reading the two magazines I've subscribed to: The New Yorker and Narrative. I enjoy The New Yorker primarily for its fiction and Narrative is actually an online literary journal I could read for free on the web, but it's worth the three bucks a month to be able to read short stories when I'm, for example, watching my kids play on the playground, whereas I would never ever sit down at the computer to read those stories because I spend all day at a computer and when I have non-work-related computer time it's for writing my own fiction, thank you very much. Considering that what I write is prose and until a few weeks ago all I was reading was comics, I think it's a very good thing that the Kindle has got me reading prose again. And fairly good stuff, at that, as literary writing goes.

One of the things that excites me most about the Kindle is that I can load my own documents onto it. This means that when writer friends send me their novels to read, I can do so on my couch instead of at the computer, and that when, for example, I finish my current book and want Edgy to read it, I can send it to him electronically, he can make comments on it on his Kindle, then send it back and I can read those comments on mine. Trees around the world rejoice.

7 comments:

Th. said...

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I was thinking about this last night because if a title like Blue Beetle can't survive on paper, paper comics in general have no chance.

Edgy said...

I'm enjoying the document feature. In fact, I'm currently reading two manuscripts on mine.

Perhaps you should get off your duff and send me yours. ;)

And for me, being an anti-library book buyer, Teh Kindle has been wonderful. I'm surprised that I don't miss my tree killers.

Th. said...

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Conversations like this have just about sold me. Really the only thing stopping me now is money because I just don't see the economics in this as making any sense.

Edgy said...

I think the economics rely entirely on how you read. For someone like me who gets the heebie-jeebies when touching a public book, this makes sense. (Seriously, I use my debit card just to minimize how often I have to touch currency. Yet I also refuse to use anti-bacterial soap. Go figure.)

I prefer to own my books, and so factored into my economics is storage space and tree cutting.

The fringe benefit for me has been the periodicals and the fact that I now actually read a daily newspaper. I wouldn't mind if a local one went Kindle (but, please, let it be the Trib instead of that tripe nonsense News). I also now read the US News Weekly and US News & World Report.

Mr. Fob said...

Th.: The good news is that Blue Beetle is being revived as a backup feature in Booster Gold.

Edgy: I am in the process of getting off my duff. The rough draft will be finished this week, and then I'll just touch it up a wee bit before sending to you (no finished drafts for you).

Th.: I don't understand your economics objection. So far I have spent a total of five dollars on device, accessories, and content, and that's only because my gift certificate didn't quite cover the cost of the leather cover.

Edgy: I'll work my way up to a daily newspaper. At the moment I'm feeling all literary and educated with my New Yorker subscription.

Th. said...

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Antibacterial soap doesn't make your hands cleaner but screws up our water supply. That's how I figure.

Yes, well, I would have to pay for an ereader. And I do think most books are waaay overpriced. Kindle's in particular.

I'm glad BB is not dead. I'm going to blog about this on Fob Comics.

I can't believe you don't have a label for Kindle yet --- do you realize the word appears 16 times on your front page right now?

Mr. Fob said...

Yes, well, that's 16 times in three posts, and they just happen to all be on the same front page because I hardly blog at all lately. I haven't checked yet whether the Library of Congress has a heading for Kindle.