Thursday, May 26, 2011

Amazon Kindle: My First Impressions

For Mother's Day, I received an Amazon Kindle (2nd Generation). This was a great surprise, and I really appreciate it. So, I unexpectedly get to play with a recent piece of technology. It's not the latest version, but it has enough features to give me a good idea of the usefulness of an e-book reader.

A brief history of my reading habits

Until I left for college (20 years ago now! ouch...), I was an avid reader. That is to say, reading was like eating (which I like a lot). I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning reading a good book during high school, hurrying through homework to get a chance to read for even just a half hour. I had to set a cutoff, so I would get enough sleep. At the time, my cutoff was 11:30 pm. On weekends, if I had nothing else to do, it was not uncommon for me to settle down with a good book or two, and spend the whole weekend reading them.
Fast forward to the college years. During college, my heavy reading load at Oberlin College slowed my pleasure reading habits. I still read the occasional novel, but most of my reading was confined to school breaks.
In the next phase of my life, I worked as a clerk in a copy shop, a newspaper production manager and a technical writer. All of those occupations capitalize on my ability to read fast, but also tire me in a way that reading is not my first choice during my free time. So, today, while I read all day, and I choose to read lots of blogs and short material, I do not read novels very often. It was left for traveling only and lately it has been not at all.

The Kindle

A few months ago, I downloaded the Kindle App for my Droid X. I played around with it, and made a mental note to acquire some books to read during my free time (waiting in line, waiting in waiting rooms, trapped in my living room enduring toddler TV programming, etc.). I hadn't really gotten around to downloading more than 3 books, when I got my Kindle.
At first, I was fascinated by the ease of use, ease of reading and the ease of obtaining material to read. Then I had to explore what you can do with a Kindle, other than reading books. I had to test how PDFs displayed, how Amazon converts PDFs to Kindle format, how fast web browsing goes, and other neat things. All of these things are pretty neat and work as advertised. The only exception is that web browsing is slower than my smartphone. So, I won't use it for that. I can't see any situation where I would be somewhere using my Kindle and not have my phone within inches, so it's not a problem.
Then, I decided it was time to use the Kindle for something productive, like using reference books or even reading a book for pleasure (gasp!). So, I downloaded a few items. I also stumbled on some games, and since I do love Casual Gaming, I had to download them, too. I started browsing for books, and found a few, which I added to my Kindle wishlist. Of course, 25% of the books I was looking for weren't available on Kindle. Another 50%, I am debating about. I am fine with the cost of the books, but since I am not a book collector, but a library oriented person, I am hesitant to spend money on books. Right now, the only money I would feel comfortable spending is gift card money (whether true gifts or textbook buyback money) or online earnings money. I do various projects to earn extra money online (writing, graphic design, blogging, eBay and mTurk), and I consider this money free for my shopping pleasure. In fact, lately, this money is the only way I obtain the things that I really want for myself. It motivates me to consistently earn alternative income and it's rewarding. Anyway, so, I have not purchased any books yet, because I can't decide which book on my wishlist is worthy of being the first book.
In the process of shopping for books, I also stumbled on another interesting Amazon dilemma. Ordinarily, when you shop for a book you can buy it new from Amazon, new from another seller or used. You can buy it in hardcover or softcover. These options give you multiple prices to choose from. If you're like me, and don't want to spend any money, you can find an option that fits your budget. Kindle books are not like that. There is one price, and that's it. The other thing is that if you buy a physical book, if you wanted to, you could resell it when you are done with it. I'm not sure yet if you can do that with a Kindle book. Since there are only a handful of books that I have ever re-read, it makes me wonder about the value of buying ebooks. I don't often buy printed books, so why would I buy an ebook?
With that said, there are numerous benefits to reading ebooks. For one thing, you don't have to choose which book to bring with you, because you can bring them all. In the case of reference books, like dictionaries and cookbooks, and ebook is advantageous, because it is always there when you need it, in an easily portable fashion. I read my Kindle books on my smartphone, too, so I am most likely to purchase reference books as ebooks. You can highlight and make notes on the ebooks too.
So, all in all, I'd say my impression of the Kindle is pretty positive, despite some weird quirks about purchasing books. I'm looking forward to using my Kindle as a reference tool for my classes and downloading several dictionaries. I'm also looking forward to having cookbooks on the Kindle. I will try to read a novel, and we'll see about my views on the value of that. I'm a big fan of Amazon, so I expect my experience to continue to be positive

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