Friday, January 28, 2011

To Buy Or Not To Buy: Amazon Kindle

To Buy Or Not To Buy: Amazon Kindle
(Do You Really Need One?)

Everybody and her sister, it seems, own an E-reader of some kind. There are Nooks for those who shop Barnes & Noble, Kindles for those who shop, plus Sonys and I-Pads and many others. There are color E-readers, black and white E-readers. Which one do you need, if any? Why would you need one?

Those of us who love books usually have enormous collections of books, and there is no question about it, books take up a lot of space. I have books stored in plastic totes, numbered, with a book listing the contents of each numbered tote. I have books shelves stashed full, with books stuffed in sideways on top of the correctly-shelved books. With all these books, why do I need an E-reader?

Answer: Because I can’t take them with me. But if you have them on an E-reader, you can take them with you. Indeed, this seems to be the chief attraction of E-readers: You can have a whole library right there in your purse. If you travel a lot, or spend a lot of time in your car running errands, you always have your current reading material with you in case of down time.

In a related aspect, the writers on the Romance Writers of America PAN loop are discussing the feasibility of judging the organization’s major contest, the RITA awards, on E-reader. Many would like to see this option because they prefer to read in places other than in front of their computers, carrying physical books is often inconvenient, and with an E-reader, all the books to be judged could be with them all the time. Some even bought the e-editions of the books they were to judge in order to make the judging easier on themselves.

According to Dr. Gary North, an economic historian, the Amazon Kindle, in particular, is an excellent repository for “free books.” Amazon has a large amount of free and promotional titles it offers at no cost. Many of these free books are old, out-of-copyright books, such as Gene Stratton Porter’s works (Freckles, A Girl of the Limberlost), and classics like Seventeen and Tom Sawyer. This aspect attracts many voracious readers who can’t afford to spend as much on books these days.

So, whether or not you need an E-reader depends on you and your reading habits. If you have an I-Pad, a smart phone like a Blackberry or I-Phone, or even a netbook or laptop, Kindle had a downloadable E-reader program. This literally turns your computer into a Kindle, and you can download all the free books Amazon has to offer, plus any of the other titles for sale. If this satisfies your needs, you don’t need a standalone E-reader. You have one already.

But if you want that portability, plus the readability of a screen larger than an I-Phone but smaller than your laptop, you might need an E-reader. That decided, here is my take on the Amazon Kindle.

I started off with the downloadable Kindle program on my laptop computer. After I had built up a huge collection of all the old books I love, plus free books, and a few new ones, I decided I had to have a Kindle, so I bought one and promptly transferred all my titles to it. The Kindle connects to your computer like a USB external drive, and you can transfer items to it just as you would to a USB drive. Then I studied the Kindle on-screen manual and learned a few more things you can read on it.

The Kindle will read PDF files, so you can transfer PDF articles or e-books to it. It will also read text files, which means that if you are a writer and you “just happen” to have one of your own works -in-progress available, you can save your manuscript as a text file and transfer it to your Kindle. Then you can read through your own chapters in search of problems or ideas.

The good thing about all this is that it’s all on a small device about the size of a thin paperback book, and you can load things on or take them off with relative ease. So if you think you might want an E-reader, my suggestion is, start with a Kindle application on your computer or smart phone. If you find yourself constantly using it, then–you might need a Kindle.


Sophia the Writer said...

I just blogged about this recently - though I absolutely prefer the paper version of books, I'm about to take a 14 hour flight (each way) and the thought of not having to lug several hardcovers is too appealing...

Rachel said...

As a Nook owner, I'd like to point out that every point you mentioned in favor of the Kindle is also true for the Nook.

It too has hundreds of thousands of free titles available, many of them classics and out of print. With the Nook you can download from anywhere on the Web. You're not just restricted to Barnes and Noble. Google Books, CBD, Kobo Books, eHarlequin, Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive.

The Nook also reads PDFs and has a desktop program as well as apps for Apple products, Android products and BlackBerry.

With the Kindle, you're pretty much restricted to buying from Amazon. Every now and then a book on Internet Archive will be available in Kindle format, but not very often. The reason for that is the Kindle format is a royal pain to convert to, while the EPUB format has been the industry standard since ebooks first appeared nearly 15 years ago.

Another point to consider when looking for an e-reader is which magazines do you want to subscribe to. Not all are available on each device. For example, if you want National Review it's only available on the Nook and the Sony Reader. I'm a NR subscriber so that ruled out the Kindle for me.

If you're at all technical, the Nook will be a better experience. I much prefer its design, navigation layout, and slightly smaller size. That little keyboard on the Kindle takes up a lot of room.

Cecelia Dowdy said...

Great post, Katy! I do use the Kindle on my PC, but not too often. I've also struggled with the decision to buy a Kindle. I decided not to, but, I could always change my mind later! You did a great job pointing a lot of the features on Kindle.

Teresa Slack said...

Great post tho I still don't have a need for an e-reader. I seldom leave my house, don't have an IPad, IPhone, or any other compatible hand held device--can you imagine--and love holding a book in my hands.

Someday I might take the plunge. Your review made me see the attraction. It just isn't for me at this point.

Teresa Slack said...

Great post tho I still don't have a need for an e-reader. I seldom leave my house, don't have an IPad, IPhone, or any other compatible hand held device--can you imagine--and love holding a book in my hands.

Someday I might take the plunge. Your review made me see the attraction. It just isn't for me at this point.

Jemi Fraser said...

My family bought me a Kindle for my birthday. We're in Canada & don't have B&N, and from my research it seemed the Kindle had the least problems for Canadians trying to download stuff.

It is awesome for travelling - I love it!

Tracy Krauss said...

I got a Sony E-Reader for Christmas. I love it. Besides all the other 'ups' you mentioned, I find it is very easy on the yes - more so that a print book. this is important to me since my eyesight is failing. I can make the print as big as I need it to be and there is no back light (as in a computer screen) so there is less fatigue. Awesome!

Molly Noble Bull said...

Your article is interesting. As ususal.

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

One other consideration is how fast the battery runs down. I downloaded the Kindle for Android onto my smart phone, but when I read on a trip we took, it ate up most of my battery about 2/3 of the way through a three-hour trip.

So I bought a Kindle, because it takes a long time to run down the battery.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

I've debated whether or not to purchase the Kindle. While I like being able to carry a lot of books wherever I go, it has one huge disadvantage. I can't pass the books on to my mother or her friends, elderly women who can't afford the luxury of buying books.

Also, there's something about holding a real book in your hands. It brings back memories of summer vacations as a youngster, spending time in the library, and dreaming.

I've decided to stay with my books and leave the ereaders to others.

Robin Bayne said...

I also have the Kindle for my pc.