Patterico's Pontifications


Should I Get a Kindle?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:54 pm

I was sort of down on the idea of getting a Kindle, but I saw a defense attorney who had one in court, and it looked pretty cool. He had a $20 case for it that made it feel like a book. You lift the cover and hold it like a book.

I see the major downsides as: 1) it’s very expensive; and 2) I like having physical books that my children can read in the future. As a child I spent hours and hours and hours poking around my parents’ bookshelves. I want my children to do the same.

I see the major upsides as: 1) when you travel (whether in a plane or just around town), you can carry many books in one small package; 2) you can instantly get a book you’re interested in; and 3) if you’re not worried about the lack of permanence, the books are cheaper.

Anyone have one? Any thoughts?

55 Responses to “Should I Get a Kindle?”

  1. Several people I know have one, but state that the keyboard is not that useful. Since it’s an electronic device, know that an upgraded version is right around the corner. It will be smaller, thinner, longer battery life and eliminate the keypad by linking with the keypad from an iphone or palm with an app.

    So if there’s any worry about expense and you’re not taking a big trip soon, I’d pass.

    Apogee (f4320c)

  2. No need to link the iPhone keyboard to your Kindle. Just download the Kindle iPhone app and you’re done.

    Stephen Macklin (f552f7)

  3. You have reasons for portable books and maintaining a regular library. Sounds like a worthy investment.

    Vermont Neighbor (229b93)

  4. I am a voracious reader and carry at least one book with me at all times. I bought the new kindle (expensive yes) But now currently have 49 books available with me at all times. Including textbooks (pdf versions) for my current classes.

    Many of those texts were free. Converted either through the amazon email or mobicreator software.

    I love it. Amazon is doing alot of right things with this service. There is even limited web browsing!

    eric (841999)

  5. Dale Franks at QandO just got one, and did a decent review of the Kindle 2…

    But what I really think you should do is buy a Kindle 2 for me.

    I doubt this will happen, just putting it out there as a suggestion… :)

    Scott Jacobs (90ff96)

  6. @Eric #4

    I understand that Amazon is working on a Student version of the Kindle, with a bigger screen for text books…

    Depending on the eBook prices for text books, the difference alone could cover the cost (and save my back a HUGE amount of pain)

    Scott Jacobs (90ff96)

  7. If you really love to read you will not be sorry. It is a luxury, but makes it much easier for a busy person to read books. Your books are as permanent as Amazon. Your family can share more than one Kindle on an account. Your house will have more room. (serious readers know what I mean) I have had mine for 13 months, have read at least 40 books (probably more) and I love the thing.

    Rob Ives (87be3f)

  8. 1. Amazon delivers most books in a Kindle specific format. Your kids if they had your kindle in the future could just use it to look at all the books you have on it.
    2. If they use something else even another Kindle, I do not believe that they are allowed to view the books. You are buying the books to look at them on that one Kindle.
    No viewing at your computer, no loaning to a friend, no passing down to children.
    I have the copy of Treasure Island that my uncle gave to my father in 1916. I look forward to reading it to my grandson in a couple of years. 90 years from now, who will have the stories that you bought for the Kindle.
    3. Will a new Kindle in a few years be able to use the same formated files.
    4. DRM – To many it is more like renting the book. If anything goes wrong with the Kindle, it is a pain moving it to another.
    5. No giving unwanted book to GoodWill, etc. for someone else to use.

    If you read alot of books that you just throw away then not much of a problem since that is what you are nearly doing.

    I have not looked into it but Kindle may be able to read open format books. These can be read where ever you want. I read ebooks on my computer and only one had been with DRM. It was the first and the last.

    I believe that all or almost all of the ebooks from Amazon for the kindle are not open format.

    These are the formats for the Kindle 2: Kindle (AZW), TXT, Audible (formats 4, Audible Enhanced (AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; PDF, HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.

    Non-DRM books could be loaded.

    Plenty of formats for you to upload files from your computer to have available to read.

    For where I am in my life it does not offer enough to make it worth the money for me.

    I hope my thoughts help you.

    Ed Patterson (cbdacf)

  9. Stephen Macklin – Yes, you are correct, and I should have mentioned it. However, I just had this conversation a few days ago, and it was agreed that the kindle uses almost no power except to reset the type.

    The kindle app on your iphone will kill the battery pronto.

    Apogee (f4320c)

  10. I really love going to libraries and book stores. My library is right across the street and I think one of the greatest free services that exist is being able to reserve a library book online and then pick it up at your local branch. I have read so many books from the library that I would not have bought.

    But the Kindle does have my attention and I hope it doesn’t somehow grab my wallet.

    PC14 (82e46c)

  11. If I need batteries for a book, that settles it for me–get the print version instead.

    Alan (551a6d)

  12. Sorry, this neo-Luddite will stick to the printed page. No matter how good the screen/monitor, e-reading burns out my eyes far more quickly than reading even the cheapest pulp paperbacks.

    Captain Ned (cbdd99)

  13. I like the thought of the availability of many magazines – Time and Newsweek for about $1.50 a month – and newspapers. I’m just worried that it’s too expensive.

    MOG (36fd70)

  14. It’s the best thing I’ve ever bought. And that’s including my new wife, Irina.

    Jim Treacher (796deb)

  15. Sorry, this neo-Luddite will stick to the printed page. No matter how good the screen/monitor, e-reading burns out my eyes far more quickly than reading even the cheapest pulp paperbacks.

    It’s not an LCD screen. It doesn’t shine light into your eyes. You need reflected light to read, just as with a paper book. (That’s part of the reason it’s so expensive, because the E-Ink technology is so new. I’m hoping it continues to sell and eventually the price comes down.) I’ve had one for over a year and I’ve read probably 30-40 books on it, and I can’t read long-form text off a computer screen.

    Jim Treacher (796deb)

  16. One other downside – you don’t want to be like defense attorneys, do you?

    Apogee (f4320c)

  17. As Scott pointed out above, I did a review of it at QandO.

    If you are a serious reader, it’s worth it, for a couple of reasons. The eBooks are cheaper than paper books. The Kindle will hold about 1500 books, so you’ll be reading for a while. There are a number of places that have non-DRM eBooks in the Kindle format, and the Kindle will take open source formats as well.

    I had a Sony PRS-500 that I got a couple of years ago, and by the time it went TU last week, I had 400 books on it.

    Dale Franks (3422ce)

  18. Jeezle pete! Jim Treacher (most recent comment above mine) is the ONLY FREAKING PERSON who has cited the most relevant issue with respect to the Kindle.

    That is to say: do you, prospective buyer, find the resolution and the contrast of the Kindle acceptable? Me, I say no. The resolution and contrast of a standard commercially-printed page is still superior to the Kindle. The contrast, especially, is weak, to these eyes at least. Why do you think laptops have those small cathode ray tubes illuminating their screens? Quite a bit of that is contrast.

    After that there’s the contrast (excuse the pun) between electronic screen resolution, and printed page resolution. The latter runs around 1200 dpi, and last I heard Kindle runs about half that.

    Lest I be labeled an anti-tech troglodyte, I will admit that subjective reactions to issues such as resolution, contrast, and screen types vary widely. In fact there’s still a greatly-varying reaction to compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) amongst consumers, although that seems to depend on the brand used.

    Bottom line: I find the resolution and contrast of the Kindle to be unacceptable. Otherwise it seems to be a remarkably useful text reader.

    Future improvements will doubtlessly address the above issues, but I have to wonder just how useful is a text-only device these days? Are we regressing to an early-1980s glass-teletype CP/M-style interface? Have we improved to the point where we’ve caught up to thirty-year-old technology?

    One wonders…

    Casey (9ee427)

  19. You should get me a Kindle.

    Darrell (950cf9)

  20. My $.02: acquired my love of reading poring through all the many books my parents had in the house that they said I was too young to read, then discovering the library. Whoo hoo! IMO keep up the home library or if that’s too expensive, regular family visits to the library may work just as well.

    That said, if you can afford both….one of my brothers and I are both voracious readers – he has a Kindle and loves it. Will probably buy a used Kindle 2 when the next iteration comes out. “Make friends with compulsive upgraders,” as they say.

    no one you know (1ebbb1)

  21. But will the Kindle give off the smell of old books that I love so much? I think not.

    Also, if I drop my book in the mud I have only to go purchase another, I don’t have to replace my hand too.

    The idea is intriguing, though. It would be fabulous for travel. You could pack dozens of books in a tiny space and then have access to whatever you are in the mood for instead of being stuck with a book you thought you might like but actually loathe.

    Vivian Louise (c0f830)

  22. I’ve got a Kindle 1 and, while it’s not perfect, it’s great. The most valid criticism to me is the one about the screen’s lack of contrast: not a deal-breaker for me, but it clearly could be (and, I assume, eventually will be) better and it may be a deal breaker for some folks. One compensating factor for those of middle age and above is adjustable font size.

    Also, I bought the Kindle partly in an effort to address my book pack-rattery. I realized that the junk books I read (Dean Koontz, Stephen King and the other stuff you buy to keep yourself occupied on an airplane or at the beach) were all going to go to the library or Goodwill eventually and the classics (Tolstoy, Dickens) were pretty much always going to be available in one form or another anyway, so there was actually little reason for thousands of books I haven’t read in years and may not ever read again to be cluttering up my house. I therefore view the $360 I spent on the Kindle as a sort of home maintenance cost, like carpet cleaning or the like. As a result of the purchase, I’ve given a lot of books to the library, but more importantly, I no longer accumulate a lot of hard copy books that would necessitate trips to the library in the future.

    Salaryman (41710e)

  23. Best used for daily reading (newspapers, books, magazines). It does clippings and bookmarks, but fiddling with small keys disrupts thought stream where underlining and yellow highlights on paper can emphasize the author’s points. Not for research when books and papers need to be spread out over a large table.
    When the user is absorbed in reading, the Kindle 2’s “gadgetness” disappears totally. Ideal when traveling or living rural where the WSJ arrives two days late and the nearest book store is 35 miles away. If you’re into “green” this is a no brainer, particularly with newspapers. I pay $9.99/month for a newspaper as token support to keep it from the toilet where most of the others are headed and belong. But you can subscribe to the NYT and LAT if you are of that persuasion.
    It arrived all set up right out of the box. There are no registration procedures, intialization or updates to download – just turn it on, charge it up and buy something.
    Best part: Amazon, without which the Kindle 2 is a paperweight. Books are much less expensive than dead tree versions and there’s a large selection (240K); browsing is easy and there are user reviews (which I find more helpful than snooty book reviews or best seller lists). 3G connection is no-cost and fast (check Sprint’s area coverage, though).
    It is first and foremost for reading. It does MP3s and USB storage, but save the space for your books, newspapers and magazines. The “experimental” text-to-speech works fine if you need that. Writing and web browsing are better done with a bigger screen and better keyboard. Kindle 2’s access to Google and Wikipedia is no-cost and very handy.
    Kindle 2 page keys are well placed and menus are clear and logical. The screen is as crisp and clear as anything on paper. After two weeks, I’ve not experienced bugs, software aberrations, display problems or battery problems. Kindle 2 just works.

    Leigh C. (ce194d)

  24. Oops – I said “writing” above. This is not a word processor or even a text editor. It doesn’t do that.

    Leigh C. (97da21)

  25. As a note – it is possible to get the files off of the kindle and the DRM stripped off of them, although currently it’s a bit of a PITA requiring more technical savvy than a lot of folks have. I won’t link to the method, anyone with sufficient google-fu can do so.

    For me, that’s sufficient. I don’t actually need to get rid of the annoying DRM, I just need to know that I can do so in the event that Amazon folds, or stops selling Kindles.

    In any case, about 95% of my ebooks come from Baen, which contain no copy protectio whatsoever.

    Skip (9c227a)

  26. I purchased a Kindle 2 last month and have found it so useful I take it with me constantly(its thin enough to fit in my pants pockets). There are many useful features it offers me but everyone evaluates a K2 differently.
    Amazon has a 30 day return policy on K2, so you have plenty of time to see if it offers sufficient value to you.

    richardb (94bca2)

  27. Borrow a Kindle from a friend for a few days, then decide.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  28. I have a kindle and find it very convenient. It solves two problems; what to do with all the books I’ve read, and it simplifies obtaining new books, (select on-line or from Kindle and they are sent in a few minutes regardless of where you are).And you get the first two chapters of any prospective book FREE. You don’t have to go to the store and browse like you’re “homeless”, booted from the library !

    You really have access to all books purchased, even if you don’t have it currently loaded on your Kindle.

    My philosophy is, the knowledge is to be retained in your head for instant access. An old book tucked away is a reference, to be used when time permits. Kindle can do that.

    Kids. Give them your old kindle with it’s massive store of books and buy yourself an updated Kindle as they come available.

    Todd (352e6a)

  29. What does that defense attorney has on his Kindle anyway? Reading for pleasure, or legal opinions?

    This could be a productivity tool for our favorite deputy DA.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  30. If Amazon sells a student version, expect them to “rent” textbooks to students for 6-12 months at a time, with no way to buy. The built-in DRM will automatically prevent the textbook from being read after that.

    No used book sales. No printing costs. Just students who have to pay full price every semester.

    That’s a sweet deal for the publishers, but for the rest of us? Not so much.

    Daryl Herbert (b65640)

  31. I have the Sony PRS 500, and never use it. I have 3 books out from the library right now, plus a few non-fiction books of my own that I’m reading. Even though they are heavy in my briefcase on trips, I still keep going back to paper books, even though there are 20 – 30 things I’d like to read on the Sony. And I am by no means a Luddite.

    carlitos (efdd90)

  32. Daryl Herbert,
    “renting textbooks” – That’s what the publishers do now with e-books for schools where they use laptops (like my kid’s). The student pays $13 per book, and after the year is over, it gets wiped off the drive.

    carlitos (efdd90)

  33. Ugh. So much for keeping your college textbooks, like I did with some.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  34. Suppose you put a paperback book face down, open, on a table, and you bend the spine too far. It splits. Oh noes! Do you replace the book at $15 new, or get a used one, or simply say “too bad”?

    Suppose you put a Kindle down and then something heavy drops on it, or it flexes, or…

    Do you cough up another $300 for a new one?

    I think it’s really, really silly to buy one instead of another e-reader than gives you access to books without locking you in to one hardware and solution vendor.

    Does no one remember IBM?

    steve miller (a161b2)

  35. Best purchase I made in a long time. I was skeptical and when I opened the box I wasn’t that impressed. And then I started reading… and reading… and reading.

    In the 10 days that I’ve had it, I have read more books than in the two years prior combined (about a book a day). Even though I only live 10 minutes from work, I cannot wait to get home and continue reading and have to force myself not to pick it up while in traffic.

    It is far more user friendly than a paper book as it is easier to hold and clicking a button and getting a new page is very addictive.

    Is it expensive? I guess so but it is absolutely worth it if you like to read.

    Donovan Janus (37d4c9)

  36. I don’t know. I like the idea of standing in front of a bookcase full of books, wearing a smoking jacket and cupping a pipe in my hand. It just makes a nice picture.

    jimboster (fe0b27)

  37. I’ve had mine since my birthday (about three weeks) and it was a gift from my wife who is hoping I will buy fewer books. I have thousands of books and will still probably buy some classics. I even have books that I bought another copy of after the first disappeared. Some I had read years ago (like Paris in the Terror) and bought a used copy because I wanted to read it again. Two of the books I’ve gotten for the Kindle are Tom Clancy novels that I had read at one time and somebody borrowed them. I think the text font and contrast are great. Another feature is that it is much, much easier to read a large book in bed. Of course traveling is another factor but the size and handiness are great.

    Cost is an issue but for someone who buys as many books as I do, even at Amazon’s discount, it will save me money. Plus it was a gift.

    Mike K (90939b)

  38. Sort of a side issue, but I wonder if Amazon isn’t pricing these things wrong. Instead of a large upfront cost for the device ($359) and cheap digital books (usually $9 for current hardcovers) I would think they could move a heck of a lot more of them if they subsidized the purchase price to say $200 and jack the price per standard book to say $14, which is still a good deal versus the hard copy price. At that pricing, they’d break even when the user hit 32 standard purchases and profit even more after that for each subsequent purchase (which in turn would help subsidize those users who don’t hit the 32 purchase break even mark).

    Aplomb (b6fba6)

  39. I’d recommend pretty much any eInk reader that ISN’T a Kindle. Why?

    This is why Basically Amazon is trying to lock you into only buying ebooks from Amazon in a way which no other vendor is doing.

    (PS @ Aplomb #38) it looks to me like Amazon is already following the policy of cheap(ish) reader, expensive ebooks see the followup post linked to at the link above

    FrancisT (381d89)

  40. A good portion of the price for the Kindle is the lifetime free access to a G3 network.

    When you get the Kindle, you have access ti whisperNET or whatever they call it. You never pay a monthly fee for this. Ever.

    It allows you to do such things as check wikipedia and the like…

    So while they could drop the cost a good deal, it would require the loss of a couple of the biggest selling points…

    Scott Jacobs (90ff96)

  41. OH and answering Casey @18 regarding contrast. I have some pictures at my flickr page that illustrate the contrast.

    In my experience (and I’ve had a Bookeen Cybook3 for almost a year) the contrast of an eInk screen is great but other people disagree so I’d suggest taking a look at one before you commit.

    FrancisT (381d89)

  42. Jim Treacher (most recent comment above mine) is the ONLY FREAKING PERSON who has cited the most relevant issue with respect to the Kindle.

    Most relevant to you, maybe. I didn’t have any problem with the resolution of the original Kindle, and the new one is sharper. Works for me.

    But will the Kindle give off the smell of old books that I love so much? I think not.

    I refuse to fly in “aero-planes” because there’s just nothing like the unique aroma of a stagecoach.

    Suppose you put a Kindle down and then something heavy drops on it, or it flexes, or…

    Do you cough up another $300 for a new one?

    The same can be said of any 1st or 2nd generation piece of electronics. “Why carry around a phone in your pocket? It’s just gonna break! Can’t you wait until you get home to make your call?” Etc.

    Jim Treacher (796deb)

  43. My tuppence:
    I don’t know about the Kindle, specifically, but I rummaged around my family libraries as a kid, too. Saved all my books for my children, collected great collections of full sets of paperbacks for “the future”. The whole book-loving shtick.
    Then I had an asthmatic child. Book Mold – and Crumbling Pages! The paper from my books didn’t hold up. ::sob:: We made an isolation desk so she could read some of them but it wasn’t a great solution.
    Now we have electronic books. Hundreds of them all stored on external drives. The whole family reads on our PDAs. Everyone’s library is available to everyone else as we wish. I easily carry a large selection with me at all times – never know when I might want to switch books to suit my mood…

    Best part – I can read in bed in the dark. Under the covers if I want to!! What more could a former kid want?

    sillyblindharper (b69301)

  44. What more could a former kid want?

    A bean?

    Stashiu3 (460dc1)

  45. Should I Get a Kindle?

    High-tech gadget geek Charles Johnson thinks so.

    Paul (creator of "Staunch Brayer") (c2f883)

  46. Never tried the Kindle, but lately I find myself reading a lot of books on my cellphone (a BlackBerry) and find it extremely convenient cuz my books current reading material is always right at hand, wherever I go.

    I won’t say that the BB screen matches the Kindle’s, it doesn’t, but it’s really quite good enough for most text material. Plus I am locked in to no one’s network or distribution chain. I kinda like that.

    ras (20bd5b)

  47. Sorry, that was to Stashiu3.

    Machinist (c5fc28)

  48. Darn, I liked being naughty for a while, even if I had no idea why.

    ras (20bd5b)

  49. Stashiu3 would be a good teacher!

    Machinist (c5fc28)

  50. If you can afford it and then not perhaps like it, why not?

    I put it in my category “things I would accept gratefully as gifts but would never pay for.”

    Patricia (2183bb)

  51. I would enjoy a lolly and/or a nice bean, thank you, gentle friends.

    This is a fun thread, being chock full of voracious readers and all… Thanks, Patterico.

    Cheers, everyone!


    sillyblindharper (b69301)

  52. I just can’t seeing buying one. How many books could you buy for one Kindle? Doesn’t make sense.

    Joe (cfcb76)

  53. How many books could you buy for one Kindle?

    How many telegrams could you send for the cost of one iPhone?

    Jim Treacher (796deb)

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