I love books. Always have done. I could read before I started school (thanks to my mum!) – and I spent my childhood and early teens with my nose in a book.
At university, I studied English literature for three wonderful years. And when I got married, we had our wedding reception in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, with actual books on the tables for our guests to sign…
So, for quite a while, I couldn’t see the appeal of e-readers. Surely, they could never replicate the experience of reading an actual book … with rustling pages, dog-eared corners, and that “book” smell. (Please tell me I’m not the only person who sniffs books.)
But then two book-loving acquaintances got Kindles: Tony Price (former librarian, current vicar) and Lorna Fergusson (author and creative writing teacher). I began to rethink the whole ebook thing. And now, our household has not one but two Kindles, and I’ve got my beady eye on the newly-announced Kindle Fire.
If you’re on the fence about getting a Kindle – or sceptical, like I was – then here’s why you might want to take the plunge…
The Kindle on the top is the newer model (Kindle 3) in standard size.
The Kindle on the bottom is a bit older (Kindle 2) in the DX size.
The Reading Experience
My main worry with the Kindle was that it wouldn’t feel like reading. After all, I don’t particularly like reading long texts on the computer.
Rest assured, it becomes perfectly natural after just a few pages. Once I’m into a book, it doesn’t make much difference whether I’m reading it on paper or on the Kindle – it’s the story that matters.
The Kindle also keeps your place automatically – very handy.
I’ve got the bigger DX version, which I tend to hold in both hands (or balance on something) – my husband has the normal-sized version, which is easy to hold in one hand. Since I’m tiny and my husband is a giant, we look rather comical with our mismatched Kindles…
We went on a three-week trip round Europe in September, and read somewhere close to 30 books between us. (You can find my reading list here.) If we’d taken those 30 books in printed form, we’d have definitely been struggling with our luggage…
If you travel even a couple of times a year, you’ll find the Kindle very handy. Not only can you take as many books as you want, you can also buy books on the go. And you can keep music or audio books on there (there’s a headphone socket on the Kindle) if you want.
Unlike all my other electronic devices, the Kindle has a long enough battery life to easily last through a 10-hour plane trip. So long as you turn off the 3G/wifi connection, your Kindle will give you hours of reading time without needing a recharge.
If you get the 3G version of the Kindle, you get worldwide internet access. That means that you can download books from anywhere – but it also means you can use the Kindle’s (admittedly rudimentary) web browser.
This is incredibly useful if you’re in a hotel without wifi, or out and about, and you need to look something up quickly. You can even tweet from the Kindle!
Cheap and Free Books
Books that are out of copyright (70+ years after the author’s death, in the UK) are freely available to download straight from Amazon. These include classic books by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and so on.
If you look at the Kindle top 100 bestsellers, you’ll see lots of books priced at under $5. Some are just 99 cents. You might be able to pick up books that cheaply at second-hand sales locally, but the Kindle offers a lot more convenience and choice. A fair percentage of these cheaper books are self-published by (increasingly net savvy) indie authors. There’s no overhead for the publisher, so the reader gets a great deal and the author actually nets more royalties per book.
You can also transfer files from your computer – so if you have a book in PDF form, you can put it onto your Kindle.
What I Don’t Like About the Kindle
Precious little! Mine is a Kindle 2, so I wish it was the newer, smoother, model. I’m also not sure that DX was the right choice for me – I thought I’d be reading more PDFs on it, but in practice, I’ve mostly just read Kindle books.
I’d like a better web browser, but, in fairness, that’s not really what the Kindle’s designed to do, and I’m grateful that it has a web browser at all.
So … should you get a Kindle?
If you love books, I’d say a definite yes! You’ll find yourself buying and reading more books, and quite probably expanding your reading tastes – it’s easier to try something new when it’s cheap (or free!) The Kindle is relatively cheap (compared with, say, an iPad…) and if you have more than one Kindle in your household, you can even read the same ebook at the same time.
Choosing Your Kindle
There are several types of Kindle, so I’ll try to make the choice a bit easier!
- Go for a basic Kindle (normal size, wifi only) if you don’t plan to use it when travelling and you have wifi at home
- Go for a 3G Kindle if you’re going to be travelling with it (even just commuting). Note that, in the UK, this means buying the keyboard version.
- Go for a Kindle with a keyboard if you plan to type short notes or do a lot of book-searching on the Kindle itself
- Go for a Kindle DX (the big one) if you want to read lots of PDFs on your Kindle – Amazon.com only: UK readers, you have to buy the “international” DX
Disclaimer: I’ve not tried the new keyboard-less version of the Kindle. I don’t type very much on mine, though, so I imagine that using the on-screen keyboard would be fine.
And if you don’t want to fork out for a Kindle, remember that you don’t need to own a Kindle in order to read Amazon’s ebooks. You can download Kindle apps for your iPad, iPhone, Android or even your PC too.
If you own a Kindle, I’d love to hear your take on all this in the comments. And if you have a different type of ereader, let me know how it compares with the Kindle!
Note: Links in this post are affiliate ones. Photos are by my husband.