Kindle thoughts

I went ahead and got myself a Kindle for my birthday.  Thanks to everyone for their comments in the last post.  Here are my thoughts on it, in no particular order:

I like it a lot.  I was worried that I would not actually enjoy reading with it, or that it would be significantly inferior to real books.  However, I do enjoy reading with it, and I think they have achieved their aim of making it so that it 'just disappears' like a good book does.  It's a very small and light device, even with the leather cover I got for it (always best with a small child in the house), so it's in no way heavy or uncomfortable.  It's relatively more expensive and fragile than a copy of The Economist or a paperback, so I don't sling it around quite so casually, and do try and remember to keep it out of reach of said small child, which makes it a little less worry-free than an actual book.  On the other hand, it's much cheaper than an ipad or samsung galaxy or something like that, so it's not the end of the world if something happens to it, although it would be unfortunate to be without reading material for the time it took to replace it!

The selection of material available for it is ok, but I'm just a bit disappointed – I thought offhand there were more books than there are.  I regularly bump into things I might consider getting if they were available for it, but are not.  On the other hand, there are quite a few books available for it for *free* because they're old and out of copyright.  Stuff you might get for 99 cents at a used book store as a paperback, but it's pretty cool to be able to just zip it right to the device, for nothing at all.

I am not convinced that the economics of it all has settled down yet.  It's pretty absurd, for instance, that The Intelligent Investor costs nearly twice as much for the Kindle version as for the paperback!  Especially since I can never resell it.

I think a lot of the value I get from the device is derived from my situation: living abroad here in Italy, it's expensive and slow to get English language books, and now I can get them *instantly*, which is absolutely wonderful, and will significantly increase my reading.  Also, should we ever move back to the US or elsewhere, it means a few less books to lug along or go through the sorrow of parting with.  Were I in the US in a place with a decent used book store, and sure about staying in the same place for a while, I am not sure I would have bothered.

I find it somehow a bit monotonous to read everything in the same form factor and with the same fonts.  It takes something away from the character of a book, especially a well-done hardback.  Of course, what counts is the content, but the presentation counts for something too, I think.

I really do like the size and shape of the Kindle, and could see the 'smaller tablet' size catching on.  Speaking of which, I'm curious to see how reading devices and tables will intersect.  Clearly, a generic device that can also read books is going to be a lot more popular, but for now e-ink still has a few advantages: it's better for reading – I can stare at it much longer than I can at an LCD screen; also the battery life is much better, meaning I don't have to worry about/fiddle with charging it every day.  Also, in some ways, it's nice not to have the siren-call of the web just a click away…  I think though that at some point, generic devices will likely overtake dedicated readers.  Who knows when, though.

Yes, it does have a browser, however, the screen refresh is so slow that I'd only really consider using it for reading web pages – wikipedia, say, rather than doing much with it.  Still, I think it's nice to have and hope they continue the experiment.

Coming back to the comparison with 'real' books, I don't like the fact that I can no longer finish a book and then hand it to my wife if it's good.  We could get her a Kindle too, but I'm still not sure they have the sharing thing worked out that well.  2 weeks – and then what?  One way to do it might be that you can share it with anyone who you trust with one-click purchases.  That'd limit it to family members or really trustworthy friends.  Although… even there, I regularly loan books to friends, and would like to continue to be able to do so.

Also, like I mentioned in the previous article, I'm leary of a future where my daughter doesn't have a multitude of books to peruse on our bookshelves.  Bookshelves are a great way of making serendipitous discoveries that recommendation engines (those I've used at least) don't really account for.

All in all, I'm very pleased with the Kindle, though, and look forward to seeing what the future holds.

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