August 12, 2009

Interest: kindled.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at August 12, 2009 10:18 PM

I've been debating whether to buy a Kindle, and so the famous Nicholson Baker review in The New Yorker was of interest as one of the more high-profile negative reviews of the device. Although I don't really believe him when he says that funny passages get less funny when read on a Kindle, he mentions some other downsides like the (so far) limited library and the DRM concerns. These seemed like good points.

To address his aesthetic objections to the device, he goes on to suggest downloading the Kindle app for the iPhone instead. I ignored this advice at first, but some time later my curiosity got the better of me and I got the app. It's free, after all, and would be a good way to try the format. And I was pleased to see that there are a few books available for free. Mostly the initial volumes of various long-running series, under the favorite business model of drug dealers everywhere. (I went for His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novick; a better choice from the free selection is Robin Hobb's Assassin's Apprentice, but I'd already read it.) So I was able to follow Baker's suggestion at no cost. Still, I thought, it seemed crazy. I'd much rather read on the book-sized Kindle. Who wants to read an entire novel on the tiny iPhone screen, flipping pages every paragraph?

The answer, apparently, is me. The Kindle app is completely awesome, and I feel like it's doubled the utility of my iPhone. It has one gigantic advantage over the actual Kindle that Baker doesn't even mention: if I owned a Kindle, I would probably take it with me on vacation, or on long train rides, but I wouldn't carry it around with me all the time, since it's not small enough to fit in a pocket. But the iPhone I already carry with me everywhere. Which means that now, I always have a book to read. If I find myself waiting in line, or on the subway, or at the doctor's office, I can just start reading. I even catch myself looking forward to waiting for something so I can read a few more pages. Sure, before the Kindle I could surf the net or play games on the iPhone, but for waits of longer than a few minutes, being able to dive into a book is much better.

So, I'm a convert. I finished His Majesty's Dragon tonight, and I'm shopping right now for my next book. There is one problem, though. Sometimes I've been reading, say on the subway, and I get to my stop in the middle of a chapter. I walk home from the station, and when I get home I naturally want to continue reading. But who wants to read on the tiny iPhone screen? If only I had some kind of book-sized device that would automatically sync with the page I'm on...

And that, of course, is why Amazon gives away the iPhone app for free.

Tags: Books, Technology

Other Kindle advantages:
- fits nicely onto the little ledge they build onto elliptical trainers;
- the Times costs half the newsstand price;
- Kindle in left hand, drink in right hand; try that with the hard bound MOBY-DICK;
- you can make the font size bigger with the touch of a button;
- you can download every word Shakespeare ever wrote for $2 and carry it with you everywhere you go;
- I finished my book and want to start another one but I'm not dressed and it's pouring outside or it's 1:00 in the morning or I'm in some strange city- NO PROBLEM;
- you can email yourself your latest manuscript and read it without printing out 400 pages (but it is difficult to edit that way).

I for one think it is the future of reading.

Posted by: JSpur | August 13, 2009 7:05 AM

I'm old-fashioned on this, I think. One of my favorite things about books is that they are a break from screens, and I definitely spend way too much time looking at screens of various sorts. I think my eyes get tired at a much slower pace when reading text on paper as opposed to text on screens.

Um, was the Moby Dick example chosen on purpose? There are comments I want to make, but I feel like I should hold them in because it's just too easy...

Is this the manuscript in which my namesake dies in chapter 1? Whatever happened to that one?

Posted by: Mason Porter | August 16, 2009 8:21 AM

That book is in inventory and no doubt will see the light of day eventually.....

Posted by: JSpur | August 16, 2009 2:44 PM

And if for some reason it doesn't- I'll name a different victim for you. In fact, I'll just go ahead and to that.

Posted by: JSpur | August 16, 2009 2:45 PM

I'm told the eInk technology used in the Kindle screen makes it more like looking at a printed page; the Kindle owners here can confirm or deny this. Obviously, with the iPhone app you certainly are looking at a screen, and that was one reason I was skeptical myself. But after a few minutes of reading I get sufficiently immersed in the book that I don't notice the format anymore.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | August 16, 2009 6:15 PM

It's really hard not to notice when my eyes get really tired at a much faster rate. :) Granted, if the book is good enough, I'll push myself.

Posted by: Mason Porter | August 16, 2009 8:33 PM

I've been reading novels on my old Palm PDA since the late 90s. The tiny screen is less of a problem than one might think. My source for material? Mainly, but there are a few other free etexts out there. The iPhone is an obvious successor. Like a Palm PDA, it fits in one's pocket. Kindles just seem so big and bulky. I might as well carry my laptop with me.

Posted by: Kaleberg | August 24, 2009 7:41 PM
Post a comment