Having told my wife that I definitely did not want an Amazon Kindle E-Reader for Christmas, I found myself with a substantial Amazon.com gift voucher, and decided to splurge.
The immediate result was an infuriated wife, and dark mutterings about how difficult it is to buy me presents. Almost as immediate was the arrival of the Kindle. Although shipped from the US, two days after placing the order my new Kindle arrived.
There is something about the film Children of Men which captivates me: the tired depiction of a dying world set 10-15 years into the future, where no children are being born is compellingly rendered. It starts with a news report that the world’s youngest person, an 18 year old, had just died.
I decided to make the book upon which the film was based my first purchase. Written by P. D. James, it is a well written, substantial work, and it uses many words that I don’t know (perfidy, viva voce, farrago to name a few). That was where I found the first of the advantages to using the Kindle to read books: it includes a built-in dictionary. Whenever I hit a word with which I was not familiar I moved a highlight in front of the word, and up popped a dictionary definition. I suspect that I’ve ploughed through many a book in the past and simply ignored the words I didn’t know.
When reading I very quickly found that I was unaware of the fact that I was reading from an electronic device. The use of e-ink (which is a display technology that does not strain the eyes) made a big difference. I was totally engrossed in the story, and the fact that I didn’t have a book in front of me made no difference. I was in the story.
I need it now!
Buying books from Amazon when you live in Switzerland is a pain. You pay a fortune in shipping charges, and then have to wait for days for the book to arrive. This is the second advantage to the Kindle: immediate delivery of books. The Kindle has a free wireless (not wifi, but a 3G data link over the mobile telephone network). You don’t have to insert a SIM, it just works. Books you order appear within minutes on the device.
Try before you buy
As useful as the immediate delivery of books is, the third advantage is a killer, you get to download the first chapter or so of any book for free to see if you like it. This is so convenient – I read the first few pages, and if I don’t like it, I delete it, and forget about it. On the other hand if it is really good, a couple of clicks later I’m reading the whole book.
A book wherever you go
The fourth and final advantage is that you can read any of your Kindle books on your PC or iPhone too. They are there too, just like that, using free software from Amazon. So if you are in shopping queue you can pop out your iPhone and continue to read that book you were reading at home on your Kindle. And, wait for it, the pages are synchronized, so that when you go back to the Kindle it will pick up where you left off on the iPhone, and the reverse.
There are some drawbacks. Although Kindle books cost less than physical books, they cost more to buy in Europe than in the US, and the range is much smaller. Some books are not really good to read on the Kindle, such as a technical book I bought on Microsoft Project, although I find reading on the PC (while running Project to try things out) works well.
Who am I kidding?
We are still in January. So far I am really enjoying reading from the Kindle, and I am reading much more than I do normally, although that is probably because I’m keen to justify to myself that it was a sound investment.
Nevertheless, it is a very compelling device. I’m still going to want physical copies of some books, but for most of the books I read I really don’t care what I read them on, so long as the medium disappears when I get into the story.
One last thing
Oh yes, one last thing, did I mention that the Kindle comes with free access to Wikipedia?