Thursday, January 6, 2011

Kindle, Amazon's ebook Reader

Thanks to my daughter I am now the proud owner of a Kindle ebook reader, in its bright red cover, which I received as a Christmas gift. Miss Moggs raised some good points in her post here and I have some thoughts and answers to some of those she expressed as I have explored my Kindle this past week.

But first a few generalities about ebook or electronic book readers which have been around since the nineties in a limited way, but they really seemed to take off in popularity when the Kindle was launched by Amazon in November 2007 and sold out in 5 hours, despite its $399 price tag. It was sold only in the United States and had a 250MB memory which was the equivalent of 200 books.

Today, three years later, the third generation Kindle, which is an international version sells for $139 for the WiFi version or $189 for the WiFi/3G (cell phone connection) version and has 4 GB of memory, equivalent to over 3500 books and also includes a text to speech option. Since its release in August 2010 this third generation Kindle has become Amazon's top selling item, of all time, eclipsing even the sales of the 7th and last Harry Potter book. Not only that but Amazon is now selling more ebooks than hardcovers although paperback sales still remain larger. While the number of ebooks varies from country to country, depending on the laws, in the United States Amazon offers 800,000 titles, increasing every day.

Of course there are other prominent ebook reading devices such as the Sony and the Nook from Barnes and Noble, each using a different file format and thus ebooks are not interchangeable among the various devices. Both these allow you to read ebooks borrowed from the public library system whereas the Kindle does not. Apple launched the iPad in April 2010 and while essentially much more than an ebook reader it does have that capability and you can buy ebooks from the iBook store of Apple. Naturally they are a different file format again from the others.

A new interesting development is the array of Kindle apps or applications for various devices which allows you to buy ebooks from Amazon without ever owning a Kindle. There's a app. for your Blackberry, your Android phone, your PC computer or your Mac, one for your iPad, one for your iPhone or iPod touch. Yes, I downloaded the Kindle app. for Mac before I had my Kindle and had already downloaded some freebies from Amazon, books which are in the public domain like Pride and Prejudice. Similarly Nook has come up with these apps too so you can buy books from Barnes and Noble without owning a Nook. However the Nook app. for the Mac is not as good as that for the Kindle as yet.

The beauty of these apps is making the ebooks able to be purchased without being tied to the specific ebook reader and it was these apps which made my daughter choose the iPad for herself since the apps allowed all the different file formats to be read on that device. Obviously Amazon and Barnes and Noble took the introduction of the iPad very seriously and wanted in on the action of selling books to their owners. This is just as well for iPad owners since the iBook store has a very small selection in comparison with the other two stores.

Having owned the Kindle now for a couple of weeks, I have found it very easy to use and set up. It comes preloaded with two dictionaries and the user manual installed but I have added 52 items to the library so far. I already had an account with and buying books is very easy and quick. Most I have acquired are freebies in the public domain or offered as one day freebies and I found a blog called Books on the Knob which is very informative about bargains for all ebook readers. Another called I love my Kindle is also a useful blog with a lot of information about the Kindle. I did actually pay money for a couple of books although at discounted prices.

My problem is the many books I own, including a half dozen recent additions, which I still have to read and the fact that I have $50 in gift certificates at Chapters to use up so I am not rushing into buying a lot for the Kindle.

This is a pretty basic model so the library is a list of titles of the ebooks, no pretty covers to remind you of what the book is, you have to remember them by title and author. Rather like black and white TV versus colour TV. It is very easy to read and not an unpleasant experience, although I do have a tendency as I get immersed to try to turn the pages instead of hit the forward arrow button. As one who likes to flip the pages back and forth on occasion to find something, yes or skip to the end, I find reading a book on such a device or even on the computer screen can be a bit irksome. Where I see the strength of such a device as the Kindle is going on holidays with a load of books in your pretty little device, instead of a suitcase full of books but for everyday reading I'm still a book person.

I was offered an iPad as a Christmas gift but really felt that would be a very expensive luxury at this point since to my mind it's really a mini computer and frankly I would rather use my computer. No doubt I will get one at some point, but I'm transitioning there with the Kindle.

In her post Moggs made an emphasis of owning a book where it truly is yours to do with as you wish versus owning the rights to read an ebook on the device of your choice but not much more and she was correct. A limited number of ebooks you can lend, but one time only and for a 14 days in a rather complicated procedure. The ebooks you purchase belong to your account at wherever you purchased them and they are archived there. They can be downloaded to more than one device up to a certain number of times and family members could share an account and have the books on each person's device. Should you sell or give away the Kindle the books do not go with it and you should deregister the Kindle from your account. Yes you can gift a specific ebook to another person but at the moment it is delivered immediately which may not be what you want if it's a gift.

While it is very convenient to buy books so easily, if you lose the Kindle or it is stolen another person can also easily buy books on your account at your expense until you deregister the Kindle.

Yes, it's a new world with ebooks and ebook readers. But I love books and bookstores, new and secondhand, and libraries so I can't see myself converting completely to ebooks. Then again I love the techie toys so I'm happy to play around with this Kindle. Will it be simply a toy for me or a serious reading device? Time will tell but many of my daughter's serious book friends are completely hooked on their Kindles and many of my online dunnetworks friends are too. As Janice said in her comment on Moggs's post, at least we are saving trees!

* Apologies for the photos which were taken hastily after dark.


Moggs Tigerpaw said...

A really interesting post JMB. I think I need the ereader to be more like a real book to be comfortable with it.

I have been thinking about how these things 'ought' to be ^_^ since I did my post.

I want an ereader to open like a book and have 2 opposing pages with black & white text that you can read just with whatever light is available, but can also be illuminated (for reading in bed ^_^). Maybe have the page and ink color seletable?

Any keypad should be hidden, or displayed on a page or screen only when you want it.

The pages should flip when you touch the bottom or top corners in a swipe motion or a pinch maybe? like if you did it with a real book and a case like a cover.

Maybe the spine and cover could show "Moggsy's ereader" or something?

Also I need an option to see all the covers in color and the stuff they put on the back of each book in the reader. Maybe they could make the cover out of some sort of photelectric cell so it could charge by your sunlounger or on the bedside table ^_^

It should be possible to pass on, or sell, or give away, any "ebook" you purchase. Maybe with a function that lets you send it to another machine and deletes it from your ereader using 3G or wifi connections.

So Amazon guys and girls... get working on that if you want me for a serious customer. should I patent this maybe?

I do so love browsing in a real book store tho' I am not sure I could ever give up 'real' books completely.

Oooh. My comment is now practically a mini post ^_^

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Oh Wow! I just had more thoughts..

How about if you could have an eFilofax (Personal organiser) as part of how it worked?

With an eDiary that you could write on with a stylus (attached by a string so you don't loose it and kept in the spine)

And you could have it do eShopping lists too and take notes. Maybe have it so they could be sent to a printer?

Oh and you should be able to mark where you were in an eBook or mark a bit you want to be able to look up later if you were revising a text book.

Oh and you should be able to blow the text up with a gesture to make it easier to read or fit more on a page, depending on your eyesight ^_^

I would pay serous money for something like that that was the size of a paperback or book.

jmb said...

Well Miss Moggs, a lot of the things you wish for are already in some of the readers. Remember mine is basic.

The library in the iPad is gorgeous, just like a bookcase with the book cover showing for each book instead of just a list. Of course it's in colour as are the more expensive models in some of the others.

You do swipe to turn the pages in the iPad as I recall and some others do have electronic keyboards which have disadvantages too.

You can enlarge the print quite easily on the device as you require, even mine.

You can highlight text and make notes for your reference too.

I have to say a lot of your requirements are available in the iPad from what I have seen and I'm sure I'll be looking at it more seriously as time goes by and their next model, which may be soon knowing Apple, adds more features.

For a book reader though, with text only books, the basic Kindle and Sony are supposed to be better actual readers, easier on the eyes and stand up well in bright sun as well as indoors.

It's early days in a way in this field but suddenly it's taking off so we should see some interesting developments.

CherryPie said...

Although I love technology I am still not tempted. I love feel a book in my hands and turn or flick through the pages.

I love to browse around a real bookshop and get a feel for a book before I purchase it. There is nothing quite like it.

Rositta said...

I am seriously tempted to get a Kindle for my next trip to Greece. It's kind of tough buying enough books for my two month stay and finding English books there that cost less than 20 Euros is difficult. My offspring though is warning me off the Kindle because of the issues you raised. He wants me to save my money to buy the IPad. I think he should just gift me one for my birthday, lol...