Monday, November 9, 2009

Reading On The Kindle 2


Our library recently acquired three e-readers that are now part of the permanent collection. So this weekend, I checked out a Kindle 2, to see what all the buzz is about, and to find out if I really can stand reading a book on a screen.

This particular Kindle came packed with about 100 books, and I chose The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle by Matt Klingle (yes, I'm one of those weirdo multi-taskers that likes to have multiple books going on at one time).

I'll tell you straight out that I expected to be won over. At least for traveling purposes. I'm the kind of girl who packs 7 books for a 7 night stay (and actually reads maybe one and a half). For traveling, the e-book seems ideal. Finish a book? Download another. Not in the mood for the book you brought? Find something else. Seemed like a no-brainer.

I suppose I'll reserve judgment until I've finished these e-books, but so far, I might rather lug the extra 10 pounds around.

Here's what I've observed so far:

  • The Kindle 2 is a lot easier to read than a computer screen or even Kevin's iPod. That fancy electronic ink is something else. It's not a book, but it's certainly easy on the eyes.
  • It's convenient, and easy to hide under the table at the sports bar while your husband is watching the Chicago Bears.
  • Formatting is an issue. While reading The Book Thief, I came across a lot of bold, choppy, centered text. I picked up the real paper book to compare and voila! it all made sense. I suppose it's because the screen is so small, but what looks intriguing and visually exciting on paper (short, centered paragraphs...some that are poem-esque), is very messy, haphazard, and distracting on the Kindle. I feel like I'm missing out on some of the heart of Zukas' book.
  • Footnotes are a bear. Maybe there's a way to quickly view a footnote, but I haven't found it.
  • I have very particular paper-oriented reading habits. I didn't realize this consciously before reading on a Kindle, but apparently, I like to go back and re-read a lot. As I'm reading a book, I flip back through pages to re-read great passages, to remember a character's name, or re-absorb a key plot point. On the Kindle, I keep catching myself wanting to flip back, but it's pointless. Who knows how many screens I'd have to flip through to find that spot?
  • The "experimental" web tool is unusable. Simply put, trying to access an article on an online site like Slate.com is more painful than it's worth.
That said, would I check out a Kindle from the library to take on a trip? Sure. Why not? It's like getting to pack 100 books instead of just seven. I'd probably still pack 2 or 3 (or 4) paper books, just in case. :)

Would I pay $259 for a Kindle (not including the cost of the books)? Sorry, no.

This article from CrunchGear sums it up pretty nicely: 10 Reasons to Buy a Kindle 2...and 10 Reasons Not To.

Here's an interesting article on the evolution of the Kindle by Nicholson Baker in the New Yorker: A New Page.

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