|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: We thought about it long and hard. Yes we did. We don't often think about things this long or this hard, because it hurts. But sometimes, cogitations are necessary. We wouldn't be here at Bookbag if we didn't love books but we knew that more and more people were enjoying ebooks. It was time to find out what it was really like to have up to 3,500 books in your pocket or your bag. 3,500! Yikes!|
We thought about it long and hard. Yes we did. We don't often think about things this long or this hard, because it hurts. But sometimes, cogitations are necessary. We wouldn't be here at Bookbag if we didn't love books but we knew that more and more people were enjoying ebooks. It was time to find out what it was really like to have up to 3,500 books in your pocket or your bag. 3,500! Yikes!
So we took the plunge and bought ourselves a Kindle each (the posh one, too). They've taken a long three years to find their way across the pond, but when you find out that Kindle books are outselling hardbacks stateside, there really wasn't any time to lose. We've bought some books, we've acquired some free classics. We've subscribed to some blogs and read some newspapers. We've even sent an email or two via our new and sexy technology. Here's what we think so far.
Like a child at Christmas, Jill was the first into print. She was also the only one to write in the first person. This may or may not indicate egomania, you'll have to make up your own minds about that!
Our original comments are general, but also relate to the original Kindle release. Read all the way through for an update on the newer, lighter, cheaper model!
After the usual weeping, wailing and renting of clothes that follows any purchase of new technology hereabouts, I'm rather pleased with my Kindle.
Connectivity was the initial problem: out here in the wilds, there's no 3G of course, and our house only finds GPRS if you hang out of a bedroom window. Meh. Then, my router refused to say hi to my new toy. Cue the weeping, wailing and renting of clothes. Eventually, the router was beaten into acquiescence, and I was away.
The good: love the e-ink display, the reading experience generally, the ability to organise books into collections, and the speed at which purchases are delivered. The comments function is particularly super, especially from a reviewer's perspective. Virtual dog-ears and margin notes are much better than real ones. I like the availability of free classics - so I can keep a mini-library of the old and the new with me at all times. I fantasise that I'm Jean Luc Picard, on board the starship Enterprise, exploring galaxies unknown, but spending my ready room breaks reading Dante and Hardy. Cool, huh? Well, perhaps not...
The bad: I made the shocking discovery that e-books are subject to VAT so they're not actually that cheap, despite all the warehousing and supply chain savings. How annoying is that? Lots of new books aren't available. Meh. Hurry up publishers! You don't want to come the kind of cropper suffered by the music industry, do you? How do I lend a Kindle book to a friend? I heard a rumour that this facility is coming, but I think it should be here now. I always pass on my books and the inability to do that at present is a big drawback.
So, I've managed the connecting, the buying of books, and the reading. I shall now embark on the news, the blogs, the net browsing and all the other clever things Kindles are able to do. For my report on that though, you will simply have to wait.
Keith's an inveterate fiddler. Yes, yes: the e-ink looks gorgeous and it's surprisingly pleasant to read books on it, but what else does it do? Treat it as a basic internet browser in your pocket, and it's a useful backup to have. The browsing is a little slow to navigate, and it sometimes locks up when it can't get a connection, but a large number of websites are surprisingly usable on it. Given that it's listed as an experimental feature, we can but hope an improved browsing experience will be along in future.
In certain situations, it can replace a printer - just transfer or email a document to the Kindle and you've got what you need with you, without having to waste paper. The ability to do basic editing would be nice, but the notes feature means you can still add text to your work in a manner of speaking.
Keith also gorged on free books, not just from Amazon, but also rummaging through all that's available on Project Gutenberg, particularly enjoying The Miracle Mongers, An Exposé by Harry Houdini and The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue - because who doesn't enjoy looking up rude words in the dictionary?
Calibre is a useful piece of software to have to manage your ebooks, particularly if you're not just getting everything direct from Amazon. It also allows you to download news sources too - The Guardian, for example, isn't available on subscription yet, so getting it via Calibre or browsing via the web are your best bets at the moment. If Keith ever gets some of that much vaunted free time thing (so you might be waiting a while), then he's going to look into generating an ebook of the latest Bookbag reviews, or even of all Bookbag reviews. If you'd be interested in such a thing, do please get in touch with us.
As Keith recently spent far too long carting far too many books far too far across the country, simply being able to pop them all in his pocket (bar the few books that have particular sentimental value) would have been a dream. Ebook readers are the future, but that's not to say the paper book is dead. Much like Jill, Keith is curious to see if the book industry makes similar mistakes to the music industry. Everyone wants to see authors duly rewarded for their work, but one way or another people will end up with the library they want in their pocket, at a price they're comfortable with. What the solution is, we really don't know, but we're certainly interested to see how it all plays out.
Sue's not exactly a Luddite, but she was into her seventh decade of book reading and didn't really see any reason to make a change. Add to this that she has problems using her hands (her orthopaedic surgeon refers to them as very interesting) and the fact that new technology has to be explained to her in words of one syllable it looked as though her Kindle might be underused. Two days - and two eBooks (one of which was a freebie: Blood Lines by Grace Monroe) - later she was asking why people persisted with 'those old-fashioned book things' and wondering if she could somehow get all her review copies onto her Kindle.
She hasn't picked up all the other features as quickly as Jill and Keith but has the advantage that those ooh, look at this! moments have lasted for far longer. The Kindle is intuitive – far more so than many a computer of her acquaintance and she's slightly shocked at how quickly she's come to think of it as a real alternative to paper books.
Update October 2011
The Kindle is now smaller, lighter and - hooray! - cheaper than when we first wrote this article. It's tiny! The footprint is slightly smaller than an average paperback and it's as light as a feather - 170g or 6 ounces in old money. The space has been saved mostly by getting rid of the keyboard and relying on the five-way control pad for navigation - a wise move in our opinion. Page turns are slightly quicker and Amazon say there have been improvements in the e-ink. We have to admit that our old and haggard eyes aren't noticing much of a difference, but we thought the first stuff was great, so this isn't a criticism. Syncing books between devices was easy peasy.
We'll confess we'd rather have seen the Kindle Touch or the Kindle Fire available this side of the pond for Christmas 2011, but even so, we think this e-reader is a bargain at £89, even if it doesn't have the style or panache of the iPad and its bookstore. The tie to a trusted retailer is a big plus for us, too.
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You comments are interesting and illuminating and totally trustworthy (unlike some of those of the eulogising Yanks!!), but methinks the dead tree version is the one I'll go for until the problems vis a vis authors' and their just dues get sorted out. A lot of money is being made somewhere! judging by Jill's comments on the price of books.
Bonnita from South Africa