Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Me and my Kindle...

Well, I am back to blogging after a hiatus forced by two events. The first was receiving my Kindle from Amazon.com, and the second by the realization that the country I love is slipping and sliding into third worldism, but this merits a different entry.

Let’s start with the Kindle. It has been several years since I read about this gadget. The bibliophile in me greeted the news of an electronic book with mixed emotion. I love books, their texture, smell, covers, pages, ink and just the feeling of opening a book for the first time. Of course this emotional attachment has led to four bookcases full with double rows of books, several piles on the floor, half a closet full of books, and an additional 20 volumes on my night table, just in case I wake up in the middle of the night and need to peruse. This doesn’t take into consideration the additional 200 books I have in my place in Florida.

Having established my credentials as a book lover; a couple of weeks ago I decided that the time has come to buy a Kindle, and on impulse I went to Amazon, clicked the purchase icon and three days later a box no larger than a book arrived at my home. I opened it with anticipation and sure enough, here was a white tablet with a screen. I looked at it with a guilty conscience. It almost felt as if I was cheating on my books. What had I done? Centuries of printing presses, ink manufacturing, converting trees into pulp, manufacturing ink, bookbinding, all gone and replaced by zeroes and ones in a binary code, and a bunch of computer chips. My lips moved in a silent apology to Guttenberg as I plugged my new toy into the electric outlet and charged it for the first time. I began reading the instruction on the screen.

An hour later the Kindle was fully charged and I went book shopping in the kitchen. I was greeted by 250,000 volumes that comprise the Amazon list of books available for Kindle. Thousand of those books are available for free, and the rest range in price from 30 cents to $ 14.95. NY Times bestsellers sell for $ 9.99.

I saw the title of a book that I was interested in reading, and I clicked on try a sample. Seconds later the first chapter of the book was in my Kindle. I sat down to read this sample. The letters were too small, so I selected a larger font and realized how comfortable it was to read with a font size determined by me. The format of the page had not changed. I read that chapter, but did not buy the book. I downloaded several other samples until I found a book that I wanted to purchase. I clicked buy, and in about thirty seconds my new book was downloaded. Since the book was On Human Bondage, by Somerset Maugham, and not a current bestseller the cost was 0.99 cents. Reading an old British novel allowed me to use another two wonderful features of the Kindle. The first was the built in dictionary. One clicks on a word and the complete definition appears on the screen. You need more information, and the Kindle takes you to Wikipedia. This is absolutely wonderful. It takes seconds to see definitions and information, eliminating the distraction of having to fetch a dictionary and look for a particular word.

The screen of the Kindle is different from a computer screen, and it requires light to read. This reproduces more the feeling of reading on paper and prevents the eye fatigue that one gets from spending hours reading on a computer screen. For music lovers, Kindle allows you to download mp.3 files so that you can listen to your favorite music while you read. If you are driving or feel like closing you eyes, then you can use the “text-to-speech” figure and have the kindle read to you with a male of female voice. This feature has managed to improve dramatically the quality of the sound, eliminating many of the mechanical sounds produced by text-to-voice on computers. No question that this will revolutionize reading for the blind.

I also enjoyed the fact that Kindle allows you to bookmark, add notes and highlight paragraphs. All this is then stored in the home menu, allowing the reader to find a page or a highlighted item in seconds.

Finally, Kindle allows subscriptions to magazines, blogs and newspapers from around the world. The NY Times sells for $ 13.95 a month and the Washington Post for $ 9.99. Others are cheaper. The papers and magazines are downloaded automatically and they arrive hours before the print edition hits the stand. I love the idea of sitting in a bus or the subway reading the paper without having to disturb my neighbors every time I change pages, and arriving at my destination without ink I my fingers.

As a former educator, I think that this machine should replace textbooks. A child could get all the required books for the school year on the first day of classes and not have to carry the heavy loads they are currently carrying. Furthermore, school districts could save millions buying electronic books. An average textbook cost today around $ 65.00, and an Advanced Placement book can go for as high as $ 120.00.

Do I recommend the Kindle? Definitely. Am I getting rid of my books? Definitely not.

If you have any questions about this gadget, put them in to comments and I will respond.


John said...

Enjoyed your post about Kindle! Good for you getting a Kindle! If I didn't have so much debt, I would certainly buy one! (one of these days!)

It's nice to read an honest review from a blogger buddy that you know isn't some shill.

Thanks for sharing the info about the Kindle! I agree too (never thought or heard about it before you) that it should replace textbooks! What a great idea!

Enjoy...even though some of us will be envious!

Mario M. said...

Don't be envious. Prices will come down, and then everyone will have one.

I remember paying $ 2000 for a VCR the size of a suitcase.