Sunday, January 23, 2011

On the Pros and Cons of My Kindle

Like many thousands (millions?) of others, I recently received (at my request) a Kindle during this last holiday season. When it comes to technology, I am generally not an early adopter. I like to wait until the kinks and bumps are worked out, and mostly I like to wait until the price comes down. I never envisioned this little piece of hardware as replacing my book collection, but I could see its advantages. I was ready.

Having just completed my first Kindle book, I pass along my initial observations—the pros and cons, as I see them, compared to reading a “real” book. I should confess that I haven’t yet explored all the Kindle’s capabilities. Note that I am not comparing the Kindle to other e-reading devices (can it show things in color)or even considering it’s other uses, such as reading magazines or newspapers. This is Kindle Pros and Cons 101.

The Basic Pros

Size and weight—the new Kindle, even with a hard cover to protect it, weighs about the same as the average paperback but is smaller in dimension. It can fit easily into a small purse.

Capacity—there is no contest here. The Kindle can hold thousands of books. When it comes to travelling, I know which one I will take with me.

Instant ordering—No longer do I have to go into a store to purchase a book or order online and wait. The book I want is mine with a few keystrokes (as long as I have a wi-fi connection for which I don’t have to pay extra). The process of purchasing a book was unbelievably easy, even the first time I tried it. (Possible con—danger of over-ordering.)

Ability to change typesize—I hadn’t thought about this one before, but as my eyes age, the ability to change the size of the type is a Godsend, especially in low light conditions. The type is no longer blurry, reminding me that I might be ready for reading glasses.

Durability—The hard cover that my family so thoughtfully purchased with my Kindle acts as a shell to protect it from wear and tear. When I carry paperbacks around, the inevitably become dog-eared.

Ease of turning pages—A minimal amount of energy is require to turn pages forward or back—just as well since with the larger typeface, I need to turn pages every few seconds.

Keeping your place—When I reboot the Kindle, it always remembers where I last left off. For some reason, I am lazy about bookmarks and often forget where I am in book.

The Basic Cons

Lack of ease of browsing—Not having that great a memory, I like to refer back to people and incidents more than a few pages back. Although the Kindle allows for specific searches, provides a highlighter option, and no doubt other mechanisms that could help, it doesn’t allow for an organic search.

Lack of page numbers—The pages of a Kindle book do not correspond to the pages of the paper version. Instead, the Kindle informs you what percent of the book you have completed. Percents are all very well, but 10% of a 100 page book is very different from 10% of a 1000 page book. I want a sense of how long this book is going to occupy me. A little research onto the website will let me see the book’s actual page length, but it’s another piece of research.

Lack of a unique cover—Silly, maybe, but I like the distinctiveness of each book’s cover that keeps me rooted in what I am reading. In my first Kindle adventure, I was not familiar with the author, and it wasn’t until I finished the book that I read about her. I still can’t remember her name because the book isn’t sitting on my coffee table reminding me.

Battery operated—In its favor, the Kindle is a battery powerhouse. I read a whole book without any suggestion that the battery was low, but I was nevertheless aware that it could run out at an inconvenient moment. Of course, the solution is to keep it charged up for those long trips. But still, it’s one more thing to think about.

The effect of a lit screen on sleep—My unscientific observation is that the Kindle might disturb my ability to get to sleep. I have learned that I cannot work at my computer within an hour and a half of lights out. The week I read my Kindle novel, I had a hard time getting to sleep. Was that the excitement of the particular novel I was reading that got my juices flowing, or was it the electronic screen? Or was something else going on in my constitution? I wil need to try out my theory out with a less engrossing book.

The expense of loss—No one likes to lose a book, but losing a Kindle (or having it stolen) would be quite heartbreaking.

Lack of permanence—Despite the Kindle’s prodigious capacity, at some point I will want to eliminate titles. Maybe this act will be no worse than giving away or selling books, but there is something sad about blowing a book into cyberspace where no one else can enjoy it.

Despite my equal number of pros and cons, the pros definitely carry more weight, with capacity and typeface control winning the day. As with any new gadget, over time I will see how indispensable my Kindle will become and whether there will come a day when I cannot imagine my life without it. For now my immediate challenge is to decide what to order next for my upcoming trip. But while at home, I think I need to spend the next few years catching up with all the unread books on my shelves.

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