September 2, 2008

Four Months, Two Books, and a Weekly Magazine

Turning on the Kindle I’ve had my Kindle ebook reader for just about four months now, and as I suspected, the amount of book reading I’m doing is going up. I know two books doesn’t sound like a lot and some people read that in a week, but for me, this is a big difference. Before the Kindle, I think I’d finished two books in two years, both when I was away on vacation. And even though most people may read books more during the summer, I tend to read fewer, as I’m working and playing outside a lot more. In fact, during the summer I tend to start multiple books and finish none of them.

But the Kindle is changing this, mainly because I’m using my daily commute and other travel times to integrate reading books back into my routine. I’m reading less online and more on the Kindle. I’ve tried carrying books back and forth, but the awkwardness and weight just hasn’t worked well for me. Plus, I like options, so I like to alternate between books and magazines, which just adds to the weight. On the Kindle, I have fiction, nonfiction, and Newsweek, so I always have something to match my mood. And when I needed (okay, wanted) a new title last week, I was able to add it to the Kindle in about one minute. I do take advantage of free ebooks, too. It’s like having the stack of reading material that normally piles up by the bed with me all the time.

Kindle I especially like having Newsweek automagically appear on the device at the beginning of each week. I stopped subscribing to the print version years ago because I couldn’t keep up with it, but for the grand total of $18 per year, I can get this eco-friendly, text-only version every week. I do miss the pictures, but I read it much faster and more often now. In fact, having a weekly current events magazine on the Kindle is changing my expectations of what I should be able to do with an ezine. I’ve found myself routinely disappointed that I can’t email snippets to friends directly from my highlights on the device. It makes no sense to me that something that has a keyboard and is already on the celullar network can’t do this, but I’m sure this will change in the future. I certainly expect it to.

Overall, I’m really enjoying carrying around a library of current reading with me, but there are a few things I really dislike about the Kindle. The biggest issue is the placement of the navigation buttons. It’s just too damn easy to accidentally hit the “next page” or “previous page” buttons. And there have been a few times I’ve missed having a backlit screen, although the clarity of the screen in the sun is still one of the biggest advantages. There’s a slight flicker of the screen when I “turn pages,” but I’ve gotten used to it pretty quickly. My one concern is how well I’ll be able to find text I “highlighted” six months or a year from now. Only time will tell.

I’m torn about the proprietary nature of the device, even as I want more content for it. A few of the titles I’ve thought about buying recently didn’t have Kindle versions, so I didn’t get them. That’s not to say I didn’t order other titles as physical items since they’d work better in that format anyway. And luckily, a lot of the new titles I want to read are available for the Kindle, whereas they’re not available in other ebook formats. Still, I would much rather do without the DRM, and I’d still happily pay for my ebooks (“Dear Publishers and Amazon…”).

I’m ticked that I can’t check out Kindle titles from my library, but then I don’t use my library much for print books, either (partially due to the weight factors I mentioned earlier, but also because of some arcane policies they have on new titles).

So overall, I give the Kindle a B+. Rumor has it that some of the problems will be fixed in version 2, although I doubt I’ll upgrade. For my needs (and YMMV), the revolutionary content delivery system (titles just magically appear) and the convenience far outweigh the annoyances. I can really sense the future of on-demand content with this device, and I think we’re only a few years away from a viable system that lets the user pick and choose granular content from disparate resources that can be downloaded from the cloud to a mobile device instantaneously.

Once in a while I miss the paper, but I’m looking forward to taking the Kindle with me on international trips, and I hope it makes it that much easier for me to read multiple titles while away. I also hope to delve into some of the hacks to make my Kindle do more, but I haven’t had time for that yet. I’ll report back again at the beginning of the year to see if I’m still happy with the device and if my book reading is still increasing.

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13 Comments

  1. My question is: how long does the battery last? Under steady usage?

    Comment by bibliotecaria — September 3, 2008 @ 7:21 am

  2. I’ve been very happy with the battery so far, recharging it about once a week. I only turn on the wireless when I know I’ll be receiving content, though. I also keep the Kindle in sleep mode almost all the time, rarely turning it off. This doesn’t seem to drain the battery all that much, and it means I can start reading right away.

    I’m sure that if I was reading more hours in the day that I would probably have to charge it twice a week instead of just once.

    Comment by jenny — September 3, 2008 @ 7:43 am

  3. I bought my wife and I a Kindle at the end of May. No lie, I have read 22 books (mostly fiction) on the thing this summer. My reading has gone WAY up. Battery has been no problem. Mine has frozen 2x, it cleared with a hard reset (little button back that you have to insert a paperclip). I hear DO NOT let the battery go all the way down, and I never have.

    My wife’s screen died, and Amazon sent a replacement overnight. Their customer service is awesome on the Kindle. Put your phone number into Kindle customer support website and they call back immediately.

    Overall, I would give the Kindle 5 out of 5 stars and I’m not an easy grader. Rumor mill has it that a new Kindle will be out soon, I am guessing they are going to upgrade the graphics capability and maybe add color? Hope that does not hurt the battery life. I am flying to Europe soon, not even worried that the Kindle battery wont make the trip, now it lasts 4 days or so (with the wireless off).

    Cheers,
    ~art spanjer

    Comment by Art Spanjer — September 3, 2008 @ 2:22 pm

  4. I have been thinking about getting a Kindle for my 84-year old Mama for Christmas, because her vision is poor and most large print books in the local library are fluff. She is a retired professor and likes to read current nonfiction, which almost NEVER comes out in a timely way in large print. I am wondering if the labels on the keyboard are too low-contrast for someone with some vision limitations?

    Comment by Carisse Berryhill — September 3, 2008 @ 9:35 pm

  5. Are the books of her choice available in Kindle format? If so, go for it! Although more and better nonfiction is beginning to come out in large print, it is still the popular type of nonfiction.

    I buy large print books for a mid-sized public library, and I see the field changing rapidly as the number of readers grows. Your mother is not alone in wanting more intellectual stimulation.

    To watch the field, you can try http://www.gale.com/thorndike and http://www.centerpointlargeprint.com

    All the best– Holly

    Comment by Holly — September 4, 2008 @ 3:55 am

  6. Retired. Writing the second book. Heavy reader of non-fiction and a steady reader of fiction. Kindle owner for six weeks. Still evaluating but a few hard pluses and minuses have emerged. First it is the closest I have seen to de-mystifying an e-gadget. Congratulations to the designers, but they are still not there. Hand this package to any computer illiterate (yes, the market is loaded with these) and I doubt they could get it going by themselves. And, I haven’t yet found a way to hold it without accidentally firing a page turner button.

    That said, I am deeply pleased with the weight,size, screen, font choices, ability to load it with my and others manuscripts. That email system they offer for loading personal files is smashing good. The user’s manual has so much information and useful surprises that it is a must-read to get anywhere near the full value of the Kindle. Among all the good things I leave unspoken, I have to at least applaud Kindle Customer Service–first class.

    Comment by Mac Laird — September 4, 2008 @ 2:16 pm

  7. I’ve owned my Kindle since Christmas. I have always been a heavy reader but arthritis in my hands was hindering me from holding a book – even a paperbook. The Kindle was a totally positive answer. I have allowed my battery to go all the way down – the battery will still drain slowly when you have it turned off – but I re-charged it and no problem. There are some relativly minor changes I would make in the design but overall, I give the Kindle an A-. By the way, I am a retired librarian.

    Comment by Faye — September 9, 2008 @ 8:55 pm

  8. I’m interested in reading books on the Kindle but I also want to be able to read all those pesky pdfs that I need to read. Can you read pdfs on it? Is it easy to get them on there?

    Comment by Nancy — September 11, 2008 @ 10:28 am

  9. Nancy, I am hoping to be able to comment on the PDF ability in my next update. I haven’t done it yet, but I know you can manually convert PDFs to the right format and then put them on the device, or you can email the file to Amazon and they’ll do the conversion and uploading to your Kindle for ten cents. Pretty sweet. That’s how I loaded “Little Brother” by Cory Doctorow.

    Like you, though, I think I’ll be carrying PDF reports around this way, and maybe even printing long web articles to PDF for the conversion. It will make life so much easier.

    Comment by jenny — September 11, 2008 @ 7:26 pm

  10. Soooooo……what applications (if any) do you see for Kindles/e-books in general in libraries?????

    Comment by Sassy — September 19, 2008 @ 11:09 am

  11. […] in a recent post on the Amazon Kindle, Jenny Levine talks about how her reading habits have changed post-Kindle, and notes that […]

    Pingback by The Liminal Librarian » Blog Archive » The bookless librarian — September 19, 2008 @ 11:29 am

  12. Actually, Sassy, I don’t see any at this point, because the license prevents libraries from using them. If Amazon was smart, it would work with libraries to get people hooked on the Kindle, but they don’t seem to be aware of how libraries help introduce technology to users.

    Comment by jenny — September 21, 2008 @ 9:22 am

  13. […] Jenny Levine, Four Months, Two Books, and a Weekly Magazine […]

    Pingback by The 541 diary » Blog Archive » Too busy to post : ( — March 23, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

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