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Friday
Jan282011

Electric Bookland

The following post may sound like a commercial, but it is pure, unpaid enthusiasm.

I got a Kindle for my birthday.  Whoopee!  I had been wanting to try an e-reader, but didn't know whether I'd actually end up liking it.  After nearly three months, the verdict is in: I love, dahling.  Here's why:

1) I love owning and re-reading books.  And, while we have hundreds of board feet of built-in bookshelves in our house, we have literally thousands of books.  I go through them regularly and winnow out the non-keepers to donate to the library, or to abandon in good BookCrossing style, but still.  We have many, many books, slightly more, it seems, than we have shelves for.

With my Kindle, physical space is obviously not a problem.  It has tons of memory and an even larger remote archive.  I can re-read books I've purchased whenever I like.

2) I love the sensual aspects of books.  I like the feel of the paper.  I like breaking in a new binding.  I love the smell of books, old books especially.  But traditional books do have some limitations.  They're bulky; whether I'm packing for a trip or just heading to the car for extended chauffeuring-kids-to-lessons sessions, books take up room.

Not the Kindle!  It is slim and light and fits easily in my purse, computer case, or knitting bag.  It also sits quite nicely on the little ledge on my treadmill.

3) On the subject of knitting, I have often wished I could read and knit at the same time.  There's no way to do this with regular books, though, unless you have either four hands or a minion of some sort.  Some knitters achieve the dream of combining knitting with books by listening to audiobooks while they work, but that doesn't work so well in my kid-filled circumstances.  

It's easy-peasy to knit with the Kindle on my lap, though.  I press one of the page turn buttons with either of my pinkies, depending on whether I'm knitting or purling at the moment, and it works great.  

4) Traditional books don't do so well in the bathtub.  They get a bit wrinkly with all the humidity.  It's tricky to turn the pages without getting them wet.  And sometimes the books get splashed or outright dropped.  Nightmare!

But check this out.  Get a gallon-sized zipper lock bag from your kitchen drawer.  Put your Kindle inside and zip the bag closed.  Take your leisurely bath and read as long as you like, secure in the knowledge that your reading material is safe.  Bliss!

5) If you're like me, you use reference materials on a regular basis.  I study scriptures daily.  I look up words in dictionaries or in the thesaurus.  I refer back to favorite passages of inspiring material, like those same scriptures or The War of Art, whenever I need a little jump start.  

I love having all of these essential reference materials on my Kindle, instantly accessible and searchable.  The better version of the scriptures one can buy for the Kindle isn't perfect: it doesn't have footnotes and cross-references.  But it will do just fine when I'm on the road.

6) When I'm reading, especially for Book Group, I like to underline or annotate.  But that means I have to have a pencil and/or sticky notes at my fingertips, which is a bit of a pain.  

With the Kindle, I can easily highlight a reference and make a comment on it.  These annotations are instantly available as a menu item, so when I want to refer to a certain passage during our Book Group discussion, for example, I don't have to page through and try to spot it.  I press a button, and it's before me.

7) Reading requires light--the bedside lamp; the car's dome light; the airplane reading light.  But the bedside lamp might disturb your bedfellow.  The dome light or your seat's reading light on the plane may burn out.  Bummer.

But my thoughtful, genius husband, when he bought my Kindle, also bought it a pretty (and sturdy) red leather case with a built-in reading light.  It pops out at just the right angle to illuminate the page perfectly. Recently, I sat snuggled up by a roaring fire in our living room, cozy on the couch with only the fire and my booklamp glowing.  Perfect.

And in the sun?  No glare.  One of my concerns about getting an e-reader was that the screen would be like that of a computer.  But the Kindle's screen is perfectly matte.  In fact, when I opened it the first time, I assumed there was a sticker covering the screen.  What I was seeing, however, was the actual screen with a cool graphic screen saver on it.  Impressive, right off the bat.

8) In the past, when I heard or read about a book and wanted to read it, I'd keep a list in a notebook.  More recently, I'd go to Amazon and either buy the title or put it on my wishlist, so that I'd remember it later.  

With the Kindle, I have the dangerous blessing of instant gratification.  The other day, for example, I read an online Wall Street Journal article about Amy Chua and her best-selling memoir, The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.  I was intrigued and felt I had the time to read it that very day.  Sixty seconds later, I had downloaded it (at a much lower cost than the hardcover would have run) and begun reading.  By the end of the day, I had finished the book (and knit several inches of a scarf).

Impulse satisfied--and I'm so glad I did.  I loved the book.  (You should all read it so that we can discuss it.)

I certainly won't do this every time I read an interesting article about a book, but I already have a sizeable wish list on my Kindle that will come in handy when I want something new to read.

Plus, there are nearly two million free, public domain books I can download.  All of Jane Austen.  All of Charles Dickens.  Don Quixote.  Moby Dick.  You could get through nearly the entire Well-Educated Mind curriculum without ever spending a penny.

9) With a regular book, it's easy to lose my place.  I'll get up from reading to go do something, and the cat will sit on the book.  Or one of the kids will idly flip through it.  Or the baby will steal my bookmark and start chewing on it.  And when I come back, I've got to figure out where I was.

The Kindle saves my place automatically.  No matter how many books I'm reading at once, I can shuffle between them and always be right where I want to be.

10) You can email yourself all kinds of reading material.  Magazines.  Manuscripts.  Knitting patterns.  PDFs of anything at all--and you can keep them in PDF format or convert them instantly to Kindle format.  

In fact, I think I'll email myself a copy of my cookbook, just so I can have it in my Kindle archive for emergency situations.  Like, if I come to your house, and we want to make Brookies or Chocolate Drop (Mostly) Dead Cookies, and the internet is down so that you can't get to my blog, and you have kindly lent your copy of Comfortably Yum to the widow who lives next door and can't afford her own copy.  It'll be okay!  We can still bake, because I'll have my Kindle with me!  

I can see that happening.  Can't you?

Reader Comments (11)

I've been on the verge of buying a Kindle for a while now. Almost thou pushest me over the edge...

January 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

My non-reader husband was given a Kindle as a gift by his boss...score for me! I'll have to try the gallon ziplock bag in the tub. That is a great idea!

January 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeffalump

You make me want one even more! I love all the advantages you've mentioned. So, do you have the 3G or the "regular"? But you have the smaller one, yes? And if so, do you still get true pages?

January 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenna Consolo

I had my doubts about an e-reader too. Then, my 13 year-old requested a Kindle for Christmas. After helping her set it up, I wished it was mine. My birthday is in May. Fingers crossed...

January 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelessa

Jenna, it's the "regular," and it's the smaller one. I don't think I get true pages, but that hasn't bothered me. LOVE!

January 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterLuisa Perkins

I wonder about its fruity "competition." Can't imagine the iPad is a better reading device overall...

January 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbc

I've been waffling on this but having read your eloquent post I am SOLD baby.

January 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly

hmm you give some very convincing arguments that I had not thought about yet. I like the fact that we do not have 4 hands ;)

January 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGoofball

I love the *FREE* Kindle app that I downloaded to my iPhone for all of the same reasons. I am NEVER without a book to read! LOVE!

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCharrette

What a thoughtful gift from a very thoughtful husband! :) So glad you love it.

February 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterP

I use kindle on my iPhone and iPad. I love it.

February 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKazzy

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