Kindle-ing Interest

I got my hands on a Kindle this week.

For those who don’t know, the Kindle is Amazon’s eBook Reader.  The Kindle is lightweight and boasts that you can carry hundreds/thousands of books in one little tablet.  Quite a deal.  It’s also got wireless so you can do some web browsing or purchase your books while on the go.  eBooks and Readers are a big deal in the Academic world right now so we bought a handful of them here at Luther and offered them up for testing.

I’ll admit I went into this with skepticism.  Never once have I thought ‘Gee, I’d like to curl up next to the fire with a nice LCD screen’.  I gave the Kindle to Steph first and let her read a couple of books before I did any testing.  She and I agreed on most everything.

The Pros

  • Readability: I was pleasantly surprised by how easy and natural it was to read the text on the screen.  I thought that I’d be straining or struggling to pick out the words but it was nice.  You can also adjust the font size which is helpful for those with bad eyes.
  • Size: It’s small and easy to carry.  Lightweight too.
  • Text to Voice: This garnered some interest before with concerns about public readings, etc.  All garbage.  The feature is pretty well done though.  It still has the robotic/non-feeling tone but it moves a lot faster than any other text-to-voice reader I’ve used in the past.
  • A Thousand Books in Hand: That little device held a couple of dozen books with plenty of room left over for more.  If I was going on a long vacation, something like this would kick ass over lugging around half a dozen books (and I tend to read big books, not thin ones).  So right there is a big bonus.

The Cons

  • Reading:  It’s actually kind of a pain to read with a Kindle.  Steph’s first comment was that she didn’t know what to do with her hands.  Most folks hold a book on either side or in the center.  That’s hard to do with a Kindle because the sides are where the Next/Prev Page buttons are and it’s awkward to hold in the center.
  • The Screen: In relation to the above, the default screen is portrait.  For ease of reading, you can turn it to Landscape or even upside down.  Both of these come with their own problems such as how do you hold the Kindle?  Awkward through and through.  Hands down, the iPad and its instant rotation has this beat.
  • The Controls: Flat out, that little joystick fails.  I’m an experienced user and it annoyed the hell out of me.  Just let me tap the screen, damnit.
  • Losing Your Place: At one point, I did something (hell if I know what) and I was back at the main menu.   I had to Next Page through the first 20 pages to get to my spot.  If I’d just dropped my book on the floor, it would have taken me just a couple of seconds to find my place.
  • Taking Notes: The feature is there but it’s not a spur of the moment thing.  Again, a pain to deal with.
  • Can’t Loan It Out: Want to share a book with a friend?  Give them your Kindle  and forget about using it until they’re done.  Thank you Digital Rights Management!  Or buy an extra device at $250, register it to your credit card, and *then* share books.

Working in an Academic environment, I see what the students are lugging about and hear their complaints about the cost.  This is where I see some room for eReaders to have a positive effect.  Colleges could bulk purchase readers, load them up with core books, and sell them off to their students.  Do it in large enough volume and you might just save your students a bunch of money along with a couple of forests.

Of course, one has to face the facts that eBooks are not going to be cheaper just because they are not physical.  It’s simply not the case.  Rather than rehash that territory, check out the links in my previous post on Amazon vs Macmillan or Charlie Stross’ How Books Are Made (hell, read it anyways because its good).

Overall Verdict? Not buying one.

eBooks are the wave of the future.  I can see that.  They aren’t going to take off though until there is an reader that makes them worth reading.  The Kindle hasn’t done that.  Barnes and Noble’s Nook?  Maybe.  It’s specs claim to be better but I’ll withhold judgment until I get my hands on one.  Same with the iPad from Apple.  That is a completely different beast.

And until we do find that right reader, well, just give me a dead tree book any day of the week.