Monday, December 20, 2010

Early Christmas Present: Kindle Review

I have mentioned many times on this blog that I am a voracious reader. Primarily Fantasy novels (typically series) but also historical romances, some murder mysteries (JD Robb) and the occasional contemporary book. I buy many books in hard cover and have already filled our 14 foot bookshelf in the 2 years since we had it built. Needless to say, it is an expensive hobby but worth it for me because I often re-read books, especially if a new one in the series just came out. No, I haven’t tackled the 13 previous Robert Jordan books when the 14th one came out because even I have a breaking point! But I will probably read the whole series again when the last (supposedly) book comes out next year (supposedly). However, I digress.

I’ve been toying with getting a Kindle for a while. The biggest sticking point for me is that many of my fantasy books do not come out on the eReader until several months after the hard cover has been published. Why? I have no freaking idea. I mean, the publishing company already has it formatted in Word or some other application, right? So how hard can it be to just published as an eBook? I started hinting to my husband that maybe a Kindle would be a good idea for my birthday which is in April. We were supposed to be finished with our Christmas shopping for each other. See what I did there? Drop hints about a birthday present right around Christmas? Yes, I’m devious.

Because we are traveling for the holidays, DH and I decided to do a small gift exchange this weekend. He pushed for it and I caved. What did he get me for Christmas? A Kindle! I’m convinced DH insisted on gifts early just so that I wouldn’t pack tons of books for our trip and force us to pay even more for checked luggage. He got me the 3G version and I’ve spent the past two days playing with it, downloading free samples, searching for my favorite authors and purchasing one book. Yes, just one…for now.

Let me start my review by saying I love my Kindle already. But a lot of what I am going to write here will seem negative. I’d love to have you weigh in if you have an eReader.

The Kindle is super easy to use. I was able to download a sample from a book without even looking at the directions. But as an iPhone user, I kept sliding my finger along the screen to get to the different areas of the page. Yes, Apple has corrupted me and I now expect every device to be interactive with a touch screen. I’m sure that is a future enhancement to the Kindle but it does take longer to navigate without it. The keys for typing are also pretty small and they are low and round which makes it a bit more difficult to type. Amazon would have been better served to copy Blackberry’s keyboard format (yes, I have a Blackberry for work too).

The screen is very easy to read and you can adjust the type font and size quickly. I have kept mine on the factory settings. Why mess with a good thing? That might change if I start downloading periodicals or magazines. I do wish the screen had a backlight for situations where the lighting is less than optimal. But something has to be sacrificed for the amazing battery power. I read for 2 hours last night and didn’t even make a dent in the batter power indicator. Another big plus is how light and small it is. I can easily tuck it in my purse and pull it out to read at any moment. Pure bliss for me.

Here are the really big negatives for me. First of all, is there some reason that most of the books cost the same as their in-store counterparts? The book I purchased was $7.99, the exact same I would pay (without my B&N discount card) in a store. It doesn’t take an MBA grad to know that that is fishy. No shipping, no paper, no binding…where exactly are my savings from buying this eBook? Is it the publishers being greedy or Amazon? Yes, I know that hard covers are typically less ($13.99 vs. $24.99) but I expect to see that same savings for paperback editions too! I don’t begrudge a slightly higher margin for publishers but charging the same as in-store makes me feel ripped off. I’m going to spend a lot more time on Amazon’s site to find books that are more affordable. I’ll provide an update to this review if I am successful.

The second big negative is one I’ve mentioned above. Most of my favorite books are not available as eBooks. Raymond Feist, Mercedes Lackey, Anne Bishop, David Eddings, etc. Only their most recent books are available in the Kindle store. I am aware that makes the most financial sense for Amazon and publishers but many of these books aren’t available at all in stores. So why not just convert them into eBooks and start generating more revenue? This might force me to branch out and read more contemporary books. I’m not opposed to that but I wish the Kindle store would offer more of the books I like.

There are lots of other features on Kindle that I don’t see myself using any time soon: comments on passages or articles that get posted to Facebook, note taking, etc. But for more tech-savvy users, I’m sure they are wonderful features. I'm also not sure that I really needed a 3G Kindle. We have wireless at home and it's available in many other locations. But I'm sure I will appreciate the convenience when I really need it. So, what do the rest of you think about the Kindle or other eReaders? Do any of you have the same complaints I do about eBook costs?


LauraC said...

There was a story on NPR recently about e-readers that made me less interested in getting one. The readers send information back to the company about pages read, how long you were on a page, etc. All companies refused to comment.

Wake County allows you to check out ebooks that are compatible with the Nook:

Not sure if Mecklenburg has something similar?

I am a library user and used book buyer so haven't been interested in an ereader yet.

LauraC said...

Looks like Mecklenburg uses the same distributor as Wake, which is not compatiable with Kindle (but IS compatible with Nook and Sony's ereader).

Not sure if you would want to switch?

Elizabeth said...

I have the Kindle and agree with the complaint about the cost of the books. BUT, there are a number of good free ones if you hit them right. I do think it's the publishers pushing the price as it normally indicates "price set by the publisher" when it seems out of whack. I have trouble with just a generic browse, I don't have any favorite authors and just like a good book to read with a good story. The samples are good for that, but it's hard to just browse for a good title or something that catches your eye like you can in a bookstore.

One HUGE plus for me - one handed reading and page turning. I've done a ton of reading while nursing and it's made it so much easier to turn pages with just a one handed click as opposed to holding a book or other type of two handed iphone type screen.

Merry Christmas!

Kassie said...

I've been thinking about getting one... still not sure. Thanks for the review.

Amanda said...

let me know what you think in 6 months, I am stuck on the fact that I love holding a book and I'm afraid I'll miss that

Mommy, Esq. said...

But who am I going to borrow books from now??