Posts Tagged ‘ereaders’

The Amazon Kindle: Initial Impressions

July 13, 2010 @ 9:13 pm | Filed under:

To cut to the chase: a Kindle has come into my possession, and I’m surprised to find I adore it. That’s right, Mac-fangirl, iPad-coveting me.

After a mere four days of Kindle use, I find myself eyeing the stacks of books in the TBR pile and wishing I had their digital versions instead.

This feels passing strange, considering how much I love the tactile aspects of a book-book. The intriguing or unsuitable cover, the shush of pages rustling, the crisp words springing up from the page. Font, margin, endpapers: these things I cherish.

But: the Kindle—it’s so slim and smooth in the hand, and one hand is enough. Tap, tap, tap, a single thumb—either thumb, a detail I appreciate—advances the pages. Three chapters into a book about Sudan, I find myself wanting some background; I nudge the little square button and make my way, lightning-quick, to Google or Wikipedia. (How much saner I’d have been had I read the recent Byatt book this way instead.) Dickens makes me laugh, and I want to share the passage with Scott: chk chk, I’ve highlighted the quote and added a note of my own.

The Dickens was free, of course, and easy to find.

Unlike my iPod Touch, I can’t read the Kindle in the dark. But any book I download to the Kindle can be sent to the Touch as well, and there’s a sync function to make sure my bookmark is always in the right spot.

When I first turned the Kindle on, I was disappointed. The contrast is not terrific; the background of the page is gray, not white, not the creamy color my Touch can produce. Oh dear, I thought, this is going to be a bust. My eyes require good contrast. I drive Scott crazy by wearing down my laptop battery with the screen turned always to maximum bright.

But I wasn’t sitting in good light during that first encounter. I upped the font size and moved to a sunny corner, and I could read just fine. Under a lamp or reading light, it’s the same as reading a real book.

(I will always call them real books, you know.)

When I read on my iPod, the device seldom ceases calling attention to itself. I’ve written before about feeling curiously distant from the text of a book-on-iPod. Is it the small screen? The backlighting? Whatever the cause,  I have to concentrate harder. That isn’t happening with the Kindle. The Kindle disappears. There’s just the unfolding story. I’d heard people say that, but I was skeptical. It’s true. It disappears—until the moment I desire its presence. I really love that note-and-highlight function.

The iPod Touch is a brilliant multitasker. You know I love its versatility: mail, web, games, books, language lessons, social networks, videos, good grief is there anything it can’t do? Well, it seems it can’t stop nibbling at my attention, that’s what. I’m reading a book but I know I can do a quick mail check with two taps. Temptations. Distractions.

The Kindle’s web browser is boring black-and-white, not at all tempting. It’s a unitasker, and that’s what this fidgety brain of mine needs in order to focus on a book. A real book is a single-purpose tool. (Unless you count serving as the dominant element of my home’s interior design.)

These are just notes on the honeymoon phase of the Kindle experience. The novelty may wear off quickly; we’ll see. I have all these lovely realbooks here waiting to be read. Real books with no DRM attached—that’s a major strike against the Kindle, when it comes to newer publications, the kind you actually pay for. And of course with a great many children’s books (picture books go without saying), you want to turn real pages, pages your four-year-old can point at and and pore over.

For classics, though? And thinking as a homeschooler? There’s a lot to recommend a cool, slim, ten-ounce tablet that can put any of the Great Books before your children’s eyes in a matter of seconds. As for new books, even if you can’t live with DRM-laden purchases, you gotta love the free download of first chapters to help you decide what to buy, in any form.

Well, we’ll see how long the honeymoon lasts.