May 25 2008
SB Sarah wrote me and asked if I would think bad thoughts about her if she bought a Kindle. I said yes but if she agreed to write a review for me, I would think less bad thoughts. Here it is.
My introduction to eBooks came largely when I started reviewing romance novels, because damn holy crap there’s a lot of ebookin’ romances out there. Suddenly I was receiving PDFs and PRCs and some other thing with letters and whoa, nelly!
Then Jane started writing about ebook readers in such a seductive fashion that I had to pay attention because I am a complete gadget freak. It says something about the relative competition between the Ja(y)ne(t)(ia)(Jesus(Jehosephat))s and the Bitches that while our sites do all kinds of team building exercises to the point where we’d probably be better served forming some kind of task force or at least doing trust exercises where Jane jumps off a bed and we have to catch her with our toes or something, the ranting, raving, seething, hair pulling, eyes-blazing jealousy comes in when I know that Jane has ebook readers and iPhones and fondles them within my viewing. The raging geek envy, it knows no bounds.
It’s a fact universally established by me that I have a terrible memory and terrible vision. I’ve worn glasses (bifocals, beyotch!) since I was 2 years old. That is the only fact about my toddlerhood that I remember. So imagine my frustration. My present option for ebook reading was my Blackberry screen, which was all of this big –> . My external reader options included hacking an iPhone should I buy one (oh, how I lust for thee, sweet iPhone) or an eBook reader. But like the VHS/Beta debate, eBook reader manufacturers can’t seem to nail a format any better than ebook publishers can nail good cover art that depicts people nailing one another, and I’m left with a six-to-eight step process to get one ebook on my Blackberry. Used to be I was happy to hack my way through multiple steps. Now, I don’t have that kind of time.
This is where the Kindle excels. Yes, I am aware I am tying myself to Amazon and giving them a measure of control over my purchasing, my ebook ownership, and my choice of formats – in that I don’t have a choice of formats. The Amazon integration with the Kindle unit is so fan fucking tastic I am happy to give up that measure of control, just like I’m happy to strip naked and walk through security control at Newark Airport if it’ll just get me there quicker oh, my God, this line is six years long. It’s all about expediency and efficiency; the Kindle drop kicks awesome through the goal posts of life.
First, there’s two ways to load up your Kindle, three if you include book samples. I can purchase a Kindle version of a book (which isn’t much cheaper than the paper copy, and what is up with that?) and it’ll beam-Scotty right over to my Kindle, or I can email a document over to my Kindle email address and for .10 cents thar she be. I can also email documents to my free Kindle conversion email address, then hook up Mr. Kindle to Mr. PowerBook with Mr. USB cable and slingshot that sexy converted eBook over, free of charge. One extra step, really, two if you count double clicking on the Kindle once it’s mounted itself on my computer (hence all the use of “Mr.” No self respecting Ms. would ever mount herself on a hard drive, I think).
The part that fascinates me is the degree of integration with the site – it shows a good bit of forethought in how the Kindle could be used as part of the Amazon browsing experience. It should be noted that I use Amazon for everything – diapers, formula, wipes, groceries, books, gifts… if I could get Amazon to change poop diapers my life would be outstanding in new and unheard of ways. So I browse on Amazon regularly. Since I bought the Kindle (or, as I said when I bought it, “drank the Kindle-Aid”) I’ve noticed that any book title that interests me, if it’s available in Kindle format not only invites me to buy that format but offers to beam-Scotty a sample to the Kindle with one click. So the next time I grab Sir Kindle, there’s a few chapters of any number of books that caught my eye, allowing me to test drive while I read.
And of course, should I like what I buy, the buying elements are integrated into the Kindle itself, so if I want the rest of the book, I can beam-Scotty it to myself within minutes. Verrrry sexy.
With my abysmal eyesight, I was hesitant about the screen quality, and while there is this weird black flicker when you click to the next page, I got used to it to the point where I barely see it now. Reading the Kindle doesn’t interrupt my reading such that I notice I’m reading not-a-book. I read just as fast and somewhat more comfortably because the Kindle is a lot lighter than most mass markets, and a good deal lighter than a lot of ARCs, which seem to be printed on much heavier paper.
The downsides? There are a few, and hell yeah I wanna mention. First, the real estate of the unit’s design is absurd. There are precious few places to hold, pick up, or otherwise touch the Kindle where you aren’t accidentally hitting the Next-Page button. I saw a blog entry on the design of the unit that illustrated this perfectly: 90% or something like that of the perimeter of the device DOES something when you touch it.
Add to that a case that doesn’t really “hold” the device so much as “puts a strap across a good portion of the critical moveable parts of the unit, including the scroll button and cursor bar” and there’s some design flaws that I wonder about. The keyboard received some criticism from CNet and others, but it doesn’t bother me. But the lack of good case options – and the question of how one will design a case that doesn’t somehow interfere with the actual use of the Kindle – is a major drawback. I’m using the case it came with, and it’s fine, but I want a better case, because caseless is not an option for me, only because I carry so much crap in my purse that something will hurt the Kindle at some point.
I don’t get why there isn’t more variety in “how to hold the Kindle” options for people, and while it’s not so heavy that holding it in one hand is uncomfortable, I am constantly bumping into the “Next Page” bar on the right side and having to page-back to where I was.
However, despite the immense squickitude of job opportunities titled Kindle Evangelist (official motto: “Drink the Kindle-Aid. DRINK IT NOW, OR SEAL YOUR DOOM!”), and some of Amazon’s recent decisions regarding their ownership of the Mobi format, I’m impressed with the degree of consideration that went into designing a book reader that would seamlessly bond and do the tango with the web site and offer various ways to secure material. In fact, that forethought makes the design oddity so much more irritating.
I received an email today touting “updates to the Kindle store” which I also appreciated – new books to read? Woot! – but there were some titles listed that absolutely gave me the giggles. Am I ever going to read or use a cookbook on the Kindle? Oh, hell no. Nor, for that matter, the Joy of Sex. And while I’m not the target audience for the news subscription services, and I like magazines in color, thanks, the ebook reading and beam-Scotty features make me a happy Kindle user indeed. Pass the Kindle-Aid. Gulp gulp.
The Kindle can be purchased only from Amazon at currently retails for $399.