The latest and best-yet (and cheapest) version of Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite e-reader has just been announced and is available for preorder. (Note: You definitely want to pay the extra twenty bucks for the one "Without Special Offers." Right, "special offers"...otherwise known as ads.) [Ed. note: There is some dissention to this opinion in the Comments section. See Dogman's Featured partial comment below.]
After a rocky start, I've gotten addicted to my Kindle for "straight text" reading. By "straight text" I mean that the Kindle is best suited for books solely of prose that you typically start reading from the beginning and read all the way through to the end...novels, history, narratives, general nonfiction. It's not the killer app for books that have illustrations, or for books that are used more like you use reference books, skipping around in the book looking for specific things or cross-referencing things, or for books that need specific formatting such as most poetry books. But since 90% of my reading is straight-through and words-only, it has become my reading device of choice (challenged only by the iPad, which I also often use to read).
For books like the scarifying page-turner The Orphan Master's Son (which I'm literally scared to keep reading...dark, violent, and black-hearted, its depraved feeling-tone clings to the psyche like skunk smell to a dog); non-fiction gems like The Omnivore's Dilemma that I mentioned on Sunday or Empire of the Summer Moon that I cannot shut up about*; or bestsellers like The Cuckoo's Calling by the current Blob That Ate Tokyo of literary marketing, the Kindle is perfect.
A few oddities:
- Sometimes I will buy a conventional paper book, start it, like it, and then buy the electronic version so I can read it more conveniently on my Kindle.
- Sometimes I will buy a Kindle book, read it, like it, and then buy it in a paper version so I can have "the real thing" for my bookshelves. (It becomes obvious here that physical books themselves are tokens, talismans possessed of their own symbolic magic, but then I think they always have been that for me.)
For the most part, however, I don't buy most books twice(!).
UPDATE: Piotr Edelman tells me that Amazon will launch "MatchBook" in October, a program that will allow you to add the Kindle version of a physical book you purchase for only a small additional price, reportedly between $1 and $3. There are said to be 10,000 titles included in the initial MatchBook launch. Thanks to Piotr, and to HD for the link.
As I think I've mentioned before, the Kindle has affected ("impacted"?) my book-buying habits considerably. I now buy far fewer paper books, but better ones—usually books that are fine and rare in some way, or that have physical properties that cannot be duplicated in an electronic version—beautiful layout, typography, printing, bindings, formatting, or illustrations. Also, I've donated more than 25 boxes full of books to a local used bookstore—mostly books that I don't feel I need to have just for their texts any more. The Cloud will take care of me.
It has not affected at all the main focus of my book-collecting: photobooks. Paper remains far and away the medium of choice for those, although I can see that electronic portfolios can serve well for photographs that are native to the digital domain and/or that you just need or want for their content primarily.
Anyway, if you haven't seen a Kindle lately, they really have improved by leaps and bounds. While I haven't seen the newest one yet, one friend said of the original Paperwhite (which I have), that it's "about four times better than the orginal Kindle." That's right. It has become a reading tool I wouldn't want to be without.
*Something about that book "turns people into advocates for it," in the words of my friend Scott Hill. He tipped me to a review by Hugo Lindgren in the Times, who calls it "a great book that has had the unfortunate effect of turning me into a bore at social gatherings."
"Most people, I have learned the hard way," Lindgren writes, "would rather not have a long, one-sided conversation about the Comanche Indians. Oh, well, sorry. This history of the tribe and its vicious fight to hold on to its territory in the mid-19th century is powerful and disquieting...." Too funny, because I become a bore in the same way when I try to get people to read this book.
Original contents copyright 2013 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Dogman (partial comment): "Kindles now dominate book reading at our house. We have three. In a household of two. Plus a dog. The dog doesn't read. (She did attend school as a pup but never graduated--she got a certificate of attendance.) I do disagree on the 'Special Offers' choice, however. We saved the extra bucks and got the models with the 'Special Offers' ads and, honestly, they are totally unobtrusive...." [See the Comments section for the rest of Dogman's comment. —Ed.]
Scott: "I love my Kindle too, but I have learned to avoid older books on it because I find so many editing/formatting problems (e.g., hyphens where they clearly don't be-long, typos of various snorts, and strange spacing on titles). With newer books the thing is amazing (and I did not expect to like it)—especially for reading in bed without waking up a sleeping spouse.
"P.S. I'm going to buy Empire of the Summer Moon tonight."
Frances: "I cannot stand Kindles or any e-readers, give me a good old book any day. People keep telling me I will convert but I really don't see it happening."
adamct: "My biggest problem with the Kindle is very simple: Kindle books aren't cheap. On two occassions recently, I had cause to buy about 10 different books (a total of about 20 books). In almost every case, new versions of the books were either cheaper or very close in price to the Kindle version (even after shipping). But more importantly, used versions of the books were readily available in good condition for far less than either.
"Just to take a couple of examples linked to above (all physical copies include shipping costs):
Empire of the Summer Moon:
New (paperback): $12.09
Used (hardcover): $9.72
Used (paperback): $6.69
The Omnivore's Dilemma:
New (hardcover): $14.90
Used (hardcover): $9.51
Used (paperback): $6.09
"And for what it's worth, those examples actually tend to tilt toward the Kindle, since at least there is a difference of a few bucks between the Kindle and the new versions. I have frequently seen new physical copies sell for less than the Kindle price, for reasons that escape me.
"But my biggest problem with buying the Kindle version of a book is the fact that I can't read it, and then pass it on to friends and family members who might like it. After I read it, the book becomes useless to me. And I can't re-sell it on Amazon! ;-)"
Mike replies: I hope someone will chime in with the real details, but I don't think that last is quite true. You can share your copy with some number of other Kindles, and Amazon has a "lending library" program where many books are free. I don't know the details because I've never used either program and I'm getting jammed up for time today so I can't go research it.
[UPDATE: Turns out that the lending library is only available to Amazon Prime members, which cost $79 annually and primarily enables free shipping for frequent customers (it saves me money, so I'm a member). Your ability to loan your ebook is severely limited—you can only loan the ebook to one person, once, for a limited time, and it's not available to you during the period of the loan. So it turns out adamct is much more right than wrong here. (Thanks to Techfan for the information.)
Speed: "For me, the convenience of always having my library with me (phone, tablet, laptop, desktop—I gave away my B&W Kindle and haven't used the Kindle Fire for over a year) outweighs the less than perfect but always improving reading 'experience.' Last year I threw in the final towel and moved my magazine subscriptions from analog to digital. I now can pack one or two more lenses instead of one or two more books.
"I agree that as a pure reader, the Paperwhite is likely the best."