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Monday, 13 December 2010


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I don't have a Kindle machine but I have used the Kindle software on my PC.

But I probably won't buy anymore Kindle books for a couple of reasons.

1. Can't loan the Kindle book to a friend. Several of my friends are always sharing our books. Not the Kindle version.

2. The Kindle book really isn't your property. If it was you could sell your copy to anyone else. No can do with a Kindle book.

For more reasons why I'm not a fan of any of the electronic readers take a look at David Pogue's interview on the Newshour web site.


You probably have a way to go to catch up to this guy:

A splendid review from a fellow typesetting enthusiast. Bad (or indifferent) typesetting is as bad as inadequate use of punctuation rules. I guess we get what we pay for.

Thanks, Mike. I used to read a lot, really. Now I am in control :) But the future is definately in the e-readers, and the new Kindle is probably close to being good enough ... But it will never be the same as a real book! Just like a digital image compared to a print.

Line length chopping is an inherent issue, especially for poetry. Also when prose writers are of the longwinded school, sentences may be harder to follow. But this can be mitigated quite well by setting and using the device "landscape".

The next and previous buttons now scroll you up and down something like an endless webpage, and text doesn't have to be quite so tiny in order to maintain the intended linebreaks.

regards, RP

I'm using ebook readers for 3 years already and totally agree with you on quality. That's the reason I wouldn't recommend downloading free ebooks from Amazon. I found Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org) some time ago and quite happy with quality of their books. They often digitize old editions of classics with illustrations and they look absolutely gorgeous on my Sony reader.

If saving $2.01 on the Kindle version of some books isn't enough to make you forego the print version, then I wonder what your reaction to paying $2.28 more for a Kindle version than a printed version might be?

Last week, I went to Amazon to purchase Patti Smith's new book, Just Kids, for my Kindle, but was surprised to find the Kindle version cost more than the printed version. See for yourself:


As much as I'd like to read the book and enjoy using my Kindle, I'm not yet willing to pay a premium for an electronic book over a printed version. So I reluctantly had to pass on it lest I send publishers the wrong message about my buying habits and encourage them to charge more for less in the future.

I, too, am impressed with the Kindle, though the best thing about it, actually, is "Kindle for PC" (or Mac), and being able to read the same book(s) on four different devices. You don't even need to buy a Kindle to enjoy this. (And if you put Adobe Digital Editions as well onto a "netbook", then you've got a decent all-round e-book reader).

I like to read with the Kindle screen oriented in "landscape" mode -- I find the line length more satisfying. Shame they didn't site the buttons better for this style of reading.

I wish there were a wider choice of fonts on the Kindle device -- one of the pleasures of a well-designed book is the choice of an appropriate typeface, and this becomes part of the distinctive character of a book. It gets a bit "one size fits all" after a while.

One of the greatest pleasures / vices is ploughing through a whole series of books (as you say, thrillers are perfect, as are Bernard Cornwell-style "historicals") -- I can buy the next one ten minutes after I've finished the current one.

The greatest frustration is the gaps -- whole missing authors, and missing titles from an author's backlist. You do tend to end up reading what turns out to be available, not what you set out wanting to read... But it can only get better.


A few random observations:

1) I know the price difference is large, but you might have been better off with an iPad even just as a reader. The differences are huge.

2) Whatever the reader you use, a very handy utility is calibre, which can convert between most ereader file formats. The reader manufacturers play all kinds of games to make it inconvenient to read other people's books on your reader - calibre can convert them if you want to use different readers, etc. See: http://calibre-ebook.com/

3) Yes, it is publishers who set up the ereader versions. These range in quality by drastic and dramatic amounts.

4) Speaking of publishers, if you like science fiction and/or fantasy at all, there's a HUGE selection of free books at the Baen Free Library, available in most ereader formats. Don't have to sign up, don't have to do anything - just right-click, save as, and install to your reader. Yust like dat.

These of course are made available on the "the first one's free" principle so beloved of the Old Dope Peddler and manufacturers of razor blades, but still.

See: http://www.baen.com/library/

I've been waiting for your thoughts on the Kindle, knowing that they'd probably be useful in a way that most reviews haven't been. And it turns out that yours (part I, at least), is just the review I've been waiting for!

Looking forward to part 2!

Welcome to the Kindle, Mike.

"Kindle is not perfect, and I love it."

Yup, that 'bout sums up my feelings, too. I've been a Kindler (is that a word?) for about 20 months now.

I divide the world of Kindle into two overlapping worlds. First is the concept of Kindle, specifically to be able to read whatever wherever. This is not a new concept, of course. It was fundamentally the genesis of Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) creation, if I recall. But the Kindle platform seems to be an answer to the question of what would happen if you traded the PDF's devotion to visual fidelity for nearly universal accessibility (and synchronicity).

It's a fascinating answer and one that I've found most impressive. I can, for example, start reading a book on my iPod Touch, pick it up later at the last point on my MacBook, and then again later from the last position on my Kindle device. If it's a book that really requires color and illustration to be appreciated I simply read most of) it on one of my Macs. To this latter extent, it's become the best answer for how to stop accumulating the refuse from the trail of obsolete Photoshop books.

So the Kindle document platform is frankly wonderful. And, yes, the world of the Kindle reader is a compromise, but one that I find extremely considerate and attractive. A largely passive, monochrome with a paper-like reflective display that's easy on the eyes and consumes nearly no power. I've not yet tried the larger DX size Kindle but I've become extremely fond of the standard size, particularly the latest version.

No, the Kindle will not replace books for me. I'm still going to want books for subjects such as most art and photo presentations. But the Kindle does sensibly calve-off the reading material that can be effectively, often more effectively, served through its essential textual nature without paper.

Amazon's Kindle initiative does represent a degree of ingenuity. But what it really represents is the sheer courage and might to bulldoze through the countless barriers and legions of naysayers to bring the vision to life. For that I think we really must salute Jeff Bezos. This rather likable-but-unremarkable-looking fellow must have spheres the size of the Star Wars Death Star.

Thank you very much, Jeff. I am completely and utterly hooked on using the Kindle platform and device. Happy Merry to you!

(Geez, it's 10 deg. F here! Time to hibernate with my Kindle!)

A great review of the Kindle Mike. I got one for my son who is a freshman in college for his birthday back in October (after that price drop I've been waiting for too) and my wife and daughter ones for Christmas. Hopefully, I will receive one too. Your review confirmed what I thought would be true - best for fiction. Shelf space is something of a premium in my house as well. All of my friends have iPads, but I am not in a hurry to get one because I stare at these damn backlit screens enough already - I want a reader-friendly reader. I like the fact that what would have been a huge, heavy hardback will be small and light. I like the fact that I can carry around several books at any given time and read what I want, when I want, where I want.

Your comment about underlining reminds me of advice I gave my son when going to college. "Try to get used text books that have been used by someone that seems smart - that is, underlined or highlighted already in the right places." That was my secret (at least part of it) to college success. It won't be possible with iPad texts.

I, too, have a house half-full of books and photographs.

Besides space considerations, retirement has dictated a change in consumption strategy, such that purchasing retail is not ideal. So, your Kindle report is very useful. But, I've also discovered another means to help in this regard: my local library.

It was an obvious alternative, I suppose, but not to me. Only when my sister asked why I buy so many books, including one-time reads as you describe, in lieu of going to the library, did I reconsider.

This approach has its drawbacks as well, but it's hard to beat free, and still get to hold a book in its original form. And, no bookshelves required.

Mike, I know what you mean. If you ever see a newspaper headline that reads "Virginia Couple Killed in Bookslide" you will know it's me.

My wife recently bought a Kindle, and she loves it, but for reasons quite different from yours. The Kindle gives her access to books that are old/out-of-print and otherwise difficult or impossible to find for her research. Up until now, she has depended on inter-library loan to locate these books, but that is slow and time-consuming.

I have been tempted by the Kindle, but have not bought one yet. I love books. But I will have to admit that space is a problem, and 5,000 books in a Kindle is a lot safer than 5,000 books stacked on the stairway.

I immediately loaded the kindle app onto my new iPad, and most of the points you make sync up. In my preffered fiction, epic fantasy (i'm re-reading Greg Keyes "Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone" which is excellent btw) the one thing i miss on the e-reader is being able to easily reference the maps. Like Tolkien, most epic fantasy has a lot of journeying across the fictional landscape. And it can sometimes be necessary to look up exactly where an event takes place to really grok whats going on and why. So far i've found this lack of access a little frustrating, but certainly not a dealbreaker.

I'm new to e-book reading myself. I've recently been given the 'Kobo' (It's Chapters' version of the kindle) and do love it very much. By your metric, I'm a very slow reader, though this has me reading more.

Because I'm a slow reader, I stick to the classics (I feel I should read the ones I know will be great, and appreciate their greatness while I can), and they're mostly free. I set my font size to the smallest so I get the most words I can on a page; and I read lying down on my side, so I can easily "turn the page" with a light press of my thumb.

I also no longer be annoyed to bring a book on a trip with me if I'm near the end (usually requiring a second book to be brought along). I'll finish when it's handy for me, and I'll start whatever book I want at my own convenience.

My e-book reader seems to be very basic technology, though its basicness makes it brilliant, and that's enough to make me more excited about reading than I've ever been!

Hope you continue to enjoy yours, and thank you for sharing your discoveries on the poetry - I'm about to start a new book of poetry in the new year.

I'd love an e-reader, but they have some serious disadvantages. I've been waiting for Amazon or someone else to fix the following issues:

- Amazon can come inside my house and take away a book I've bought on Kindle - has already happened; google for "kindle orwell" (how apropos)
- Amazon can also edit books that I've already bought
- DRM - it's my book, I should be able to do with it whatever I choose
- Reselling - see DRM
- Lending - see DRM, and the "solutions" currently offered are not solutions
- Pricing of books is way too expensive

You touch upon the last point: paying for a book with practically zero manufacturing and distribution costs and with all of the above limitations should be significantly cheaper than dead-tree version, but it's not.

In your paragraph about widows you end with "...for effect.)" and on my first reading the window size, font size etc. coincided so that it was alone on the last line of the paragraph. I was so impressed, but then I realised that it reformats when you change the window.

Anyway, it totally made my day.

I resisted a Kindle for over a year, until I had an opportunity to actually spend a few minutes with one in hand. Yes, I love my Kindle, and especially my new Kindle 3. All of the criticisms are fair and accurate for the most part, but it's one of those things you just have to experience to understand. I love books too, but after a few minutes with a Kindle, I can't stand to read a paperback novel in my hand any longer.

Maybe as Mike mentioned, being able to change the font size is a big part of the allure for us older readers (I received my Kindle 3 as a birthday gift a couple of days ago as I turned 60). Readability is certainly extremely high with this electronic ink display (NOT LCD or LED, not backlit). And it takes very little light to be legible. Reading in bed at night with a tiny clip-on night light (I use the Mighty Bright, highly recommended) is a real pleasure, partly because the damned light doesn't have to be repositioned after each "page turn", since the Kindle never moves, just your thumbs.

I love books. All of my photography "books" are actual printed objects you can hold in your hands and flip through. But the mountain of paperbacks (please, keep cranking them out JC!) has not gotten any larger for the last year, and that's a welcome change!

Try one if you can; I think you'll have much more appreciation for the Kindle then.

Rod G.

On the issue of ownership - yes you do own the book and you can loan it to someone else. All you have to do is give them the Kindle. Problem is - you have to part (temporarily) with the rest of your library.
You might want some way to distribute (temporarily) the electronic file to your friends, but from the publisher's perspective - that is just too much like giving them the book and keeping it too. By the way - Nook (the B&N copycat) has a lending feature if that's important to you; I haven't tried it, but I have a suspicion that the implementation of an e-lending feature will put enough fences around the book to make it annoying or not worth it.

I looked at the Kindle when the price dropped too. Then I checked out the Kindle Store on Amazon. I don't care how good (or inexpensive) the hardware is, the site is primitive and the selection of titles available is rudimentary. I tried a few searches for authors that I might, in theory, buy - even though I'd be much more likely to buy hardbacks unless I was off travelling. How about V.S. Naipaul? Nope, nada. How about Paul Theroux? (literary types will spot the connection): same - oh wait, something with an "introduction by".
I mean, these are hardly obscure authors. A few other, equally non-obscure searches came up with astonishingly thin results. I'm not interested in reading Jeffrey Archer or Tom Clancy I'm afraid.
On to the out-of-copyright sources. Hmmm, massive alphabetical lists with no fuzzy searches or browse by subject matter or genre possible.
I'll pass on eBook readers until the databases and titles develop a bit. I guess with only a few thousand print titles in my library I'm not the target market.

I've moved PDF versions of all of my equipment manuals to the Kindle. It saves space, weight and keeps all of my manuals in the same place.

Most of the manuals actually have a page size that is slightly smaller than the Kindle screen, so the display is quite legible.

A nice little side-effect of this is the ability to use the Kindle search feature to quickly find a topic.

A few points:
I like the instant dictionary lookup - great for my son's schoolwork.
The 3g version experimental web browser is fine, if slow and monochrome, the 'article' reflow is very handy.
The lower cost magazine and newspaper subscriptions automatically downloaded to the Kindle are a dream too.

I read a lot of free sci-fi and old stuff - Feedbooks, Baen, Gutenberg etc (and Amazon free stuff).
I also use it a lot of IT reference books - most of these have a limited lifespan so I'm happy not cluttering the house with shelves of disposable items. It is great for reference works if you can live with the graphical limitations.

My main problem with the Kindle is the poor organization of the books. It is clunky, not to mention painful to try to order the contents. There is only one folder level available - you can't put books in folders in folders. And you have to put books in folders (collections) one at a time. I've looked at writing some software to help with this but I have lots of other tasks to finish first.
Another vote for calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com).

I agree with mike: the Kindle is not perfect, and I love it.

Ahem said: "paying for a book with practically zero manufacturing and distribution costs and with all of the above limitations should be significantly cheaper than dead-tree version, but it's not."

I strongly disagree. A book's price is really tied to what people are willing to pay for them, not to cost. Balance the limitations vs. the advantages, and for most people, paying $2 less than for the print version is worth it.

The shift of 'content' (that is, text) to Kindle-type devices is similar in a lot of ways to the wrenching transition from letterpress printing to phototype in the 1960s, followed shortly by digital printing two decades later.
It's hard to recognize this today, but books were extremely rare luxury items before Gutenberg because each was a hand-crafted one-off item penned by a scribe. Moveable type created the mass audience for reading and subsequenet literacy revolution. Letterpress printing defined book printing from the late 1400s right up to the early 1960s, and it had reached an extremely high level of ergonomic and artistic excellence. Sure, there was always a lot of cheap shlock printed, but the average trade hardcover book circa 1950 was typographically remarkably good. They were a pleasure to read.

All that was tossed in the trash when phototype took over, followed shortly by the digital tidal wave. The level of typographic quality and artistry fell off a cliff. Designers of phototype fonts and books were just beginning to address their severe aesthetic shortcomings when digital swept them away and it was back to ground zero. It's possible to do beautiful digital typesetting, but the standard for most trade hardcovers is awful. Compare the typography and print quality of any decent hardcover from 1930-1960 with one from 2010, and you'll immediately see what I mean.

Gadgets like Kindle start from the current, very debased level of typographic quality...and go even lower. It's like a robot's cartoon of a book.

Grumble. I'm going to curl up with a nice letterpress book tonight and nurse my resentment of 'progress'.

Yes, the 3G Kindle is great. I bought mine a couple weeks ago--using your Amazon link, of course--and immediately tried reading TOP to see how well it worked with the Kindle, using landscape mode. Great! No scrolling sideways is necessary due to your having the article column centered in the page. So thanks, Mike, for having the foresight to set up the TOP columns as you did.

I highly recommend Nicholson Baker's review of the Kindle from the New Yorker:


Firstly thank you for this. Great to have somebody you know (trust, respect, oh you know what I mean) review something controversial (small 'c'). I have also read the comments made so far with much interest. I am fascinated by the e-reader concept. I feel the same ambivalence I still feel towards digital photography as opposed to analogue. Books are just so beautiful, mostly. But at the age of 55 and having read an average novel a week from teen-hood on, I have accumulated a few! I used to love libraries but since living where I do, the local set up has never delivered adequately. I will definitely dip my toe into the ebook pool at some point. I am tempted by an iPad but there is a distinction to make here between a computer and an e-reader which employs e-ink technology. One area I think they should become universal is education. My daughter is reading Eng Lit at Bath Spa Uni and her reading list is bankrupting me and weighs akin to a small car. She could have been handed a kindle at the start of the course with every single text on it - wow, think of that. You raise one of the most important issues for me which is poetry. I am an avid reader and collector of contemporary poetry. Your point about physical presentation on the page hadn't even occurred to me, I foolishly assumed it would be as intended. This is a very serious fault indeed. What makes it less of a problem is the sheer paucity of contemporary poetry available, and what there is is expensive. It would be lovely to have some poetry on a device, if only a duplicate of what I own already. However, e-books are in their infancy, insofar as their critical mass is concerned. We are witnessing a very big revolution in the making. I think Kindle and others will have to give in to the DRM issues, and am sure this will come. We will also soon see all published books available in electronic format alongside paper - prices will surely begin to tumble. It is very exciting on the one hand, and very scary on the other. Look what has happened to the recorded music industry. From what I have read publishers live in fear of this upheaval and at the moment are fighting a rear guard action. The winds of change are a gentle breeze but a storm is brewing.

Thank you.

I was an early adopter of Kindle, and I am on my second version. I concur with Mike's comments so far. I mainly bought the Kindle because I travel a lot, and it is great to be able to bring a number of books with me to read on the plane or on my trip, without having to shlep all the weight. It is also very nice to be able to buy a book from any place in the US that has wireless access. If I am bored in an airport, I just download a book.

My gripes about the Kindle (besides those already enumerated by Mike) are mainly related to the fact that I love books as objects onto themselves, and I miss those things when I use the Kindle. As an example, something as simple as knowing how many pages I have left to read in a chapter or the whole book can't be achieved on a Kindle. It will tell me what my digital "location" is and shows a little dotted line approximating how much is left, but I find that unsatisfying. I miss the tactile feel and experience of reading many books--the paper, the binding, the font, etc.. Most problematic is my inability to pass a book on to a friend or family member to read if I wish to share it. While it is true that reading is essentially a solo activity, the appreciation of reading is not. My wife and I frequently share books with one another that we have enjoyed. I am a member of a book group, and we are bound together socially by a love of books and reading. I can't imagine passing my Kindle around to other members to take home for a few weeks.

Of course, this leads to the "gotcha" part of e-readers--the publishers have finally found a way to charge for each reading of the book, rather than for an unlimited license for anyone in possession of the book to read it. When the Kindle was first introduced all the books were priced a $9.95, which seemed a fair tradeoff--get a new hardcover book at a bargain price in return for a "single use" license. However, now the price of Kindle books has crept upwards to the point that they are within a dollar or so of the discounted Amazon price of the actual physical book. I find myself, not buying as many e-books now because of that, unless I'm headed out on a trip.

Readability of the Kindle in direct sunlight is another plus point for the device. I tried an iPad in the sunlight and found it useless, as are netbook computers and large screen mobile phones. Sitting out on the deck of a boat or a holiday flat or a hotel balcony with a good book is still limited to real paper books and Kindles. Nothing else works.

Mike, I don't know if this will make your list of 'loves' for the Kindle, but it may well might. Instapaper works on the Kindle, and it's really become my favorite way to read long articles on the internet.

For those who may not know, Instapaper is a free online bookmarking/reading service that caches articles for you through a bookmarklet, so you can read them stripped of distractions, as well as cache them for reading offline, on an iphone or other such device. It's really great... and you can set it up so your instapaper cache is automatically sent to your kindle once a week, or every day, or whenever... you can do it manually, too. For articles where images aren't' vital, it's absolutely phenomenal, and beats reading on a computer, iphone, ipad, or whatever you've got. I'm not a shill for them by any means... just very satisfied.

What is called a (typesetting) "widow" in the US is called "ein Hurenkind" in Germany.

I recently purchased the Kindle wi-fi, and would pretty much say the same: not perfect for every book but great for paperbacks and for carrying a mini-library with you.

I justified the purchase initially because I had a free, 600+ page pdf related to a course I'm taking that would be ridiculous to print out. The Kindle is not perfect for pdfs (size issues, mainly) but it is there for reference when I need it.

One great thing about it, I was watching the latest Christmas Carol offering (animated, Jim Carry version) and realized that I had never read the original Dickens novel (shame on me). On went the Kindle, Amazon had a free version, downloaded it and had it read over the next couple of days.

The other thing (already mentioned) is having several books available at the same time for both variety in reading but also for those things you might reference from time to time. One example is the study Bible I use is now available (and way lighter) whenever I have the Kindle with me. This is an invaluable plus for the Kindle.

As far as referring back to maps, character pages, appendices, it may be not quite as easy as a regular book, but I usually bookmark those pages for quick reference to them when I need to. The biggest complaint I might have is related to this and that is those times I flip back in a book to refresh myself on something I've forgotten; not really easy on the Kindle, but a minor negative compared to all the pluses.

Versus an iPad? Smaller, cheaper, and e-ink versus backlit LCD, huge advantages for me, but not for everyone.

A point about the sharing of your purchased Kindle books with others: You can have up to five Kindles on one account, so the purchase of one e-book will appear on everyone's Kindle. Of course, you all have to agree on what book you want to read, but it would work for a lot of situations, like a group of good friends or family members who share similar reading interests.

Rod G.

You forgot one of the greatest advantages of Kindle. I'm reading something, and I see a recommendation... oh, the new Bryson book! Click... click... It's on the Kindle! The Sacks book is good? Awesome! Click... I can't wait to get home tonight and start reading!

Instant purchasing is awesome.

Great read Mike. I am -this- close to getting one myself. My wife Karen has an ipad and she too would like a Kindle as a reader only.

Now you need this...http://www.dodocase.com/collections/dodocase/products/dodocase-for-kindle

If I can suggest in a most appropriate way for this forum, the best things to read on the Kindle are books by John Camp. I've read all that became available since I got mine, and find it satisfying.

The formatting is hideous. some words in Dick Cavetts new book are broken apart with meaningless spaces, like con founding. It apppears to me that words are hyphenated in the program submitted by the publisher to Amazon, but the text doesn't flow in the same way on the Kindle, so things can look strange and hard to read. This varies from book to book.

But, I still like mine!

Bill Pearce

BTW Mike, you may have to trade in your frugal person's union card since you opted for the 3G instead of wi-fi only model.


My sister and I are going for the Nook with it's lending policy and the one hour "read in store" thing. The Kindle is great, but you're only renting the book, you don't own it. (Not that the Nook or the various readers sold at Borders are any better.)

Just today I dropped off last week's paperback at the used book store and paid them $2 for a new (to me) one. can't do that on Kindle OR Nook.

I started reading "eBooks" about 8 years ago on a Sony Clie (a shirt-pocket sized, Palm OS device). Over that time, I amassed a sizable collection of electrons that allows me to re-read favourite volumes at a whim.

I enjoyed reading eBooks immensely up until about two or three years ago when ebooks suddenly and dramatically increased in price. I stuck with it though, because I like eReading, for so may reasons, much better than reading from a paper book.

However, in the last year or so, my eBook retailer disabled (without warning) my ability to download a selection of books, for which I had already paid, from my online library. The reason for this - apparently, the publisher no longer offers these books for sale in my country (Canada)!

Never mind the fact that I had already bought and paid for said books!

The retailer is "...working with the publisher to resolve this issue".

The Cheque Is In The Mail...We Won't Raise Taxes...I Will Respect You In The Morning!

Yah Right!

So, I am back to paper books and have rediscovered my local library.

Just thought I would mention this to remind folks, in the midst of the current eReading Craze, just how tenuous virtual-book-ownership really is.

Cheers! Jay

I've been a regular ebook reader for some 15 years, a sporadic reader for a few years more. I've used a variety of devices and currently use a Kindle.

Most of the comments about the Kindle in Mike's article apply fairly well to all of the dedicated ebook readers, and to a large degree to multi-use tablet (e.g. iPad, ...) when used as ereaders.

I've found that "free" public domain titles from commercial bookstores (Amazon, et. al.) are often poorly done and are often burdened with DRM. The only consistently worse offerings have been from Google Books. I highly recommend that readers get these books from sites like MobileRead.com (mainly a forum, but does have a good library of carefully formatted books) and ManyBooks.com.

Also, some types of illustrated books work fine on the now common 6" ebook readers, like the Kindle. My post in this thread on MobileRead (#16) has an attached illustrated copy of Jerome Jerome's "Three Men in a Book" in MOBI format compatible with the Kindle. For those with other ereaders that support ePub, there is also an ePub version in MR's library.

Whoops... In my previous comment, I left off the like to the MR thread:


Jay Frew,
You will be very interested in Ctein's column this coming Wednesday.


Don't forget to use the local library. No immediate gratification for anything which doesn't happen to be on the shelf, but they can order nearly anything by ILL (inter library loans)if you just want to see/read it.

Hi Mike,

I've had an i-pod touch for a couple of years now, and have considered upsizing to an i-pad for the e-book function, among other things. I downloaded the Kindle app for my i-pod a while back, mostly to see whether I could enjoy reading a full-length novel in e-book form. I read Huckleberry Finn and the Golden Mean, exclusively on the i-pod, and to my mild surprise, found it quite enjoyable. I will almost certainly pop for the i-pad at some point, and I'm sure I'll enjoy using it as an e-book reader.

One other downside of e-books that perhaps should be mentioned: I have a small collection of books, many of which I have re-read several times (or just dipped back into for a topic or two now and then). The fact that these books sit physically on a shelf in my living room reminds me of them often, and of the ideas they contain. Having their physical presence in my space keeps them alive in my consciousness. This is no minor consideration, now that middle-age has begun to work its way with my memory! E-books are inherently more ephemeral, and as much as I may enjoy reading them, I'm not sure I will have the same sort of long-term relationship with them.

Happy holidays to one and all,

I was all set to write a reply talking about the strengths and weaknesses of Kindle when I saw the Open Mike headline. Fortunately, I read your post and we are in pretty much strong agreement on Kindle (by which I'll extend to other ebook readers as well).

I bought my first reader ~3 years ago in order to have a convenient way to read the classics and other PD works. The Kindle 1 had just been announced and its 'advantages' over the Sony I bought didn't hold sway. I've had several readers since and find ebook readers good for the things you say.

When I bought that first Sony, I got lots of resistance from people who 'love books' and I rightly pointed out, that what one is reading is text, and the book is just the carrier for it. But you more clearly made this point.

I think someone needs to create a heirarchy of books that shows the different types of books. In the evolutionary story of ebook readers, we're in early days. As you cite, current tech is good for linear text reading. Obviously, not all books fall into that realm. I do fully expect that the layout problems you identify will be solved over time and more types of books will become good candidates for reading on a small slab. I wait for the day a book such as Farrington Guitars ( http://www.amazon.com/Ferrington-Guitars-Book-Cd-Danny/dp/0060168978/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1292271037&sr=1-1 )can be enjoyed on an ebook reader. The book is not rectangular, and the typesetting is a major part of the design. When the book was in production, a friend at Aldus (makers of the Pagemaker software used for the book) let me know that they worked extensively to help design the book and it pushed PM's capabilities beyond what was thought it capable of.

So as you say, the Kindle (or Nook, or Sony, or Kobo) are excellent sources for people who want to consume lots of text. Soon, it will be a good substitute for books that are language-focused, which is to say able to support the visual aspects of book design, instead of raw text). Personally, while I can enjoy a book as an artifact, I am more concerned with the content, so that day will arrive sooner for me. Bibliophiles will never see that day, and thats fine, too. No reason we all need to be served by the same things.


Unless I missed it, nobody mentioned:

1. You can read the first chapter or so of any Kindle book for free.

2. Just as you can't tell if poetry is formatted correctly, even if it is, you can't tell if footnotes have been stripped. In non-fiction the footnotes are essential. ("It was widely reported that Kuwait banned SLRs." Missing footnote: "They didn't.")

But I do use the Kindle app on my iPad, and it's great. I have to be very careful about those footnotes, though.


If you need an e-reader, get an iPad or a
Kindle. Nothing else comes close and is a
waste of money. I've got an iPad with
apps and am very satisfied with it.

My understanding about the underlined sections you mention is that it's literally from other Kindle readers who've chosen to highlight that text. So in a way, it's a little like you're looking at a used book, underlined by potentially hundreds of other readers, ghastly as I'm sure you'll find that revelation. I think there's a way to turn it off. I believe you can even choose to see only the text that other readers have highlighted. I have a Kindle 2, and equally love it, even though I also have begun to read Kindle books on my new iPod touch 4. It's really cool how they sync to the last point read, regardless which I've read last. Sad as it is for bookstores, I'm glad I can pick a new book right in the Kindle rather than drive the 20 miles required to get to the nearest bookstore.

Oh, I think the Kindle is a wonderful device, as are the other ebook readers. But then, I am a bookworm -- both for fun and for work, so I love anything that facilitates my reading and carrying books with me.

Then again, my preferred reading device right now is the iPad. I already use an iPad for many things, both fun and work related, and I have the 64GB version so lots of space for books. Between books, student papers in PDF, articles, PDF books, magazines, etc. I probably have more than 500 items on my iPad (actually more than that) -- and the pleasure at having all of that with me is incredible. My eyes thank me too. It is just darn hard to read small print anymore.

What do I miss? Being able to toss the book, leave it on the bed (or wherever without fear), affixing a BookCrossing label and leaving it somewhere for others to find, easily giving a book to friends, and actually going to the store to buy books. Oh, and body mechanics -- I used to be able to read in all sorts of positions --holding the iPad changes that.

Still, between the books, magazines, articles, papers, podcasts, lessons from iTunes U., movies, tv shows, and audio books, my iPad is my preferred personal library. : )

Have fun Mike!

My Kindle disaster was Samuel Pepys's Diary. Alright, I knew it wasn't going to be the definitive Matthews/Latham edition, but the full nine volumes (minus the dirty bits - a Victorian editor) for less than a pound was irresistible. Unfortunately, it's unreadable - footnotes barge into text without delineation, making nonsense of the entries. I know the Diary (the world's first, and greatest, soap-opera) almost by heart, but I had to give up after two pages and return to my well-thumbed (actually, red-wine stained) print version.

But non-annotated novels are fine.

Try to do this on a Kindle!


Belgian poet Paul van Ostaijen wrote in the Dada tradition and typography was essential in understanding the poetry. Same with books from Douglas Coupland.

I read my books analog......the smell of paper can't be replaced by Kindle either.

Greetings, Ed

It's quite simple. I love my Kindle because I live abroad over in Spain, in the Balearic Islands to be precise. I speak fluent Spanish (my wife is Spanish and really doesn't speak English except when it means catching me out ordering anything photography related which is expensive) and I read the local newspapers and books at the local library in Spanish. However being British born I naturally prefer reading in English. There aren't many English bookshops round here, so now with my second generation Kindle I don´t have to wait the fifteen to twenty days to receive a book from Amazon. It now takes me about 90 secs to receive my latest book so in my case it's brilliant. Of course the Kindle isn't perfect; there are lots spelling mistakes and loads of classic books missing...But I love it. By the way I don't suffer from price problems--most latest books in Spain are around 20-24 Euros so I find the average 12 dollars for a Kindle book quite cheap!

To quote the New Yorker article mentioned - "there’s no clutter, no pile of paperbacks next to the couch." - this is why I don't particularly want a kindle.

I haven't finished going through all the comments, so this might have been touched on: but Amazon buries the fact that you can legally share Kindle books with family members fairly freely.

It took some digging to discover this, but you can read six copies of a a purchased Kindle book at the same time on different devices. Thus I can read a book in the Kindle app on my iPad while my wife reads the same book on her Kindle, and my son reads it in the Kindle app on his iPhone or iPod Touch. All for that one purchase.

The only limitation is that everyone has to be signed up on the same Amazon account -- that is, your fellow readers all have to share your credit card. This obviously keeps you from sharing with far-flung friends, etc.

Still, that's pretty good. It eliminates my number one objection to electronic books -- that I couldn't pass along a favorite book to my wife -- and it's got me buying books on the iPad through the Kindle app rather than Apple's iBooks app.

In many SF books, especially of the 40s and 50s, most people read books on some sort of non-paper system that seemed high-tech at the time (often a film spool and projector; which always seemed like a bad idea to me). What really struck me about it, though, was how often the viewpoint characters were unusual in their society in preferring old-fashioned printed books. Seems very few of the writers could really get happy about replacing the paper book.

Today, and for the last 15 years, I've read a lot of ebooks, almost always on handheld devices, starting with Palm PDAs. Currently they're mostly on my Android phone. I'm actively opposed to another, specialized, device for ebooks -- the last thing I need is another gadget. And I don't use any ebooks with "digital rights management"; I won't buy a book I don't actually own that copy of. But I can get lots of the latest SF (especially from Baen books, who have been aggressively supporting ebooks), and lots of old books including the magazine versions of classic SF (frequently the work was extensively revised for book publication, and the copyright on the magazine version wasn't renewed and it fell into the public domain; as a student of the field, having access to those old versions is marvelous).

The one clear problem, at the moment, is that you can't read on an airplane below 10,000 feet :-) .

I very much agree that what the current solutions work well for is straight text flows -- largely fiction, or non-fiction without tables and illustrations and marginal notes and so forth.

I like good typography; but mostly when I NOTICE typography in a book it's because it's bad (like the appalling font they used for the hardcover of my wife's novel Tam Lin, which made the punctuation disappear). One thing I like about ebooks is that *I* control the typography.

In our household we have a lot of books, and we also have 3 Kindles (one of the original ones was dropped, so we had to buy another one), to which we are very attached.

Mike, you are absolutely right about the problems of poor formatting and lack of publishing information for many Kindle editions, especially cheap ones. However - and I expect you have already discovered this - for most Kindle books one can download a "free sample", which allows you to check exactly how the book looks on the screen and whether it has a proper table of contents, translator information and so on.

Kindle eh? As in kindling used for burning books in some past society?

Maybe as my specialist in oncology noted to me the other day after my most recent round of chemo:
the chemicals changes your ability to
accomplish things you could do easily at one time to well nigh impossible to do now." So for me another bit of technology is not required or wanted.

Looked at an iPad, at C$600.00 or so,
and could not understand why something like a 13 inch iBook would not do just as well if not better for about another
C$500.00 more.

And so it is with the electronic book
readers. Is it a required item for survival? What happens when it dies, and it will! What happens to all those now
dead in the machine books? And what happens if you drop it on the floor, or it falls out of your hand as you doze off reading? Or you spill a nasty liquid on it?

When I downsized from my childhood home to a small apartment some five long months ago, I had already made the decision about reducing my own footprint years before when I donated some 2000
hard and soft cover books on rail transportation in Canada and elsewhere to a special muuseum devoted to such
which preserves the books for
reference and sells the surplus to fund
the museum. Try to do that with your KIndle or iPad or whatever else you call
these devices, eh?

"I donated some 2000 hard and soft cover books on rail transportation in Canada and elsewhere to a special muuseum devoted to such which preserves the books for reference and sells the surplus to fund the museum."

That was rather a nice thing to do!


"I donated some 2000 hard and soft cover books on rail transportation in Canada and elsewhere to a special muuseum devoted to such which preserves the books for reference and sells the surplus to fund the museum."

That was rather a nice thing to do!


I got a very nice tax receipt out of the whole deal.
Maybe it was 1000 books. Bottom line have maybe fifteen or twenty books of all types remaining.
And the remainders, as they are for me, are the publications read and read again.

'Indifferent typesetting ranks foremost for me; I like typesetting, and it's one of the pleasures of reading old books. As a book reader I have a cutoff date of publication of about 1820, because I don't like reading the old-fashioned "s" that looks like an "f" with a descender ("ƒuffering ƒuccotaƒh," Sylvester would have said, in 1810, in a book printed in, say, Dublin).' ...

Ah, that reminds me of a cartoon caption in the excellent (if juvenile) English satirical rag 'Private Eye', along the lines of:

Medieval grandee to serf in dining hall: 'No, no, I said a fuckling pig ...'

Enough said.


Hi Mike,

Just thought you might find this article about Amazon's handling of e-book deletion interesting.


At a price of approx 12 paperbacks (in the UK) the Kindle was a no brainer for me, esp. as much of what I want to use it for is freely available via Gutenburg.

Yes, there are some formatting layout issues, but, with my eyesight, these are more than offset by the adjustable font size and margins.

Interestingly I found compressing the lines (wider margins) made reading faster and less tiring - perhaps something to do with how the eye scans.

As someone who studied literature at Uni, I can't help thinking how much easier my life would have been had the Kindle existed then!

Replace books? Never! But that's not the point - the real beauty for me is the ability to easily access and try (at low or no cost) material outside my comfort zone.

Sort of like CDs and MP3 - I'll buy CDs of stuff I know I will like, but MP3s, Spotify etc. let me expand my horizons at low risk.



Amusingly, after my frequently-stated position that I like ebooks but not DRM and don't want yet another gadget to worry about, I won a Kindle in a Christmas raffle at work.

It's harder to hold and read from than any of the previous devices I've used. The battery life is very good, though. For most situations the reflective rather than backlit display is still adequate, and the resolution is clearly a bit better. I've already started playing with transferring photos to it to display in B&W.

It looks to me like the organizational tools are horribly weak for the volume of data to be organized.

I haven't bought any Kindle books yet, though; I'm looking at MOBIpocket files and PDFs, plus JPEGs.

It looks to me like the organizational tools are horribly weak for the volume of data to be organized.

Yes, as an info management person, I thought this too at first. I can see many ways this could be improved, but I suspect only by making the devise as a whole more complex.

I think the key to the Kindle is simplicity - it does basically one thing, and does it well. As a tool for managing collections its crude and limited when compared to computer apps, but I'm pretty sure much better than most people's book shelves!

I do hope they keep it simple - or if a more sophisticated device is required, this is made a separate product.

I feel this has the potential of being a revolutionary device - attach it some sort of hand powered generator and ship crates of these preloaded with appropriate books to 3rd world nations and it could have a real impact on literacy. The fact that it can't really be used for anything else is a plus. It may well survive better than hard copy in humid conditions as well.



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