Another post, another excuse for sparsity of posting. Life remains professionally intense (though interesting) and Blogging the Bookshelf has had to take a backseat this month while I’ve focused on the day job.
Thankfully while my blogging has suffered, my reading time has held up well (the one saving grace of interstate commuting) and I’ve had a good run of very enjoyable books in recent weeks including “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz, “Stalingrad” and “Berlin” by Antony Beevor and “The Uninvited” by Geling Yan. So I’ve got a long backlog of freshly read books ready for blogging once I get some more free time.
The most exciting and blog-worthy arrival on my bookshelf in recent times however is my brand new shiny Amazon Kindle. I am a long time ‘early adopter’ of gadgetry, or as some have less charitably characterised it, a ‘prolific buyer of toys that I don’t need’. However, I have to say that so far I am especially pleased with my kindle purchase.
As a biliophile with hundreds of hard copy books on their bookshelf and a passion for stalking second hand book stores at every opportunity, I didn’t make the jump to e-books lightly. Given the (significant) upfront cost of a Kindle, you pretty well have to swear off buying hard copy books for quite a while to justify the purchase – a difficult sacrafice for someone with my proclivities.
However, after a lot of reflection during the extended period between the announcment of the international version of the Kindle and it’s availability for purchase, there were a few factors that ultimately tipped the balance in favour of taking the plunge:
Never having to pay for literary classics again
As an earnest young reader with pretentions of literary seriousness I’ve been slowly but steadily trying to work my way through the cannon of literary classics. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m really not a library person – it feels like a fascist imposition to me to have someone tell me when I need to read a book – so every classic means another purchase. Even at second hand prices this adds up.
However, thanks to the joy of copyright expiration and the non-existent distribution costs of electronic books, there is a mindblowing number of literary classics available for free download from sites like Many Books and Project Gutenberg. Kafka, Camus, Dickens, Twain, Joyce, Austen, Bronte, Carroll, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekov etc etc. There’s more than enough free content out their for the Kindle to keep you occupied for a very long time.
Savings on Amazon Shipping Costs
Yes, Kindle books retail on Amazon for around half their hard copy list prices (plus a 15% increase for Australian readers), but to my mind, the real savings a realised through not having to pay the exorbitant costs of having books shipped half way around the world to be delivered to Australia (not to mention the agonising wait!). There’s real potential for savings here.
The final tipping point for my purchase was the fact that Kindle provides each user with an email account to which they can send documents for uploading onto their device. The benefit of this? Anyone (like me) who has a job that involves voluminous amounts of reading can easily email whatever documents they are working their way through to their Kindle for a portable, and more pleasurable reading experience. Instead of staring at an electronically lit rectangle for hours, or lugging around a bulldog clipped print out of the report de jour, I now transfer these documents onto my Kindle for my civilised consumption. I had heard a number of people in the US blogosphere spruiking this function for sometime before the Kindle’s release in Australia and was keen to take advantage.
The Reading Experience
What I couldn’t be sure of until I got my hands on one in real life was what the reading experience would be like. After a week’s reading I am happy to say that it is fantastic. The Kindle is light enough to be more comfortable in the hand than a paperback, but solid enough that you don’t feel like you’ll fumble it. I’ve already found myself strongly prefering it for reading in bed or on the couch where previously I needed to prop up books somewhere. The screen is very easy on the eye and if anything is a better experience than reading print on paper.
However, the most satisfying aspect of the Kindle reading experience was completely unexpected. Because the Kindle screen fits slightly less text than a paperback page, the more frequent ‘page turning’ gives you a satisfying feeling of momentum whilst reading. The progress bar at the bottom of the screen reinforces this effect and gives you a graphic appreciation for how much you’ve read in a sitting.
As you can see, on the whole I love my Kindle. I do however have a few gripes – and they are pretty well all functions of being an international Kindle user. You really are a second class citizen as an international user of Kindle. No access to content that is widely used in the US: no blog content, a very limited library of magazine content (no Economist, no New Yorker, none of the literary reviews) and a sadly limited library of books for purchase. It’s not just Australian specific authors who aren’t available to Australian Kindle readers – but many major new release books. Hopefully this will improve with time as Amazon reaches agreements with Australian rights holders, but it’s far from ideal at present.