Kindle is the most gifted item in Amazon history but what is it like to own and use one?
All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds
Not being afraid to put my money where my mouth is I really do own and use a Kindle - and no it isn't a review model but a bought-and-paid-for unit and I don't get any special discounts from Amazon for Kindle books or any books for that matter. So as far as the use of the Kindle goes I'm an average Joe.
The first thing to say is that unless you are in the US Kindle support is patchy. You can't buy a Kindle or a Kindle book from anything other than the US .COM web site. True you can use your regional user name and password but it's still not perfect. The experimental features that you can use also vary according to where you have travelled - don't expect to be able to surf the net or read your email if you stray too far. These are understandable problems as the deals that Amazon has with local cell phone companies must have been complicated to set up - but it emphasises the fact that we aren't a gobal village just yet.
On the plus side you can browse the Amazon Kindle store, buy and download books almost anywhere. Yes I've sat in an airport and run out of things to read and found the ability to browse the Amazon shelves and get something to read in a few minutes amazing. Probably soon I'll soon get used to it but you can't help feel sorry for the other people with there old fashioned dead tree technology.
One the negative side the choice of books and their prices is still a problem. Even with Amazon's admittedly huge list it can be next to impossible to buy a Kindle edition of your favourite author. I'm an Anne Tyler fan and had to buy her latest book Noah's Compass on paper because there was no Kindle edition. But then again because I was so keen to read it I had to buy it in hardback as there wasn't a paperback edition until a few weeks later. There are so many books published and publishers still don't support ebooks very well despite all of the talk. It is interesting to note that audio book formats are still issued more readily than ebook formats. Put simply there are lots of books that I'd choose to read on the Kindle that just aren't available - a situation that I guess will change over time, at least I believe and hope it will.
This brings me to the subject of cost. Kindle and ebooks in general are still either to expensive or too cheap! I wanted to read a technical book (another plane/another book) but discovered that the price was a Kindle book was a few dollars less than a print edition. If I bought the print edition I could have sold it second hand or deposited it on our office bookshelf to recoup some of the cost. With a Kindle edition I would have got to read it on the plane (and to continue reading it until I needed the space for more works) and that would be it.
Given the digital rights management and loss of transferability of ownership Kindle books are not the same deal as a paper book and should be cheaper. However not as cheap as many of the republished Kindle classics are. The cost of publishing on Kindle is so low that anything out of copyright is fair game for a small profit. So people port the editions to the Kindle and sell them for a few dollars. Many of these low cost editions make it into the most popular Kindle books list - which is a good thing in terms of bringing the classics to the masses, but a bad thing in that it makes the Kindle look like all the other ebook readers of the past trying to survive on past centuries' literature. I've enjoyed reading Leo Tolstoy and Ernest Hemingway but I really would have liked some contemporary fiction.
As well as the low-cost classics we also have to contend with the low-cost self publisher. Not all self published books are dross but the lack of a gatekeeper makes it very difficult to detect the whiff of gold.
But - all is for the best ... I got my book to read on the plane and yes it was a cheap classic but it kept me occupied. Until, that is, the lights were dimmed for landing and the cabin crew informed me that I had to switch my electronic device off in case it interferered with the navigation. My fellow passengers with their dead wood technology looked much better placed for enjoying the twenty or so minutes until we touched down.
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