For Christmas last year my Mum asked me if I’d like a Kindle, and I actually said no. I spend a large amount of time in front of a computer screen, and didn’t feel like I wanted to increase that. I didn’t feel that reading books from a screen would feel particularly relaxing, and also, odd as it might sound, I like holding a book when I read. Back at work in January, a colleague brought in her Christmas Kindle, and within 2 minutes, I wanted one! I ended buying one that evening with my Christmas money.
What is a Kindle?
It’s an eReader: A handheld electronic device onto which you download books or PDF files. Both versions of the Kindle have Wifi connectivity, and the “elite” version has free 3G so that you don’t have to be connected to a network to be able to download new books.
I splashed out for the 3G version (currently £152 on Amazon, whereas the non-3G is currently £111) because, to my mind at least, it made little sense to invest in a more portable means to read anywhere and everywhere, and then limit it by necessitating a Wifi connection to download new material. The times I’m most likely to read are my lunch hour, on vacation or on a journey, all of which are away from reliable connectivity.
I absolutely adore my Kindle. I have been an avid book worm since first being introduced to the Famous Five as a youngster, but was finding that I wasn’t reading anywhere near as much or as often as I would have liked due to the incovenience of lugging a book around. Now I don’t have to chose between beng bored at lunchtime/on the coach/on the flight and adding a heavy book to everything else I have to lug around. I can simply slip the Kindle into my bag. It’s ridiculously lightweight, and extremely thin. For around £12 I acquired a case that will prop the Kindle up at a variety of angles for hands-free Kindling (apart from the occassion page turn, but it still makes reading whilst eating all too easy!).
Since the Kindle is a matt screen (which can be read even in bright sunlight), it’s just as pleasant to read as a book page, but with the added advantage of being able to alter the font size (as an Optometrist I was particularly taken with this feature). There is also a small keyboard below the screen to allow you to add notes to the margin (fantastic for students), and you can even highlight sections.
You can even download a free sample of a book before purchase. If you’re unsure of whether a title is for you, ask for a sample, and you’ll be sent the first 1-2 chapters completely free. Yet more features:
- More than 550,000 titles available
- Many newspapers/magazines are available as a Kindle subscription
- Ability to browse and shop in the Kindle store direct from the Kindle
- Battery life of up to 1 month!!
- Holds 3,500 books
- Text-to-speech: Have your book read to you
- Dictionary function (which I found highly useful when reading Stephen Fry’s works!)
So what’s the catch?
- Some titles are not yet available for the Kindle (the Harry Potter series being a notable and unforgivable omission)
- It’s more difficult to quickly flip back through a book to reference earlier material some chapters previously
- Some books, particularly earlier works, are more expensive than the paperback version
- For some obscure reason, even when ordering through the Amazon website, you can’t use Amazon gift vouchers to purchase Kindle books. A somewhat ridiculous oversight in my view, especially since gift vouchers are a logical gift for a Kindle owner.
- With the 1-click purchasing option, it is frighteningly easy to buy books! Perhaps not an advantage if you’re trying to stick to a budget.
Some useful sites:
Pixel of Ink have a website, facebook page, and twitter feed, all of which regularly update with free/reasonably priced Kindle books. This is primarily US versions, however it often includes UK version as well, or if not, it is usually also reasonably priced.
eReaderIQ is a UK site providing pricedrop alerts. I am so swimming in unread downloads from Pixel of Ink that I haven’t actually investigated it yet, but it came recommended.
BookLending.com is another recommended site that I’ve not yet checked out, but is a way to “borrow” eBooks.