Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Gifts: The End of Print Books as We Know It?

I have terrible vision.  I learned to read when I was three, read Little Women for the first time when I was seven, and religiously pre-ordered every Harry Potter book off of Amazon and read it front to back that same day.  I read myself into my poor vision and ever since high school, found myself with less and less time to read.

Which I think will all change.  My dear uncle bought the new 3G Kindle for me for Christmas, which I can safely say I adore.  It's taken a bit of getting used to, but it's not difficult to use at all.

Though it loses the romanticism of a physical book, I think it makes up for it with it's sleek and simple interface.  It cuts down on the printing and shipping of the books, which definitely lends for its eco-friendliness.  Since I'm such a voracious reader, it's great that books are cheaper for Kindle than for print.  The next book on my to-buy list, The Big Short by Michael Lewis goes for $15.36 in the print version, but for $9.99 on the Kindle version.  Best yet, I can really see bringing it with me when I travel - I don't have enough space to carry around books, but now I can carry around hundreds of books in one lightweight case.

My major concern was how it would hold up to a real book.  Real books have character built into their design - the publisher and author worked together to decide what font would be used, what size the font would be, and what size the book would be, which would determine how the book would feel in your hands; they decided on the weight of the pages and the type of paper used, the way chapters would be determined and the cover.

The Kindle loses a lot of the physical aspects of a book, but it reads nicely.  There's no shiny glare which would immediately ruin it for me, though there is a minor glare when you hold it up to a light.  This is pretty unavoidable and not a major concern.  The page size is perfect - a little fatter than the Little Brown & Co's version of The Catcher in the Rye.  One of my favorite aspects of the Kindle is the screensaver, which shows different famous authors or drawings.  I am still a little nervous to let the screensaver run in the background, but I think it's probably better than turning it on and off constantly.

Instant delivery is another great aspect of the Kindle.  I thought that maybe it would be an iPhone type situation, where I would have to download a bunch of stuff to my computer and hook my Kindle up to my laptop.  Instead, I go to Amazon, find the Kindle book I want, click "buy," and it's instantly delivered to my Kindle via Wi-Fi.  (Though there is a cable to link it up to a computer!)

There are a ton of free books available on Amazon - I've downloaded 60 books from Amazon without paying a penny.  And they're not weird, self-published books either.  They're mostly classic books, like Pride and Prejudice and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Reading a book is super easy.  I, being super Type-A, organized my books into categories, which makes all my books easy to find.  If I want to start reading another book or to look something up, when I get back to my original book I'm on the same page I had left it at - which is great because I always lose bookmarks.  I can see how much longer I have to read with the percentage bar at the bottom.  (Though it kind of pales in comparison to feeling the weight of the book in your left hand versus your right.)

I also love reading in bed.  Though it doesn't come with a light (and neither do real books...), I think a Kindle is easier to read in bed than a real book.  I like lying on my side when I read, which forces me to switch positions every time I go from the left page to the right.  This problem is clearly eliminated with the Kindle.

Along those lines, one of the things that is throwing me off about the Kindle, but is by no means a deal breaker, is how the page turn buttons are arranged.  On both sides of the kindle, there is a small button pointing back and a larger button underneath pointing forward.  When I'm reading, I press the button on the right to flip to the next page, but if I want to go back, I keep pressing the button on the left - which actually is the button to go forward.  I think that is just something I'll need to get used to and I think that this will actually be a useful feature when reading in bed.

The only thing I want to test out now is how well it'll hold up in the sun on the beach... but I think that'll have to wait until summer.


  1. I will never give up "real" books because I enjoy library books too much! I hate to own books but there is something about ratty old library books that makes me happy.

  2. that's true... i love the library!
    but now that i'm in school, our library doesn't really carry the kind of books i want to read; it's mostly scholarly type books.

    the desire for a kindle came out mostly from me wanting to read books that i'd left at home while i was at school and vice-versa

  3. I want a kindle and more books. Although I think it would be quite an adjustment to use a kindle.

  4. it works just like a regular book in the sun on the beach! no glare or anything. i <3 my kindle