May 27, 2008

The real problem with electronic books.

I've been meaning to do another vlog about me and my Kindle. (Here's the original one.) The truth is, I hardly ever touch the damned thing.

(But please, if you buy one, buy it through this link so I can get a percentage of the $359 purchase price. And I'm saying that mainly to prompt some skepticism about rave reviews of the Kindle you might be reading in blog posts with Amazon Associates links like that in them. So if you appreciate that little lesson in skepticism, but still want to buy a Kindle, reward me by using my link.)

I've always thought my problem with the Kindle was the gray-on-gray screen — think Etch-a-Sketch — the one the rave reviews say is "easy on the eyes." Yes, and a room with dimmed lights is easy on the eyes, but it's a bad place to read. I want contrast: black letters on a white background. I want that in a book, and I want that in a computer screen, so of course, I want that in an electronic book. I want easy to read.

But anyway, maybe the ugly, hard-to-see screen isn't the real problem with an electronic book:
Books ... give off special smells. According to a recent survey of French students, 43 percent consider smell to be one of the most important qualities of printed books—so important that they resist buying odorless electronic books. CaféScribe, a French on-line publisher, is trying to counteract that reaction by giving its customers a sticker that will give off a fusty, bookish smell when it is attached to their computers.
I know. You're thinking: The French! But focus, people. The entire sensory experience of a book is important.

There's the feel too:
When I read an old book, I hold its pages up to the light and often find among the fibers of the paper little circles made by drops from the hand of the vatman as he made the sheet—or bits of shirts and petticoats that failed to be ground up adequately during the preparation of the pulp. I once found a fingerprint of a pressman enclosed in the binding of an eighteenth-century Encyclopédie—testimony to tricks in the trade of printers, who sometimes spread too much ink on the type in order to make it easier to get an impression by pulling the bar of the press.
Okay, I know. You're thinking, that guy is way more of an aesthete than I even want to be, and if I want some smells and feels — I'll have sex, not grope a book. (I'm talking about you, not me. I will grope an Apple computer.)

***

"That guy" is Robert Darnton, and his essay "The Library in the New Age" ranges far beyond what I've used here, so read the whole thing. Also, Robert Darnton wrote one of my favorite books, "The Great Cat Massacre," and if you buy it at that link, you will be giving me some money, so read that whole thing too.

IN THE COMMENTS: Simon says "Buffy" already did it:
"Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is. A certain flower or a whiff of smoke can bring up experiences long forgotten. Books smell... musty and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer is... it has no texture, no context. It's there and then it's gone. If it's to last, then the getting of knowledge should be tangible. It should be, um... smelly."

UPDATE: Dan from Madison tells the story — with pictures — of me demonstrating the Kindle. Excerpt:
Here is a horrible backlit photo of a random woman who interrupted us to tell us how much she absolutely loved her Kindle. Both Ann and I told her she was nuts.

ADDED NOTE TO READERS WHO ARE HAVING TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING THIS POST: I've added boldface and enlarged some print in the original post, which was apparently a tad subtle. Let me be sledgehammer clear. The stuff about smell is humor. My problem with the Kindle was AND IS the gray-on-gray screen. I want contrast: black letters on a white background. I want that in a book, and I want that in a computer screen, and of course, I want that in an electronic book. I want easy to read. I don't want to read ugly gray-on-gray print. Get it?

112 comments:

Simon said...

"Books ... give off special smells. "

Knowledge should be smelly, Jenny.

SteveR said...

I don't like reading anything long, on a screen. A book is a much more flexible object for the way I like to relax for reading. Been doing ita certain way for a very long time and I don't see that changing.

George said...

Children are growing up with multiple electronic options that are making books tiresome and old-fashioned. From their perspective, the problem is old people's attachment to the dusty boring things.

Books will always exist, of course, just as magazines and newspapers will, but if an electronic book costs 50% of what the paper book costs, consumers will flee the paper format.

Creative destruction is good.

al said...

I can't stand to read more than a page or so on a computer screen. Gives me a headache. The flexibility of a book is just too nice. Read in the car, on the hammock, wherever. Scribble a note, underline a passage - it's your book. Not sure if the Kindle offers that.

As for my kids, at 16 and 22, they still love to sit down and read books. I hope they never stop.

Krista said...

I remember that when I started using the computer I needed to print out a hard copy so that I could edit on paper. I couldn't imagine ever being able to edit a document without having the paper (and pen) in my hand. Now that computer screens are big and easily adjustable, I find that I read much more off the screen - I would never have imagined that I could comfortably read large articles or documents without paper in my hands. I figure I'm adapting ......

Also - as an overactive public library user, the smell of books is sometimes very unattractive....

I'm curious about trying the Kindle....... (maybe with some "eau de livres"?)

mjsharon said...

Amen al. You can give a book to a friend when you're finished (or your friend can give one to you). You can borrow it from the library. You can lose it. Reminds me of those sales pitches at the dawn of the PC age: "Put all your recipes on your PC!" Food-stained index cards are obviously superior.

AJ Lynch said...

"The real problem with electronic books".... is they are not books!

bearbee said...

I need to mark up pages with notes. I need to bookmark my reading, and then go back to contents listing or other reference points and forward to index. I like to know thickness and number of pages.

Book smells? Not so much.

re: Kindle screen, they need to improve with options of background color and text type.

Beth said...

Two Buffy comments in as many days on Althouse. I like it.

Every few years, the composition instructors in my department select a new writing handbook. It's a big contract and the book reps compete heavily for the business. This year, they all touted their electronic companion formats. One even had the whole handbook on a little USB drive -- that would be great as a supplement, but students would have to choose b/w the hard copy or the drive.

One problem I have with digital texts is that they're less inviting, less easy to skim through. So a student with some vague instinct that her sentence has an agreement problem is either going to have to know exactly what to look up, or she's going to have to understand the value of skimming several different possible chapters on her computer screen.

That same problem is magnified with online library searches. In a digital search, you enter a term and find some sources. The more specific you are, the more narrow the return; for that to happen, you have to already know something about what you're looking for. There's not a lot of serendipity involved, unless one follows up links. But in a library, once you have your call number for a book that fits your search, you then find yourself surrounded by texts on the same and related subjects. A treasure hunt ensues. I'm still learning how to encourage that experience in the digital world with my students.

oldirishpig said...

I really, really, really hate reading anything long on a computer screen; a PDF manual for software drives me nuts. Nothing can replace the flexibility of a book.

Trevor Jackson said...

Simon is a "Buffy" fan?

People are always more complicated than we give them credit for. I forget that.

Original Mike said...

I have no interest in electronic books, for all the reasons people have mentioned. For work, I will always print off a hard copy, and for recreation; there is more to the experience than just reading words. I suspect that electronic books will not become popular until we dinosaurs die off. And if books still don't die the death that those with a vested interest in the electronic format hope for, there's always government intervention. If they can ban the incandescent light bulb, why not the book. Why the carbon foot print of War and Peace alone ...

rhhardin said...

The act of folding ... with respect to the page printed large ... [the] intervention of folding or rhythm, that which initially causes a closed page to contain a secret; silence remains in it ... the folding back of the paper and the undersides this installs, the shadow dispersed in the black lettering ... the virginal folding back of the book ... such is the feminine form of the book, protective of the secret of its hymen, the frail inviolability [preceding] the introduction of a weapon, or letter opener, to mark the taking of possession [before] the consummation of any encroachment ... the fact is, in the actual case, that, for my part, however, on the subject of pamphlets to be read according to common usage, I brandish a knife, like a cook slaughtering fowls

Mallarmé, citations by Derrida Dissemination p.259

Alan said...

Heh heh, Dan has a pic of the shoes... Though the Professor isn't wearing the yellow socks. Which, in combination, remind me of Cheetos. Mmmm, Cheetos.

Mrs. Harriett Leatherberry said...

Would you rather receive a cold, sterile email?....

Or....

Experience the tactile sensations of one of my missives , on my classic freesia-scented stationery, with my embossed monogram and elegant ink-stained scrawl ?

I think the choice is clear.

Will said...

I have heard a number of positive reviews of the Kindle, particularly for the electronic newspaper and magazine subscriptions. That feature appeals to me much more than the book feature.
My problem with the Kindle is that if I buy a book, I want the book to mark, copy, lend, annotate and so forth. There are limited facilities in the Kindle to do that, but never so freely as a with a paper book.
Also, I am a library user. I probably check out and read 10 books for every one I purchase. I don't want to pay full fare for a little mystery novel or potboiler that I'm going to read once and then forget. If the Kindle had a facility to rent a book, say $1 for a month, I'd be much more tempted to use it for light reading.

Mrs. Delores Strathmeyer said...

Oh Harriett, that sounds absolutely delightful.

I would love to receive some handwritten correspondence on that darling stationery of yours !

SteveR said...

I wonder how Ray Bradbury feels about Kindle.. hmmm kindle.. kindling..kindling temperature.. farenheit 451..

Balfegor said...

One problem I have with digital texts is that they're less inviting, less easy to skim through.

I haven't really had that sense. I've been reading material off computer screens since I was very small, so I've sort of grown up with the idea that books can be digital as well. Unlike SteveR, I can sit for hours and hours on end flipping through books online, e.g. from Project Gutenberg. I think the only one I ever printed off was a copy of Paradise Lost, which I wanted to bring on a trip. And nowadays, with laptops, I don't even have any incentive to do that. I also read a fair amount of text on my cellphone (sometimes including this blog).

Digital texts may be hard to skim through if they're on something like the Sony Reader or the Amazon Kindle. You can flip through, after a fashion, on the Reader, because the numbered buttons will take you a tenth of the way through, a twentieth, and so on. But that doesn't really work.

A purely digital text, on the other hand, is actually very easy to flip through, since there's the scroll bars right there. Over the years, I even developed a kind of skimming technique, where I'd highlight blocks and fragments of text as I went down the document. Now, I've got a Toshiba M700 tablet PC, with the touchscreen option, and it's even easier to flip through, since I just flick a finger, and the thing scrolls. This is particular useful/fun with long Adobe PDF documents.

Palladian said...

I entirely agree about the sensory experience of books, and their smells. I have some 17th and 18th century books that are wonderful to read because of the variations in the texture of the paper, the impression of the type on the paper, the worn-smooth leather bindings. Wonderful experience, though it can be distracting because the sensual experience is sometimes more interesting than the subject of the books.

"Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is."

Not true. Smell only seems so powerful because it is so specific; it has to be exactly the same smell, exactly right or it doesn't trip the memory circuits. Vision and hearing are more fuzzy, more impressionistic. Smell isn't.

Anthony said...

I would love a workable ebook. Frankly, as one who went through the rigors of graduate school and still maintains a healthy dose of research in a field chock full o' dusty old manuscripts (archaeology), the advent of electronic versions of journals has been an absolute godsend. I don't need to keep a few hundred photocopies of older articles in a filing cabinet; I can go to my university library's web site and grab a copy of whatever article I need -- and if I don't have it, no having to work a trip to the library into my schedule. Instead of pawing through various bound volumes, I can do a search for articles.

I wish more older (and newer) academic books were electronic. So much easier to search for particular quotes and then copy-and-paste them when I need to quote directly.

Still, the paper versions have their advantages. The screen is still harder to read than a piece of paper and thus far is still more portable. I can't make marginal notes on an ecopy either.

OTOH, for entertainment reading I'd go for electronic in a second if they fix the readability issue. As it is, with rare exceptions I'll read a novel or nonfiction book and then throw it in a pile to take to the local used book store. What a waste of paper! And space, since I don't get to the used book store all that often.

I didn't think I'd make the transition to music files from CDs either, but it's been relatively effortless. I still buy some CDs because mpgs don't quite have the quality for stuff I listen to on my home stereo, but for the bulk of my music purchases, it's files all the way.

Michael_H said...

"Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is. A certain flower or a whiff of smoke can bring up experiences long forgotten."

My wife inherited boxes of her father's books after he passed away. He was a cigar smoker and usually wore a bit of after-shave.

The beautiful smile on her face when she opens one of her father's books and catches a whiff of long-ago smoke or cologne is something that can never be caused by an electronic book. Seeing a few cigar ashes between pages, or spotting a drop of coffee stain brings her closer to her father. A Kindle can't do that.

I have a shelf of technical manuals that could serve very well if loaded onto a Kindle for use int eh garage, shop and field, where books and DVD-containing laptops don't function well. That would be a very good use for a Kindle, I think, especially if the manuals could be updated and supplemented periodically.

I still have the copy of Elements of Style purchased while I was a high school student. It's now ratty, but remains a keepsake because of the marginal notes, doodles and telephone numbers of then-girlfriends. The memories it provides cannot be replaced by an electronic book, no matter how easy to use.

Simon said...

Trevor - oh, sure. I like most of Joss' stuff, although Firefly remains the favorite.

MadisonMan said...

Coming soon to a Garage Sale near you.

Theo Boehm said...
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Tex the Pontificator said...

I understand all the problems of reading from a computer screen. As a lawyer, when I have to read a document of any complexity, I print it out. And yet, I like my Kindle. I've read two books on it so far and regularly read the Wall Street Journal on it.

It's not perfect, and I sometimes have difficulty getting it to recognize my flash card, but I would hate to give it up.

former law student said...

When you buy a book you own the book and you can read it whenever you like. You can lend it to a friend. You can sell it. A book is always compatible. But the last 35 years of recorded music have shown, anything electronic is obsolescent.

Ponder the words of Richard Stallman:

We still have the same old freedoms in using paper books and other analog media. But if e-books replace printed books, those freedoms will not transfer. Imagine: no more used book stores; no more lending a book to your friend; no more borrowing one from the public library — no more “leaks” that might give someone a chance to read without paying. No more purchasing a book anonymously with cash “” you can only buy an e-book with a credit card. That is the world the publishers want for us. If you buy the Amazon Kindle we call it the Swindle or the Sony Reader we call it the Shreader for what it threatens to do to books, you pay to establish that world.

Salamandyr said...

I recently read a couple of novels, entirely on-line, thanks to Baen publishing's habit of putting a selection of back catalog titles online for free. The experience makes me wonder how many people who "can't read anything long" on a computer screen, might be using old fashioned CRT monitors, or have their screen resolution improperly set for their screen.

I too used to get headaches squinting at the vaguely blurry text on the average monitor as opposed to the crisp lines of text in the average novel. That at least is a problem of the past.

Salamandyr said...
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Ann Althouse said...

I spend many hours a day reading on the computer screen, but I still don't like the Kindle screen. It's too dark. If my computer was dark like that it would be completely unacceptable.

Salamandyr said...

Sorry about the double post. I've not seen the Kindle yet. If it's too dark I can completely understand that it's not optimal. But just because the Kindle isn't optimal, doesn't invalidate idea of reading on, say, a laptop (with a nice bright, but not glaring display of course).

Ideally, what I'd like to see is college texts made available electronically, at a fraction of the price of their hardbound competitors. That, and electronic copies of, say computer reference manuals, seems to be the perfect niche for electronic readers.

Balfegor said...

Re: FLS:

But the last 35 years of recorded music have shown, anything electronic is obsolescent.

ASCII text. A stalwart of the digital era for forty years. I still take almost all my notes in ASCII.

Anyhow, regarding borrowing and sharing and all that, if there's one thing the past ten years have taught us, it's that if you encrypt data people buy for single or limited use, people will crack your encryption. Look at MP3's -- for years, people tried to lock down digital music, with Apple's crippleware or Microsoft's ironically named "Playsforsure" copy protection. And look at us now! Naysayers said it would never happen. Optimists said it would. And Amazon now sells unlocked MP3s. I have one playing on my computer now in fact. Even Apple -- whose total commitment to the vision of a completely locked-down and controlled computing environment makes Microsoft look like Hapsburg bumblers -- has given in and offers unlocked MP3s.

If anything, things are better for the consumer now than they were before -- no more scratchy third and fourth generation copies. If a friend likes the music you're playing, you can make them a perfect a copy (at least, a perfect copy of what you have). And if they feel guilty about it, they can get a copy themselves. Don't have to hunt through back catalogues and used music stores to find it.

Obviously, books haven't come as far as music has, because devices like the Reader and the Kindle have only emerged recently, in the last two years, unlike MP3 players, which have been available since at least 2000, if I recall correctly, and maybe earlier (I think I got my first MP3 player in Seoul in early 2001, and there was already a huge variety of devices available then). I have a pretty high degree of confidence that books will follow MP3s eventually. The presence of a single dominant party, like Amazon, in the electronic bookselling business (analogous to Apple, in the digital music business), is probably going to retard that somewhat, but I don't really have much doubt that it will work out to our benefit in the end.

Pogo said...
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Pogo said...

School textbooks should be online. That whole market needs to go belly up. High school kids shouldn't be lugging home and slowly destroying 40 pounds of books every day. College classes shouldn't be able to force the purchase of a $120 tome which becomes completely worthless the last week of school. That racket would be transformed by e-books.

Only marginal doodling will be missed.


I might find e-books useful for some of my reading. But the aesthetic pleasure of holding a book and turning the pages one by one is not small. Like receiving a typewritten family letter at Christmas instead of a handwritten one, something is irretrievably lost when the sensuous part of books is remaindered.

MarkW said...

ASCII text. A stalwart of the digital era for forty years. I still take almost all my notes in ASCII.

But ugly to read. And unable to display illustrations. But there are formats that are ubiquitous enough that you can be highly confident they'll be readable in the future (and/or translatable to a new format). Html, PDF, and Word, at least, are as future-proof as JPG images from your digital camera.

The real problem is DRM/copy-protection. Your Kindle books are tied to the device and will become obsolete as soon as it does. I'd be quite happy to by unlocked e-books that I could easily transfer to any device I owned (now or in the future), but not copy-protected Kindle books.

Balfegor said...

But ugly to read.

It's only as ugly as the fixed-width font you use to display it.

Which can, I grant you, be pretty ugly, yes.

But there are formats that are ubiquitous enough that you can be highly confident they'll be readable in the future (and/or translatable to a new format). Html, PDF, and Word, at least, are as future-proof as JPG images from your digital camera.

One of the things that would make me a little cautious about PDF and Word, certainly, and possibly even HTML is the rate at which the standards continue to change, or seem to. PDF seems to go through a number of changes every time Adobe decides they want to sell a new version of Adobe Acrobat, adding new and different largely useless features. Word, of course, with Office 2007 (or was it 2008?) has become almost unrecognisable (docx), to the point that, as I understand it, non-Microsoft systems like Open Office have difficulty rendering it properly due to errors in the specification. And once-plain HTML now gets enhanced with all kinds of awful Flash. It was bad enough when it was just Java but Flash is just an abomination when people start using it for menus and other basic navigation. I don't have a super-high degree of confidence that these formats will retain perfect backwards compatibility and inter-system operability for an extended time into the future.

ASCII changes too, to be sure. And nowadays most of us would tend to use unicode rather than the original ASCII set per se. But it changes very, very slowly. And it's simple enough that you can look at the underlying bits and bytes and figure out exactly what's going on.

Original Mike said...

Pogo, re: textbooks online:

High School - yes
Undergraduate - maybe
Graduate - no

I derive a lot of pleasure when I use my old physics textbooks to work through a new problem. The feel, the marginal notes, the feeling of retracing old paths, and yes, the smell.

Pogo said...

Agreed about grad school books. Many worth keeping.

Most undergrad stuff is instantly worthless, however, overtaken by a "new" edition every year (largely superficial changes, but it keeps the money coming in).

Especially horrendous are the teachers who demand purchase of books that they themselves authored. Worthless to the fourth power.

Beth said...

I largely agree with Pogo's comment of 3:57 p.m. I can easily see some exceptions, but I especially think we'd do a much better job at making sure public school kids had up-to-date textbooks, and that every kid had one, if they were digital. It would also put an end to the huge backpacks I see on the kids at the nearby bus stop.

I don't know that the costs will change, however. I expect publishers will charge as much for the digital rights as they will for that overpriced hard copy. And the used textbook market could conceivably disappear.

Revenant said...

Balfegor,

The various encoding formats are versioned and documented. So long as your data is in a known format it should be readable forever.

Revenant said...
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Pogo said...

Beth,
One of the schools in MN charges students rent for a year's worth of books: $45. Total. Some digital stuff.

Brian said...

I have a Kindle. I love it. Hands down best piece of tech I've ever bought.

If you like to read, and if you have to travel a lot, the Kindle is a dream come true.

If you say you like to read, but really just like to fill your house with books so visitors are impressed with your vast (mostly unread) collection, the Kindle is definitely not for you.

I probably wouldn't recommend it for the casual reader or infrequent traveler.

Lou Minatti said...

When I am at the pool or beach with my kids, no way would I ever take a $350 device with me. Not a chance. My camera, yes. I can shove that into a plastic bag.

dbp said...

Meghan Mcardle has been raving about hers. Maybe she just needs the cash? OTOH, she blogs at The Atlantic, so she probably doesn't get sponsored links...

I don't have one, but from what I have heard, they work fine from inside of a zip-lok bag in wet conditions.

Seneca the Younger said...

I like mine. I reviewed it reasonably favorably, and I don't get a cut from Amazon.

I did have to make a little effort to get used to it, and it has some trouble with non-English text, like "ç"'s.

Seerak said...

My main issue with books as a kid was always that I had to reposition myself in bed every time I crossed to the other side of the spine. Holding a particularly thick book open -- especially one with the text too close to the spine -- also sucked (especially when eating at the same time).

I pined for a book that could somehow always have the text on the same page, so that once I got comfortable, I could stay there.

While I don't think the Kindle is there yet -- and the cost is definitely a bit much -- I'm not married to books as a reader, any more than I'm married to corks as an oenophile.

jeff said...

I just bought a Palm T/X to replace my Palm M125. Larger 16bit color screen, heck of a lot faster... I'm in heaven.

And with Mobipocket I can do anything with it that I would actually want to do with the Kindle - and cheaper too.

jeff said...

Oh - and the Palm does a lot that the Kindle doesn't. Or at least they haven't advertised it as having a calendar, memos, task list... you get the idea.

Palladian said...

Dammit, now Ann has featured Simon's "Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is" comment, further propagating this erroneous notion. Perhaps I didn't state the case strongly enough, so I'll quote from my friend Luca Turin's excellent book on the science of smell called The Secret Of Scent:

"The first reaction of most people when the subject of smell comes up is to mention its 'evocative' power, and to illustrate it with an anecdote about Granny's perfume. But the peculiar thing about smell cannot be that it evokes memories, because just about everything does. How many times, for example, has one felt the pleasant pang of nostalgia upon hearing a pastel-coloured Bacharach melody gently rain down from the ceiling speaker above an airport loo? Ever tried going out for dinner with the sister of a girl who dumped you and feeling those slightly rearranged facial features touch your heart when the light is right?

No, the special thing about smell is that it is idiotic in the proper sense of the word, namely unique. There are no exact equivalents in smell, you have to hit the tiny nail smack on the head or you'll miss it by miles. That's why the event is rare, and that's why we notice it. If what did it for you was "This Guy's In Love With You", no amount of "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" can stand in, and your ex's sister might as well be a complete stranger. The uniqueness goes right down to the molecule level. As I've said, there are no synonyms: no two different compounds out of the hundreds of thousands made so far have identical smells. Much less with mixtures: what was special about Granny's perfume is that, unfortunately for you, it was Guerlain's first version of "Chant d'Arômes". It smelled divinely of peachy skin, and no other floral lactonic before, during or since ever hit that exact spot. And furthermore, they messed with the formula some years ago when the bean-counters took over, thereby putting your late grandmother's smell permanently out of reach. You are now officially at the mercy of fate, waiting for that moment fifteen years from now when you'll walk past a stall in a flea market, pick up a small sample bottle in a tattered black and gold box and stand there transfixed. Or maybe you won't go to the market that day."

Revenant said...

When I am at the pool or beach with my kids, no way would I ever take a $350 device with me.

I would never take a book I actually cared to keep with me either, for pretty much the same reasons.

soho said...

Sorry Ann, you're just the wrong generation for it, I guess. I love my Kindle, its much easier on the eyes than a computer screen, unless you're in dim lighting. I read with a bedside lamp, and its awesome and simple. I love being able to order books in milliseconds, and I love getting the WSJ delivered to it every morning.

But the most important thing is... it really is easy to read and less straining to the eyes than a computer screen, as well as easier to position in your hand than a book.

Catch up with the 21st century!

Patrick said...

Get an Eee PC.

You'll be able to read books, surf, read email, and hack wireless networks at the same time.

Yummy!

Pogo said...

Palladian,
That's a stellar quote, in a style redolant of Paul Johnson's learned histories.



...but from what I have heard, they work fine from inside of a zip-lok bag in wet conditions.
This sounds like a failed pick-up line.

John Clifford said...

I have a Kindle, and I think that it is a great device... for a specific purpose.

That purpose is for reading most of the non-permanent stuff we get. I'm talking magazines, newspapapers, paperbacks, etc. Anything that I'd ordinarily spend $5 to $10 for and be done with in a day or two.

I've only bought one reference book for the Kindle and I don't plan to buy any others. I want my reference books to be BOOKS that I can loan out, etc.

As far as the reading experience goes, mine is far different from Ann's. I find the Kindle to be very easy to read in a variety of lighting situations. If the light is dimmer I just make the fonts bigger. The contrast is sufficient... easily as good as most trade paperbacks. And, the fonts are sharp and very readable.

My ideal Kindle would have a larger screen, revised buttons for next and previous page, a much better UI for the book catalog that would allow me to search and sort using a variety of book metadata, the ability to charge from the USB port (instead of requiring the wall wart), and would support DRM MOBI format files (so I could download ebooks from my local library without the hassle of having to go thru a 3rd party program that converts the format to something I can read on my Kindle). It would also have a native PDF reader.

I have a couple of blog posts on the Kindle, here and here, explaining my thoughts on the Kindle and where the future of e-publishing is going. Please give them a read and let me know what you think.

Palladian said...

Pogo, interesting to compare his prose with Paul Johnson. Turin's a very interesting guy, a fabulous writer, perfume fanatic, airplane enthusiast, and biophysicist who may have helped figure out the mechanism of olfactory reception, which is an extraordinary combination to say the least.

I was honored that he wrote a little piece (sort of) about me in a Swiss magazine where he writes a monthly column.

Katie said...

Um, students use *used* books. You want to check for smells on those, but not in a good way! Same with library books.

Personally, I'm allergic to books. I mean, the dusty book smell. Every time I read to my son at night, I get a stuffy, itchy nose. It won't stop me from reading, but I sure could live without it!

Pogo said...
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Pogo said...

Polymaths with a sense of humor are always good reads. Their metaphors are often a kind of genius.

Hucbald said...

Jeez, I'm in agreement with Althouse AND the French. A sign of the End Times, I'm sure.

I don't read literature or novels, because I'm just not interested in fiction, but I do have an amazing collection of music history and music theory texts - my collection would put some colleges to shame - some of which are ancient.

I have a special chair I read in, with a special lamp to read by, and the experience of opening up one of those old books is like a form of total sensory immersion: The feel, the smell, the look and the environment I created all add up to a complete and satisfying experience. No electronic book gizmo will ever replace that for me, and I love my gizmos!

iPods, iPhones and iMacs are great, but I would be completely uninterested in an iReader... by Apple or anybody else. If the service allowed me to download ancient codices I'm interested in - complete with illuminations and illustrations - I'd rather read them on my 23" Cinema HD display than a little tablet anyway.

Gershom said...

A perspective from somebody "too young to be a boomer but too old for generation X" :-):

I do much of my reading for pleasure on a Palm TX. Got it for half the price of the Kindle in a post-Thanksgiving sale. Screen has the contrast I want, it's backlit, doubles as my PDA and RPN calculator, and I can even read Email and blogs on it. I even found a Backpack client for it.

One of the font settings seems to be just what my astigmatic eyes want. And the device is so small and light that I can carry it on my belt and read literally anywhere, anytime.

In fact, I've basically stopped reading paperbacks since my eyesight simply isn't what it used to be. And hardbacks just are a pain in the neck to lug around, not to mention way too expensive outside the USA.

The screen and device are just too anemic for scholarly reading (at least in the sciences). Most scientific papers I read on my Macbook's screen (or the large external monitor) --- there's a really nice application called "Papers" (http://www.mekentosj.com) which is basically "iTunes for scientific literature".

Some things I still prefer to do with a red pen on a double-spaced dead-tree copy --- editing papers, for instance, as I'm freer to annotate, do calculation in the margins,... Also, I absolutely cannot stand Micros**t fourletterWord (real physical chemists use LaTeX :-)), so if somebody sends me a draft manuscript in f-Word I end up editing on paper rather than spend half the time working around M$ bugs and too-clever-by-half "features".

vbspurs said...

I get a Kindle, and finally Ann posts an update about it, 6 months later, woo!

Unfortunately, I didn't get it through her auspices and she won't be getting credit, since SHE DIDN'T SAY. Put out a link or something, you know?

After playing with this e-reader for 5 days solid I have to say, it rocks.

Let me tell you why you might be a good candidate to get one

1- Just today, Amazon dropped the $400 pricetag to $359. I called Tech Support and asked for a refund, which they were happy to give.

I fancy by Christmas it'll be down to a more do-able $299, and as I told the techie, if they can do it for $200 one day, it'll shoot through the roof.

2- It's Linux-based, so no virus worries.

3- It has EVDO (Sprint) web browsing for FREE. I read online that there are rumours Amazon will charge for it, but Support said absolutely not.

4- Subscriptions for blogs are tops 1.99 each, and Best Sellers are 9.99 each.

5- I've discovered the motherlode of eBooks online, including just out ones. This after I bought 20 Amazon Kindle ebooks. I'm in heaven and my pocketbook is alongside.

Look, the Kindle is not for everyone.

- Do you read books?
- Are you a commuter or spend long periods waiting for anything?
- Would you like to give your laptop a breather?
- Do you like the lightness of 10.3 oz in your hand, with the capability of 1000s of audio, mp3s, and ebooks with a memory card?
- Do you like the aesthetics of Apple?

This Kindle thingie is amazing. It combines the three most important values in American life:

Convenience. Speed. And independence

I've had clunky e-readers before, and this doesn't begin to compare. But we all are futurists, everyone of us, products as we are of the modern age.

We can project to a time when Kindle 1.0 will seem retrograde (no colour monitor, etc.).

The thing is, that date is no where near close-by.

Get it, if you can.

Heck. I still don't have a Crackberry.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vbspurs said...

BTW, the Motherlode of eBooks site I mentioned is for illicit d/ls.

I'm not condoning nor asking people to go out and search for it. But just like anything online, if I can find it, anyone can.

Here is a more legal site. Scroll down to the url with the "kindleguide". Download it, and install it in your Kindle or Mobi. Lots of classics there, in nicer format than Project Gutenberg.

And then there's this.

You have to register, and you get only 3 at a time, per month, but we're talking about current NYT Best-Sellers.

Finally, I've become a whiz at unlocking .pdfs. Took a lot of reading plus tweaks but I done it...and so can you.

The Truth is Out There.

Cheers,
Victoria

Kevin said...

Well of course books have a smell, especially after I've spilled coffee on one. I have no intention of abandoning the treekillers altogether, but I do aspire to get a Kindle just as soon as I'm as rich as Ann Althouse. I'm thinking it'll work great most on most occasions, greatly increase the time I spend in coffee shops, and significantly increase my reading volume.

But that doesn't mean you never again lounge around with a musty codex and a glass of scotch.

vbspurs said...

significantly increase my reading volume.

Sardonicism of your post aside, Kevin, this is the number one reason to get a Kindle.

I am a voracious reader. 1 book a day in summer is my pledge.

But I have wolfed down 10 books in 5 days whilst still sparing a lot of time for family, friends, doggie-ownering, and blogging.

Pages go by warp-speed. The sensory is important, and I love my old musty books (I have thousands).

But my word the sense of achievement you get with this thing is incredible.

You feel au courrant, just wanting to talk about all the things you read in all the blogs and newspapers you chomped down without being tethered to your computer.

Cheers,
Victoria

Grundbegriff said...

Cute shoes

MaliciousSquid said...

I have been debating on whether or not to get the Kindle for a few months now. Thank you, because this post and your vlog convinced me not to. I have the same sort of "where it is" type memory that you mention in your vlog, and I know I would miss that immensely.

For me, reading a book is about the whole experience (including smell, even after a house fire left the surviving books reeking of charcoal). A really great book can literally transport you into another world....and I just don't think the Kindle would let me do that. Again, thank you!

Simon said...

vbspurs said...
"I am a voracious reader. 1 book a day in summer is my pledge."

Sure, but you are reading The Secret Seven series. ;) I just wolfed down Steve Vogel's history of the pentagon - I thoroughly recommend it - in a week, and that's fast for me. I'm not as fast a reader as I'd like to be, and it's something that's never improved with practice.

vbspurs said...

Heh, I just checked to see if this super secret site had it, Simon. This is what they got for immediately .pdf d/l.

Upper Fourth at Malory Towers (Malory Towers S.)
by: Enid Blyton

Mystery of the Missing Necklace
by: Enid Blyton

Mystery of Banshee Towers
by: Enid Blyton

The Mystery of the Vanished Prince
by: Enid Blyton

Mystery of Holly Lane
by: Enid Blyton

The Mystery of the Missing Man
by: Enid Blyton

The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage
by: Enid Blyton

The Mystery of the Strange Messages by: Enid Blyton

Mystery of the Strange Bundle
by: Enid Blyton


Sadly I searched for Steve Vogel, and bupkus. :(

I bought "The Nine" by Jeffrey Toobin on Amazon, and thought about you though. :)

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

(including smell, even after a house fire left the surviving books reeking of charcoal).

The only downside to this sensory thing on Kindle is that e-readers don't allow you to share your books with others, once you've finished with them.

So if you guys don't know about it yet, go to Bookcrossing.com and sign up. You "leave" books anywhere you want, with a sticker, and like the Dollar Bill lookup site, you can see who has it, and it's future travels.

However, if people consider themselves even remotely environmentally-friendly the Kindle and its cousins are a no-brainer.

Jennifer Aniston flashes her Kindle in public, before she gets into the Prius.

Cheers,
Victoria

Simon said...

Vicki, I'd have given (or at least lent) you a copy. The other Vicki in my life is using it as a mouse mat, which is really the best use for it (Greenburg's book covers much the same book, and is far better researched and written). Actually, the really weird thing is that Toobin was on C-SPAN to promote the book shortly after its release, and he came across as even-handed, witty and fun; I kept wondering if he's just too incompetent a writer to come over that way in print, or if the book required a totally different approach. Either way, I really found his book leaden and very, very reflective of Toobin's biases. You can be slanted and still readable (Mark Tushnet, for example, who also wrote a book about the Rehnquist Court, or the enchantingly effervescent Ms. Lithwick), but it's a trick the book can't pull off. Since you've already ordered it - Sorry! :(

Dale Franks said...

I have to disagree, mostly.

Right now I have a 1stGen Sony Reader. I find the contrast acceptable, and I have hundreds of books stored on it, via a 2GB SD card. I buy all my books electronically.

I plan to get a Kindle, just as soon as they release the Gen2 version.

I really like the e-ink screen, and I love the ability to read for a couple of days without recharging. Being able to download the books directly to the device is perfect.

vbspurs said...

Dale, you can read your Kindle weeks for a week on a single charge, so long as you don't use the wireless "Whispernet".

(Analogous to the Bluetooth on a cellphone)

But Whispernet is only important if you want to browse the web, or order books directly from Amazon with one simple click.

You also have to turn it on in case you have to update any subscribed services. $14.99 per month for NYT, all of them on 14-days free trial.

I'm keeping NYT, Boston Globe, the Independent, plus Instapundit and Reuters. Ditching Le Monde, WaPo and WSJ.

I have yet to order any magazines, like Time/Newsweek/The Atlantic/Harpers, etc. but they're all available too.

No more papers and magazines collecting dust, yay!

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

Simon, you're a goldmine of info for an amateur Supreme Court fan! Thank you so much.

Don't worry about the Toobin book. I was going to get the hardcover, so I figure I "saved" at least $15 d/ling it to the Kindle. :)

newscaper said...

I'm in the Palm T/X camp, at least for pleasure reading.
Nice backlight, high-res color screen -- and dropping down the brightness is trivial for reducing any glare.

In addition to current books, which may be encrypted {spit - though some like eReader's let you also read on PC} there are tons of public domain you can get for free from ibiblio.org (Gutenberg et al)

FWIW the problem with reading on many PC LCD monitors it that the backlight makes solid white backgrounds too stark -- some PC ereaders let you pick different off-white backgrounds to reduce eyestrain.

Also, if you have an LCD PC monitor, make sure a) your display properties resolution is set to the exact pixel resolution of the screen hardware for the crispest pixels, and b) play with the setting for font smoothing under Effects-- for an LCD it should be ClearType. Some prefer it off.

Nolanimrod said...

Prefer previous A.A. picture.

Chip Anderson said...

I haven't read a paper book in years. I also had a friend to whom electronic books were anathema. I recently helped him replace his notebook computer because he spilled a drink on it while reading a book.

The Sony e-book is a throwback. I use my Palm device for most of my text books. For anything where graphics are a consideration, I use my notebook with Mobipocket Reader.

--
---
Chip

Kirk Parker said...

As far as high school textbooks go, there's the Open Content Curriculum Project as well as other open-source curriculum endeavors. The cost of such material is basically zero.

Christopher Althouse Cohen said...

Kind of mean to trash the woman who told us how much she liked the Kindle. She was trying to be nice, and we were technically at a wine tasting, so she obviously wanted to mingle and meet people. Now she's being ridiculed online for randomly interrupting us.

Christopher Althouse Cohen said...

I have a question: why can't you just download a book onto your computer and read it on there? Seems like the perfect solution.

Ann Althouse said...

Think of it as a colorful way of saying we really, really disagree.

Ann Althouse said...

BTW, the Scotch I picked was Ardbeg.

Ann Althouse said...

Well, you can't stand around on the subway reading the computer.

Also, the charge lasts a long time on the Kindle, so you can be unplugged.

It's more the shape and weight of a book.

vbspurs said...

I have a question: why can't you just download a book onto your computer and read it on there? Seems like the perfect solution.

One can, but as your mum mentioned it's the weight of the Kindle that is a plus.

Everyone's first reaction to it, is wow, this thing is SO light.

Check out this video from a guy called Rob. He unpacks the Kindle before your very eyes.

I since have read Dan in Madison's review about the keyboard being to sms-y (which I mentioned since my dad said it's not made for older, or male hands).

But the problem with eBooks is that they are usually DRM-protected.

It's really really hard to crack them if they are .pdf's/Adobe DCE 8.0, since that means the printing option (which is the illicit workaround) has been disabled.

IOW, it's not for people who don't know about hacking on computers.

This rules out a lot of folks.

The Kindle DRM has already been hacked, but as I said, I'm not condoning these practises or will point you to the right direction. Googleisyourfriend.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

As you can tell, I'm high on my Kindle, and I haven't stopped shouting Hosannas since I got it.

The one thing I forgot to mention, Chris, is that the Kindle can be mistaken for a book, if you use the cover for it.

It comes with a leatherette cover, so if safety is a concern with a laptop being stolen (the hassle of losing all your bookmarks, sensitive info, etc.), the Kindle is much less expensive in the long run.

Here are links to third-party and very cute covers for the Kindle.

And this. I got the black/raspberries on Page Two.

Bill Adams said...

Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute!

KINDLE ISN'T EVEN BLACK ON WHITE??!!

For God's sake, my old Palm IIIc does better that, and you can pick one up for less than a hundred bucks. Probably a lot less, by now.

Although of course I agree that a paper book is a more pleasant sensual experience in general, I have recently discovered that in some ways my Palm is a more comfortable read in bed at night, easily held in one hand and either scrolling at whatever precise speed I like (I know, you think you hate auto-scrolling, but how long have you really tried it?) or paging along with a gentle pressure from my thumb. I'm one of those people who would have thought they would get eyestrain or headache, etc., but you know, I'm not getting either. And there are hundreds of great books on Project Gutenberg to get through before I have to buy one. And if the ones you have to buy for Kindle cost more than an actual used book, it's really hard to see the point of it.

Barry Kearns said...

Just wanted to add that I, too, land squarely in the Palm TX camp, and ebook reading on this device is fine for me at half the cost of a Kindle (with a boatload of additional features that the Kindle can't match.)

For anyone else using the TX, I can recommend most strongly the PalmFiction software for ebook use. They have extremely easy-on-the-eyes fonts included, and more options than you can shake a stick at.

And it's open source freeware to boot!

Mark Swanson said...

When I was a kid we read beautiful hand-written scrolls the way God intended, before that radical Gutenberg came along with his stupid new innovations.

vbspurs said...

Having shut down my computer for the night, I turn on my Kindle, see that Insty has new articles, and start reading. Wouldn't you know? He had linked to this post!

So Kindle in hand, ironically enough, I sat down to read all 89 comments above.

I see a lot of biblophiles here have concerns about the sensuality of books. Its tactile smell, feel, and sentimental connotations.

If you think I'm going to pooh-pooh you for that, you're wrong.

I share those ideas. I have a library in the thousands of books, and I treasure the feel of all of them, the mustier the better.

But I'm into gadgets. *shrug*

Some people are, some aren't, but then others don't give an idea a chance, for perhaps some generational reasons (the word "dinosaur" was used by one commenter, not me).

Guys -- books, magazines, print-outs won't go the way of the pamphlets of the 18th century, or the scrolls of the Egyptians.

Clearly, they're here to stay, and hurrah for that.

But if you have used an ATM card or a cheque to pay for stuff, is there a way in the name of sanity that you can say you would prefer to carry around cash, exclusively.

Come on now, it's the post-modern age; it's the 21st century.

We are moving towards a more paperless world, and those people who say they would prefer a greener life, shouldn't think twice about this gadget.

People's eyes tend to glaze over, when a post gets too long. Me too.

I will continue below, answering questions posed about the Kindle.

Cheers,
Victoria

Minicapt said...

Took a long look at the Kindle when it was released and decided that there was too much need for Amazon's cooperation in keeping things running.

Besides, I have a Newton Messagepad 2100 which puts the Kindle at a slight disadvantage.

Cheers

vbspurs said...

Al: You said you liked underlining, highlighting, or bookmarking your books, inquiring if the Kindle can do that.

Yes! That's one of the best features.

With your cursor, you scroll to the passage, and clicking on it, can highlight a passage. You can then dog-ear the page, which is kept in a "My Clippings" file.

You can also add a note to any page, using the QWERTY keyboard.

Moreover, and this is very cool, it has a built-in, replaceable dictionary for super fast reference.

I was reading a book which had the word katabatic (wind) in it. With one cursor click, there was the full definition.

No need to move from where I was.

Will: You also mention the notes, etc. in your reply.

But you also mention you are a library user, as I am.

I know not all libraries do, but my public library offers a great ebook section. Check it out.

You might see if your library's homepage offers a similar programme (or has a partnership with a larger library consortium).

I can have up to 10 e-books checked out, with a 19-day expiration period each. When it expires, you just re-check it out.

It's entirely free, of course.

But needless-to-say, there are literally HUNDREDS of free ebook links out there, including the illicit ones like torrents and storage file sites.

It all depends just how much you want a portable copy and your own sense of justice (like mp3s).

Mjsharon:With the free .pdfs I just mentioned, you can give them to a friend.

Ann: You and others mention the darkness of the screen.

I have several paperbacks next to me, and whilst I concede that hardcover books have lighter shades of paper (in the case of law texts, they're almost pure white on black), there is virtually NO difference between a paperback page colour to the Kindle background colour.

So if you guys read paperbacks, you won't even think twice about the Kindle's readability.

Original Mike: Some grad texts, very much yes.

I found a technology site which has a huge amount of texts, all in .pdf, downloadable via Rapidshare and other (free) sites.

John Clifford: You nailed it. The Kindle and e-readers are there for a specific purpose. Clearly it's not meant for National Geographic purposes, yet, but it's much better than old copies of Time and Newsweek lying around like a doctor's surgery.

Gershom: That's great you got the Palm TX!

Which reminds me, the Kindle has 5 different sizes of fonts. You can go from the tiny tiny 1, to the mega-senior citizen 5. No need for bifocals when reading this puppy.

I read it in the default size 3, BTW.

I've read many times that the Kindle only has one font. Wrong. It has 6 different kinds, the primary ones being Caecilia to Neue Helvetica. Click on the links to see if you like them.

The Sony e-reader, e.g., only has 3.

Listen, I may sound like Jeff Bezos' younger, much cuter sister, but it's just because I'm a Kindle owner going on 6 days.

I'm excited about my purchase. I don't care if you buy it or not. I'm not offering any links to reward me with selling it to you.

I just want you guys to know this is a cool gadget, which will revolutionise the way e-readers do business.

Maybe Kindle 1.0 isn't worth $359.

But you can sure bet this is the wave of the future if it hits $200.

Above all, read! Gosh I sound like a library poster. ;)

Cheers,
Victoria

Chris said...

I am looking forward to getting a Kindle for traveling.

I considered the Sony Reader when it came out as I use a few dozen references in PDF format when I work on the road, but the Kindle seems much more functional. The added ability to access books on the go, blogs, and still keep multiple references with me is exciting.

Especially now, what with the airlines charging for one checked bag and more for two, I just can't see carrying hard copy volumes with me anymore.

That said, my wife and I are major bibliophiles and will always get 'real' books to peruse at home. We currently live in an apartment and have somewhere around 900 books (perhaps 40-50% are fiction).

I, too, prefer reading from a 'real' book, but I embrace the flexibility that the eInk-powered alternatives provide for travel.

vbspurs said...

Chris wrote:

Especially now, what with the airlines charging for one checked bag and more for two, I just can't see carrying hard copy volumes with me anymore.

Okay, okay just one more reply, then I'm off to bed.

In the interests of fairness, I have to mention that since the EVDO technology, powered by Sprint, only works in the USA, you can't use "Whispernet" abroad.

So whilst Europeans and others can own a Kindle to read books, they can't to purchase stuff via the Amazon store within the gadget.

OTOH, a very cool feature is the power adapter.

Doesn't matter which country you're in, with which currency, you can plug it in, and it'll charge the Kindle.

(You just need to buy a cheap plug adapter. We have 3 prongs in the UK)

Hah! I remember the hundreds my parents used to fork out, for electric converters for gadgets bought in Europe.

Night, Kindelistas! ;)

vbspurs said...

/voltage not currency (I think I was thinking current).

Robert said...

Sorry about the cruddy screen, but honetly Ms. Althouse I'd rather a book didn't smell like anything. The moment they start trying to make books smell like something they'll all smell like ass.

dirty dingus said...

I don't have a Kindle because I distrust Amazon's DRM strategy. I have a Bookeen Cybook which is significantly less tied to DRM and to a single company.

The cybook copes beautifully with funky accents and should (I haven't had reason to check) support east asian characters too. It does support Greek and Cyrillic assuming the document is UTF-8 and not using some sort of semi-proprietary codepage.

Ann apparently find the screen too gray and lacking in contrast. 'A chacun son gout' Personally I think the Cybook screen (same as the Kindle) is no worse than cheap newsprint or 2nd hand paperback books in terms of contrast.

Someone mentioned an eee in the commentss. The eee is a great little computer, this comment is being written on my eee, but it has a few major drawbacks as an ebook reader. Firstly the battery life is 3 hours not 3 weeks. Secondly the eee's display is almost impossible to read outside in daylight and thirdly the eee takes a while to start up so you can't just pop the eee out of your pocket to read while standing in line to play your part in security theatre. Related to that holding the eee while standing is not comfortable. Holding a Cybook is like holding a book and it is quite simple to read one handed

PS for the voracious ebook reader such as Victoria a bonus plug - www.baen.com/library - for loads of highly addictive free SF

Robert said...

Actually, I just thought of soemthing. It's a bit similiar. It's like when I get a new CD in the mail. Ya know, you crack open the package, and, yeah, alright, TESTAMENT! Bad ass, gonna crank some \m/ METAL \m/! Tear through all the packaging, that stupid sticky type 'round the edges that always leaves nasty gunk behind and then crack open the jewel case to pull open the CD only to be hit with what smells like anal rot. Ya throw the disc in the CD player but, honestly, now you're buffeted with some vile stench every time you crack open the case. Can hardly bring yourself to pick it up to see the track listing. Hell, this might affect future listening enjoyment because of the fact that you're disincentivised from picking the blasted thing up again. Maybe in six or seven months you can try again. Same with books. I wanna read ideas, not smell the sweaty, unwashed hands of bookbinders from previous generations.

Dan from Madison said...

Chris - I said "Here is a horrible backlit photo of a random woman who interrupted us to tell us how much she absolutely loved her Kindle. Both Ann and I told her she was nuts."

You said "Now she's being ridiculed online for randomly interrupting us."

I think your version is a bit harsh. This is the very short version of how we picked her preferences of the Kindle apart. It was an interesting exchange as the woman kept telling us how great the Kindle was and we kept telling her how much we didn't like it.

It is just my writing style, not intending to be mean in any way. I don't feel the need to trash or ridicule people online - I am a much bigger person than that.

vbspurs said...

I am a much bigger person than that.

If the length of your thumbs are anything to go by, you're a very big boy indeed. ;)

Cheers,
Victoria

blake said...

In the words of Jack Handey, "It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man."

blake said...

lol

Love the update, Ann.

Evan M. Thomas said...

I love my kindle. But then I'm forced to use it due to my visual impairment. I think that's what it takes to get used to the Kindle - no other alternative. But once you make the switch, you realize the ease of use.

So it doesn't have a white background because it's not a screen per se. It isn't a monitor, it can't do a lot of dynamic things - that's the point actually. Otherwise the battery would last all of 2 mins.

But for me, given my lack of choice in large print, the Kindle has helped me keep my sanity. I have a much larger selection of books to chose from them I would otherwise.

I've also been using the "Experimental" features - basic web, ask kindle and music playback. I find the Kindle to be the most important piece of hardware I own. Besides, the books are a lot cheaper - saving me money to boot.

Original Mike said...

Victoria said" I found a technology site which has a huge amount of texts, all in .pdf, downloadable via Rapidshare and other (free) sites.

Can you share the address, Victoria?

Ann Althouse said...

Evan, I would still find it easier to read on my computer screen. My problem with the Kindle is that I do find it hard to see (and my vision isn't very good). It's true that you can enlarge the print and carry it around more like a book, so I understand that. Still, don't you wish it was black print on white?

JB said...

I have been a bookworm for most of my life. On average I have read about 3-5 books a week since I was around 11 and discovered science fiction books. Since I am now in my 50's you do the math!

My bedroom overflows with hardback and paperback books but my favorite source for books now is electronic as they are available instantly and for less than paper books. While I agree that paper books are more somewhat more flexible e-books are not far off. I buy Mobipocket versions from Baen books which I can read on my computer or Treo (phone).

Mobipocket allows you to create bookmarks, add notes, search for words and perform lookups to dictionaries. If you keep your phone sync'd with your computer these notes and bookmarks will transfer between the two.

As to your complaint about grey on grey for the Kindle, I haven't tried it but I do sometimes have to increase the font on my computer if I am not wearing my contacts. This is something you can't do with a paperback book with small print. But I believe the Kindle also allows for these features.

Yesterday I reread John Ringo's March to the Stars and We Few on my computers (desktop and laptop).

By the way, www.baen.com shows that the Mobipocket book format I use also works on the Kindle.

Bay Area Savings "Supporting Our Local Merchants" said...

OK I absolutely LOVE my Amazon Kindle. I'm on the computer all day looking at a colored screen and by the end of the day I have no desire to look at even a TV set.

I read books here and there and enjoyed it. Would take my books to the gym while doing my cardio and was always fumbling with the pages and keeping the book open and straining my eyes to read the small font. Now with the kindle, I have it on the largest font, just press a button to go to the next or previous page..................What a difference it made for my reading at the gym.

Here are the benefits I have found with it:

I feel I read faster because I make the font bigger

If I don't know a word I just look it right up on the Kindle's dictionary

I don't have a PILE of books laying around crowding my house

You can check your e-mail plus more on the kindle

I like the black & white screen because I feel I'm not straining my eyes after being on the computer all day

I can send or download long documents that I have to read but hate to have to have a pile of paperwork within my hands. Can read this pile anywhere and one of the best times for me to read is right before bed so guess what, "my bedroom no longer has piles of paper around."

Can download books within any area in the USA

If you are a reader this device is a NO BRAINER! LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT. Best gift I've ever received

www.bayareasavings.com

www.myspace.com/bayareasavings

vbspurs said...

Dirty Dingus: Thanks! I did read about that Baen site, but I'm grateful to you for suggesting it to me. :)

Original Mike: Not sure that's kosher here, as they do illegal stuff too. Please come over to my blog, and drop me a line!

Guys, for those who live abroad, I found a great alternative

Check out the Bookeen e-reader from a Parisian company.

It looks like an iPhone, sleek and black. Downside is that it is £245 for the basic one (there is a deluxe), so that's more expensive than the Kindle.

Also, it's an eInk reader.

But it is a great option for those who don't have EVDO (Sprint) capability.

Cheers,
Victoria

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Jay Olle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay Olle said...

Something I think may have been left out, I can't possibly read without a pen (I hear this is possible for those of you who enjoy fiction...which I don't even begin to understand). I like to write in, mark up, write notes of importance IN the text I'm reading...as it makes it very useful and easy to use them for reference later. And no, that highlight crap on e-readers..not even close.
Also, with a book I don't have to hurry to finish what I'm ready out of fear that my battery will die, books don't have batteries. Think of the trouble you'd be in if you forgot or grabbed the wrong charger...you'd be screwed, I'd be reading. And, while water, for whatever reason (reading in the rain, dropping book in pool) may make my book cosmetically unappealing to some, I won't have to replace it....all my wet books I can still enjoy...though just slightly more crispy.