Kindle 2 Review

March 27, 2009

I’ve been considering e-readers for quite some time, so I finally took the plunge recently. I’ve had my Kindle 2 for about three weeks, and I’m still completely smitten.

I decided to get an e-book reader because my bookshelves are stuffed. Surprisingly, this is not as fun as it sounds. I was also sick of trying to keep track of which books I own, which I got from the library after a series went hardcover, and which books are only available in the dreaded trade paper format that I have such an irrational dislike of. And finally, my library is a bit limited and my nearest bookstore is slower than dirt when it comes to stocking new genre novels. I love being able to buy and immediately start reading a new book, even if it’s 11:30 pm, raining cats and dogs, and I’m in my PJs.

After some research, I chose a Kindle. The biggest factor was probably Amazon’s selection and pricing. Not every book I’m interested in is available for Kindle, but in general I’m really impressed with the selection. Anything that’s already out in paperback is usually only a dollar or two cheaper than a regular copy. But many new books are only $9.99, which is a great deal. Amazon’s Whispernet service was also a big part of my decision, it’s nice to be able to search for and download a new book even when I’m away from my computer. And since I can choose to get free sample chapters from Kindle books, I haven’t ended up buying any books that were completely different than my expectations – at least not yet.

I love, love, love the E-ink screen. It really does look a lot like paper, and I can read for hours with no eyestrain. It’s pretty hard to believe how cool this screen is until you see one in person. The battery life is also impressive. I tend to leave the wireless off unless I need to download a recent purchase or want to browse the store, so the battery lasts around a week for me. I use both the text resizing and built-in dictionary a lot more than I thought I would. Changing the text size is really helpful when I’m getting tired or in a room that doesn’t have bright lighting.

Another big benefit is the number of e-books available for free from sites like Feedbooks. There are a lot of books that are old enough to be out of copyright, including some by great genre authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.P. Lovecraft, and Robert E. Howard. Some authors and publishers also give away e-books to drive up interest in their work, both on Amazon and on other sites. Many of these offers are only available for a limited time, but I’ve already gotten three free books that I had planned on reading even before the promotion.

The hyped text-to-speech feature is a bit of a dud to me. It’s better than some earlier text to speech efforts that I remember, but it’s hard to imagine this technology ever competing with an audiobook. I can’t see myself seriously trying to use it, but in small doses it’s fun. Hypothetically speaking, it could be very entertaining to inflict various dramatic scenes from Twilight on your husband. (You didn’t get this idea from me.)

The biggest weakness in the interface is the lack of a folder or tagging system. Organizing content on the Kindle is limited. You can sort your list of books by what you’ve opened most recently, by title, or by author. That’s it. It’s not a deal-breaker to me, because I’m using a combination of Calibre and Goodreads to keep track of my e-books. But I try not to keep more than 30 books on it at a time so it won’t be a pain to browse them. That’s a bit sad because Kindle 2 can hold a lot of books. I’m not sure if everything on my recommendations list is available for Kindle. But if they all were, then they’d all fit.

One thing to keep in mind is that there are a lot of different e-book file formats out there and Kindle won’t read them all. But many files can be converted to Kindle-compatible formats fairly easily, unless they’re evil PDFs or have DRM. And DRM is an issue that you really need to educate yourself about if you’re interested in going digital. DRM sucks because it often ends up harming or inconveniencing legitimate customers more than the file sharers that it’s aimed at. Most sites that sell e-books use some form of DRM, but many forms of it can be stripped by people with enough know-how and determination.

I’m hardly going to stop buying paper books any time soon, but I think that, over time, going to e-books will improve the quality of my physical library. Eventually I’ll only be keeping paper copies of books that are my favorites, books that I can’t digitally replace, or books that are special to me in some other way. And of course my other reading will still be convenient, accessible, and probably better organized than my bookshelves.

One of the best sources for info about e-book devices, formats, and issues is the forums at Mobileread. But I’d be happy to try and answer any questions in the comments. I’ll probably be posting more about e-books (at least as they relate to urban fantasy) from now on.


5 Responses to “Kindle 2 Review”

  1. Zabet Says:

    I read an article about the kindle about a year ago and was smitten just from the description. Unfortunately, a year later, Amazon has still not seen fit to allow Canadian customers to buy their kindle or to download kindle books. After several letters of complaint I broke down and bought a Sony Reader. It is wonderful. It doesn’t have the wireless downloading but that is a feature I don’t expect I would use much anyway. I even managed to learn to let go of my need to hold on to every book I have ever read and took a ton to second hand bookstores so that other people can enjoy them! Having worked in a bookstore and currently being a teacher, I can see the huge potential for this technology. The ability to change the text allows any book to become a Large Print Book, something that is often in scarce supply at most bookstores and which usually do not come out until long after the original publication. I also can imagine textbooks becoming available on these devices, alleviating the immense cost of texts and the backbreaking work of carrying them around. Lastly, but certainly not least, being able to download books cuts down on huge amounts of paper, if even just 100 people download 10 books in a year instead of buying them, that is 1000 books that never get printed, and who knows how many trees that don’t have to be cut down.

  2. deety Says:

    The lack of availability for countries other than the US is disappointing, and hopefully they can get that sorted sooner rather than later. I’m glad you’re happy with the Sony though!

  3. For what it’s worth, the non-US availability issue is more of a publication rights issue. Kindle books are published by U.S. companies, who don’t necessarily have the electronic rights for their books in, say, Canada (which has different publishers). So Amazon can’t just publish a bunch of U.S. editions in Canada, or anywhere else.

    So we have to wait for the non-US publishers to agree to release their books for the Kindle.

  4. Shayness Says:

    I’m really considering getting a Kindle. I have no more room for books in my tiny apartment.

  5. Icarium Says:

    I must say the only bad thing about ebooks at the moment is drm wich as stated above is mostly useless about stopping poeple from sharing the books online and inconvenience everyday buyers. There is no way I will pay full Price for a SONY DRM book on their website so that it can only be read on the 1 device i have at the moment. That means that if i decide to change readers in the future, every book i bought from them wont be readable on this newer device. I will wait for a broken copy and will never buy a DRM book in my life, that i promise.

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