My Take on the Amazon Kindle

Last December after much deliberation, I went ahead and purchased the latest generation Amazon Kindle. I’ll save my thoughts about Kindle vs. iPad for another post but wanted to share some of my thoughts and observations now that I’ve had the Kindle for over half a year.

PROS

As advertised, the Kindle offers a very immersive reading experience. I generally forget that I am reading an ebook.

Amazon’s e-ink technology is easy on the eyes. No, it’s not backlit, but neither is a “real” book.

It didn’t take long for the navigation functions to become intuitive.

The battery life is LONG. I can read for weeks without re-charging.

The Kindle is very lightweight. I find it easy to hold in a variety of reading positions (e.g., lying on my back or side on the couch) without my arms getting tired. This is not true of many of the real books I read, especially more academic works.

The size and weight of the Kindle make it ideal for travel. A few months ago I flew to Pennsylvania to teach. I was able to keep all the course textbooks on my Kindle and bring reading for the flight. Gone are the days of lugging huge backpacks and rolling carry-ons just for books. (And I would say at least half the passengers on my flight also had Kindles!)

The Kindle allows me to live more compactly, which is a value to me. It stores up to 3,500 books, depending on size. Even if you figure that it can hold 1,500 academic books (a very low estimate), think of how much shelf space you will save in your home or office. I have already added 35 volumes to my library this year without an inch of additional shelf space. (Of course, that also means I can’t show off my book collection, either.)

Since getting the Kindle, I read even more than before. I think this is due to several factors:

  1. The Kindle user is able to adjust type size, letter spacing and line spacing to personal preference. I have optimized the settings for my own reading style and pace so I that each page has the ideal-sized “chunk” of text for me to digest in one scan. Therefore, I read faster.
  2. Page-turning is smooth and fast. Again, I feel as though I can digest more text in less time.
  3. While the Kindle provides “location” and page numbers at the bottom of the screen, I am not aware of the size of the actual book. I have found that I read more because I am not daunted by how much (or how little) progress I’ve made, especially with a thick book or one with small text. I just keep turning, digital page after digital page, with each page optimized for my reading style.
  4. It is soooo easy to just download another book to my Kindle. Forget a trip to Barnes & Noble or the library. Forget two-day or even overnight shipping. With one click, I can have a new book delivered in seconds.

Of course, the flip side of this convenience is that I have spent more on books since I got the Kindle. While Kindle books generally cost less (sometimes much less) than their paper counterparts, a few clicks at $9.99 each can add up quickly.

CONS

As much as I love my Kindle, there are several things I miss about paper books. The biggest is that you can’t just “flip” through a Kindle as you would a real book. Not all Kindle books allow you to navigate directly to the next chapter without going through the Table of Contents first.

In addition, as a visual learner I often remember a passage based on its position on the page or in the book overall. The same goes for rifling through the pages to glance at chapter titles or headings. And part of me misses the look and “feel” of a paper book’s font and even the book’s size, heft, and binding. Although I read more and faster with my Kindle, it still feels different from how I have learned to “experience” a book. I suspect this is why my husband — an avowed bibliophile — has not yet made the leap to e-books.

The Kindle, so far, has been designed for individual consumption and not for sharing. While there are library deals in the works and I can share my content with Kindle devices or applications I have linked to my account, it’s still not the same as just loaning a book off my shelf.

Finally, while highlights and bookmarks are pretty easy to insert, the Kindle is not good for note-taking. I am sure that anyone who writes in paper books would get frustrated very quickly. And while the e-ink looks like a printed page, I wish highlights could be added in various colors as I do in regular books. For these significant limitations, the Kindle is not yet ready for full adoption by the academic market.

Do you have a Kindle? If so, what are your impressions?

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