Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Bibliophiliac and His Kindle

On December 21, 2008 in a post titled Inspector Gadget: Goodbye Gutenberg, I said this about Amazon.com’s e-reader, the Kindle:

Call me a crusty old curmudgeon—go ahead—but there is no fucking way I will ever give up real books for an e-reader called the "Kindle.”

I considered a somewhat stronger-worded opinion, but I guess my venom wasn’t flowing quite properly that day.

One year to the day later, December 21, 2009, Martha and the U.P.S. guy gave me this for Christmas:

I have kept it a secret because I am ashamed to tell all my bibliophiliac friends that I own one. And that Mr. No Fucking Way is using it every day. Not by choice, thank goodness, but by necessity: during the past year, my eyesight has gone from good to less than good to just plain lousy.

The model I received is the Kindle 2 shown in the photo—the upgrade from the original, but not the larger DX. Martha paid $259 US for it, no shipping or sales tax, plus another $30 for a nice fleece-lined cover to protect it.


1. With six preset font sizes, the largest being about 18-point, it is working well for me. That, of course, was the reason for the gift.

2. I like the smaller, featherweight size, and it fits easily in Martha’s purse.

3. After a month, it still works.

I started reading Stephen King’s Under the Dome on November 15, struggled through 488 pages, and finally put it down. When I purchased the Kindle version a couple days ago, I’m back up to speed in a story I’m really enjoying.


1. No matter what anyone says, reading on a Kindle is nothing like reading a real book with real paper and real ink. The Kindle's black print is crisp against a gray background, but it just ain’t the same.

2. Amazon is fibbing about the number of e-books available, at least at this point in time. Most of the current books by popular authors are downloadable, but oldies and classics are not. Faulkner? Forget it. Palin and Patterson? You bet. The same holds true for genre fiction, much of which tends toward trilogies and long series. I have been frustrated several times to find that books 1 and 3 of a trilogy are available, or 2 and 3, but not all three.

3.The Kindle does not use page numbers. Rather, it uses “locations” to tell the reader the percentage of the book read so far. The reason, Amazon claims, is the font sizes: the location of a certain page is different at 10-point than it is at 18-point.

4. Because of number 3, the Kindle is useless for quoting page numbers in a research paper or even a blurb in a book review. If I said, “The following quote is from location 2,784,” you would all think I’m nuts. And good luck to teachers.

5. While there are different font sizes, there is only one generic font for ALL books. A Kindle book is not the same as a printed book: it is digitally converted into a generic format with NO copy-editing. The amount of typos is horrendous.

6. Also unlike a book, there is no easy way to flip backward to a list of characters or maps. Luckily for me, I remember the three pages of characters at the beginning of Under the Dome or else I’d be in trouble.

7. The “Next Page” buttons are noisy, and skipping ahead two pages instead of one happens frequently, making it necessary to use the “Previous Page” button, which is only on the left side of the device. I’m not left handed.

8. The Kindle will only accept Amazon-formatted files (.prc), so downloading files from free sites that use .mp3 or some other format is not possible.

There is no sense in beating a dead horse to death; e-books, in my opinion, do not hold a kandle to the real thing. Unless you have a compelling reason to buy a Kindle, Sony’s Nook, or the Apple iPad, I would wait until the technology and choice of books improve. Drastically improve.

If you have specific questions or curiosities, ask them in the comments section. I will reply within a day or two.


Pat said...

Is it a pro that you don't have to hold it? I find very heavy books -when I'm reading flat out in bed - a bit tiring. I could sit up but I prefer to snuggle down.

Wandering Coyote said...

Wow - you came out of the closet! I was a bit surprised to read this post, but it was a great read! Sounds like there needs to be a TON of improvement before this becomes even remotely viable for "real" readers. And I was surprised at the typos; that is absurd to say the least. If you're going to pay for the book, you should get the brand spanking new version of the text - with NO typos.

Diane said...

Remember the old adage Charlie "Never say Never"...LOL

I love my Kindle (for chunky books like Under the Dome, Wolf Hall, etc),not to mention for travel. I agree it will never replace the pleasure I feel for touching real books!

Charlie said...

PAT: You still have to hold it, Pat, but that's what I like about it: it only weighs a few ounces. And it's just right for snuggling.

WC: Yes, I came out: I felt like such a fraud, hiding something dirty and evil from all of my friends.

Not all books are typo-filled, but enough to piss me off.

DIANE: You're so cute, standing there with your hands on your hips and a big smile! I bet you were an adorable baby.

And your adage is spot-on. Change is one of the guarantees of life.

Tui calls chunky books "thumpers" because that's the sound they make when you close them very fast.

St Jude said...

I was considering buying one or something similar purely for travelling, it is a lot less to pack than the huge amount of books I normally take with me. But then I really didn't think I could justify it just for that. Also I think that I would get extremely irritated with the cons.

laytonwoman3rd said...

You sure know how to take the fun out of a secret!! The minute I swear not to tell, you go and open up to the world! Well, you know what? It's worth it to have your informed opinion of the WMD (Word Made Digital), and to learn that my un-informed opinion was pretty spot on. I can still trust myself, at least. Hummmph.

Charlie said...

ST JUDE: e-readers are an excellent alternative to sticking 6 books in your luggage when travelling. Or riding the bus, or sitting in the dentist's waiting room. But the cons and cost are difficult to justify right now.

LINDA: I felt so dirty and cheap, keeping secrets from my friends. That, and I can't keep my own secrets worth a crap. I even have a Kindle books category on LT now.

WMD—Word Made Digital—that's a good one!

BTW, I have another secret for you . . .

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Hey if you ever get bored sitting around being a crusty curmudgeon, you could easily get a job reviewing stuff. You just told me exactly what I needed to know to not cave into getting one. For now.

hugyourkidz said...

I just laughed so hard I woke the dogs up.

Robert the Skeptic said...

How's this for irony, reading "Fahrenheit 451" on a Kindel!

Charlie said...

BARB: You might be on to something. I've always wanted to review the Veg-O-Matic, Ginsu knives, and The Clapper.

HYK: Gee, you oughta wait until I write something funny before waking the poor dogs. Please apologize to them for me.

Our two mutts sleep way too much. We have to wake them in the evening and tell them it's time to go to bed.

ROBERT: Here's some more irony: using the Kindle for kindling.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Well done for coming out. And for giving me such excellent reasons for not buying one, even under pressure.

Companies require the use of propriety formats so that at some stage in the future they can make "essential upgrades" to the format that require your buying new hardware.

kara said...

i'm going to wait until the kindle evolves into a caribbean cabana boy in a speedo reading to me out loud while also fanning me with a palm.

Lady_Amanda said...

I have never heard of a Kindle. This was a very informative blog. I don't think I will go and and buy one or any device like it. Maybe when I become an old lady and need it for my eye sight. However, you know what (because I just had my thirty birthday) by the time I am an old lady maybe a kindle of something like it is all they will have to offer. Damn telechnology!

You made me laugh, thanks,

laytonwoman3rd said...

Another secret? Well, I'm waiting....

Tiffin said...

I just don't know...I just don't know...the typos would drive me nuts. I fix grammatical errors as it is now. But spulling mistaks? I might lose it.

I am kind of wondering about one of those notebook thingummies though.

Word verification is: wrings

How appropriate!

Tiffin said...

p.s. I think I used the wrong term. Not a notebook, one of those things the size of a paperback. You can tell how techie I am not, can't you, Charlie!

Charlie said...

KEVIN: I'm glad I could help with your non-buying decision.

And I'm sure you're right about new hardware in the future. Publishers, bookstores, authors, and libraries are all in a quandary about the impact of e-readers.

KARA: A nice, young, juicy cabana boy? You may have to wait a while.

AMANDA: 1. Happy birthday! 2. Real books will never die. 3. You're welcome that I made you laugh.

LINDA: Never mind. Whatever the secret was I probably let it out already.

But thanks for asking!

TUI: Well, this is a first: I have absolutely no idea what you're mumbling about.

Tiffin said...

An IPad! That's it!