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Feb 14, 2010

Faculty Chat: Kindle Reading (product review)

A discussion arose recently between Guest Blogger/Contributors Webb (From The Garden Bench) and  Cathie (The Desert of My Real Life) , with AK, of Atlanta.  Caroline Bender moderated. 

CB: What attracted you to the Kindle, and what finally made you buy?

AK: I am a "gadget" person and an avid reader, so I had been intrigued with the idea of an electronic way of reading books for a long time.   I read a lot of paperback fiction and then I donate the books, so this was a way to read them at a cheaper price and not have to deal with the issues of either finding room for them or getting them somewhere for donation.  It is living up to that.

Cathie: I am a voracious reader. A year and a half ago, I took a trip to Spain. I never want to be without reading material on trips like this and so I brought plenty of books with me for this two week visit... I didn't count on my initial flight being delayed. I finished my first book before I even left the first airport. When I arrived in Philadelphia for my first of two plane changes, I was nearly halfway through my second book. Despite the many books in my checked baggage, I bought another book at the Philadelphia airport because I was sure I would finish this second one before I arrived in Barcelona.

Webb: First, I am CHEAP!! Like really cheap.
We bought two Kindles as anniversary gifts to each other and in anticipation of a two-week vacation on a boat - a time where we would not have room enough to take enough books to keep me occupied...  Last Sunday I downloaded a 1000-page novel to read on the way home - in anticipation of spending many hours in snowed-in airports. I was not disappointed.

CB: But the Kindle certainly isn't cheap
Cathie: I was concerned about the high price of the device and the still relatively high price of the electronic books that were available... At the time, the device was selling for $359 and the average book in the Kindle store was $9.99, about $5 less than the hardcover editions were selling for at Amazon.

I reconsidered [when] the price of the six inch version of the device had fallen to $259. I read that I could get a subscription to the Boston Globe for the Kindle for $9.99 a month, which is a bargain when you consider a single Sunday edition costs $4.00 up here in NH. So in early December, I made the plunge and purchased my very own Kindle.

 CB:  So...how's the reading experience?  
Webb: Reading is fine, although you do have to "turn the page" (push a button) pretty often and occasionally that bothers me. I love the font feature that allows me to increase the size of the font when I want to read in low light. It's great to be able to pull it out of my purse to read for those odd moments that suddenly appear and stretch on. I have bought several (inexpensive) books as a risk and they were all ok - nothing I went gaga over.

Cathie:  It's just a bit different than I thought it would be. And I'm using it differently than I thought I would. I haven't really traveled since I've gotten it, but the nice thing is that it's small enough that I can carry with me all the time. Then in those moments when I find myself waiting for something unexpectedly, I can take it out and read something that I've already been reading. I've never carried a book with me unless I knew I was going to be waiting somewhere. 

The two things in particular that reviewers were raving about were the reading surface which more closely mimicked paper (and its lack of strain on the eyes) than the backlit screens of the other readers and the 3G wireless connectivity which allowed the Kindle to connect to the Amazon store (and its many, many books) from anyplace there was cell phone service.

AK:  I wasn't too sure about the comments in the reviews that I had read ...that after a while you lose the "device" [feeling] when reading and you don't think about the fact that you aren't physically turning the pages.  I was wrong - when I'm in the middle of a good story, I'm not thinking about the Kindle at all.

Cathie: I did notice, however, that I wanted to hold the device like a book [2 hands] and ... found that the most popular was the Mivizu Amazon 2 Leather Cover

 CB: Do you still read that ancient papyrus version ?

AK:  I do still read in paper format.  There are certain authors that I love and I want all of their books on my shelves, so I can go back and re-read them.  I also love old books - I'm not a real collector, but I do still have most of my mother's childhood favorites, that became mine as well.
Webb: Definitely still read paper books. Books from the library are all FREE! If it is a new book that I really want to read NOW (True Compass) I will Kindle it.

CB: Let's talk about purchasing, since you've brought that up.  How is the Kindle purchasing experience?
Cathie: When [my device] arrived, I immediately purchased two books, one fiction and one non-fiction. I also purchased a single weekday edition of the Boston Globe for 49 cents, which $1.01 less than the paper edition would cost me. I read the non-fiction book quickly, making notes as I went along using the built-in keypad and placing bookmarks throughout the text on the interesting bits

Webb: When I am feeling cheap(er) I download classics that are frequently FREE! Like Treasure Island and Jane Austen - which I haven't read since I was a teen. Great fun to re-visit. All NYT best sellers are $9.99, so nearly paperback price while first edition. The main thing I don't like is that finding a random book is tedious on the Kindle. I usually do my surfing on my computer first, buy the book, and then when I open the Kindle, it downloads. If you know what you want, it's quick and easy to purchase on the fly - as I did Sunday in the airport.
Cathie: There have been two negative aspects to my Kindle use so far...I have been a bit disappointed by the choices and, sometimes, by the prices. For example, a friend recommended that I read Salmon Rushdie's 1985 Booker Prize-winning novel, Midnight's Children [which] is unavailable in a Kindle edition. And I've found this to be the case with quite a few older novels. Although most novels are $9.99 in the Kindle store (saving about 33% off the paperback price), non-fiction works tend to be much more expensive. Frans Mayra's book, An Introduction to Game Studies, is $38.65 in paperback and $32.36 in the Kindle edition, which is nowhere near a 33% savings.

AK: I do like the idea of seeing a book being reviewed/mentioned on TV or in a magazine and then being able to go and download it in 60 seconds.  I have had pretty good luck with Amazon having most books available when I've gone looking for them.  I have had a couple of instances where it wasn't available or I had to pre-order it, for delivery at a later date.

CB: Do you think you buy more books now than you did in traditional format?
AK: Not sure ...Most of what I've been reading lately would be available in hardback or paperback as well - mostly pretty current fiction.

CB: Do you think you're more willing to, say, "take a risk" on a book in Kindle format that you might not consider at full cover price?
AK: Definitely - it is a great way to try a new author and only pay $9.99 for the book, vs. paying $20+ for a hardback and find that I don't like it. 

CB: Is getting a Kindle gift card the same as getting a book as a gift?
AK: I'd rather pick something that I know I want to read than have someone give me a book that I may already have, or wouldn't be on the top of my list of things to read.   I love getting [books] as gifts, but if someone gave me a gift card instead, I'd be just as happy to go and buy it later myself.
Webb: Got a $25 Kindle gift card for Christmas - it was great! Easy to redeem and I got 3.5 books for it! Nice gift.

The Kindle wireless reading device is a product of Amazon, a partner of the Finishing School.

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