Saturday, November 16, 2013

I Buy a Kindle

This is a story in which I buy an Amazon Kindle.

I had resisted for years. I was not interested in ereaders, because I love books, and ereaders strip them of their physicality. Even ordinary books are often beautiful. They have heft and scent. They have personality, evidenced by their covers and their content. They interact with you, showing you your progress through them, allowing you to leave your mark on them. They are born, live, and die. We are loathe to throw them out even when they are falling to pieces.

Then the iPad came into my life. I love my iPad. It’s portable and versatile computing. I check my email and the weather. I play games and watch television shows. I look up recipes, check Facebook and Twitter, and I read. I downloaded the Kindle app and read several books on it.

As an ereader, the iPad is not ideal. The screen catches a lot of glare and is impossible to read with light falling directly on it. Worst of all, it’s heavy. It’s hard to hold up for long periods of time.

I still mostly read physical books, but I have found some uses for ebooks. Things I don’t care to have a shelf or try to find or wait for from a library, for instance. It’s useful when traveling to bring a multi-purpose device rather than a stack of books. And some books are only available as ebooks, like local author T.I. Denni’s Tanzi series (Tanzi's Heat and Tanzi's Ice).

One day while craning my neck to read an ebook on my propped-up iPad, I was suddenly struck with the inspiration to actually buy a Kindle. I had held one at the library and found it surprisingly light. On Amazon, they were being advertised for as little as $69. Why not? That’s less than I spent on my latest pair of sneakers.

There it was, the small black device the size of a greeting card. I started it up and found a welcome note from Jeff Bezos. "Ack! I’ve gone to the dark side!" I thought. I am no fan of Jeff Bezos, except that Amazon works really, really well, and that’s why we all use it.

Next thing I found to dislike—and this I really hate—it has advertising!! When I turn the Kindle off, instead of a blank screen, there is an advertisement for a Kindle book or some other Amazon product. (In the Kindle documentation, this is described as a screensaver which offers special ebooks to buy.)

And then there’s the interface. Buttons! The model I bought does not have a touch screen. If I had bothered to do a little looking into the different models, would I still have chosen the cheapest version? Since getting the iPad I expect every screen I come across to respond to my touch.

All that being said, I found it easy enough to connect to wifi and incredibly simple to start buying ebooks. The darn thing didn’t even need me to sign in to my Amazon account! How the heck did they manage that? It’s a little spooky.

I have read that people buy a lot more ebooks than regular books, and with Amazon, it’s almost impossible not to. Dear Jeff has made it simple and painless. Never before have been so struck with the completely digital nature of a transaction. Do a search, press a button, I get an email saying I’m $20 poorer, and there is no physical evidence of any of this. More spookiness!

It was easy to get used to the Kindle life because I find it so easy to use. Except for thinking the buttons on the left should go backward and the buttons on the right forward (there's a forward and back button on each side), it's quite an agreeable experience. Easy on the eyes and the arms, eminently portable. I sometimes still read on my iPad, and the two synch so I'm always at the right spot.

I can borrow ebooks from the public library on my Kindle, so perhaps my choice has not been completely on the side of the evil empire. But Amazon has a lending program. Is it competing more directly with libraries now?

Sigh. Why must the choice of an ereader feel like Sophie’s choice?

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