This is a guest post by my father, aka Pop. He is the bearded guy you see in the coffee shop reading his Kindle.
I’ve owned a Kindle for about a year and a half now, so I’ve had plenty of time to judge its strengths…and weaknesses. Since many consider ebooks to be kind to the environment, Koofie asked me to share my opinions of the Kindle – and since she’s my daughter I couldn’t refuse.
When the Kindle was introduced I was attracted to it because I read a lot of books and I like to keep and reread them later. I also like to read more than one book at a time, mixing fiction and non-fiction as my mood dictates. The fact that I could store hundreds of books on a light paperback book-sized device and have every one of them available whenever I wanted really excited me. I also reasoned that buying a Kindle could save me money, money that would offset some of the initial cost. First, I wouldn’t have to buy more bookshelves as my library grew, and second, books for the Kindle are significantly cheaper than the hard-copy books I had been buying.
All this has turned out to be true and I have few regrets about the money I spent on the Kindle. I still love it and carry it with me to coffee shops, the doctor’s office, or anyplace where I may have to wait or have time to read. I haven’t purchased a hard-copy book since I got the Kindle.
I have yet to find a Kindle owner who didn’t find that reading books on a Kindle is just as easy and satisfying as reading a hard-copy book. In fact most, like me, prefer the Kindle. Rest assured, I still read real books from time to time and still enjoy the experience.
Of all the many features the Kindle comes with, two stand out: the ability to change the text size (six sizes, from tiny to HUGE), and the built-in dictionary. I change text size often, increasing the size when I’m in bright sunlight and at night when my eyes are tired. The largest font is a godsend for people with seriously impaired vision.
The built-in dictionary was the feature that surprised me the most. It contains a tremendous range of words and I’ve used it far more than I ever thought, probably because it’s so convenient.
Another factor in my decision to buy a Kindle was that it is a truly green device. Kindle books are sold, read, and stored as digital files. No trees are harmed in the process! Not only that, I subscribe to the Washington Post and various magazines, and they never have to be printed…or recycled (unfortunately recycling requires a fair amount of energy so it’s better not to print things in the first place). The Kindle edition of newspapers and magazines is cheaper than the hard-copy subscriptions, and there is an added advantage in that they are delivered right to your Kindle no matter where you are at the time. So if you are away on business or vacation you continue to get your newspaper delivered every morning.
Another of the lesser known delights of owning a Kindle is the free digital books that are available on the Internet. Classics by Dickens, Mark Twain, Jane Austin, and hundreds of other well-known authors can be downloaded from websites like Gutenberg.org which has 30,000 free books on file. Amazon has also begun offering many of the classics for free in their Kindle store (plus some by current popular authors to introduce readers to their books).
One big concern I had was how well this small plastic device would hold up. I’ve had it now for over a year and a half and it has held up remarkably well. Everything still works, and my screen doesn’t have a single mark or scratch on it. I’m still using the original battery (not everyone has been so lucky however, Kindle batteries have been a problem for some).
While the Kindle has been a good choice for me, it’s not right for everybody. If you are on a tight budget, frequently read books from the library, have friends who lend you books, give away your books when you’re done with them, and/or read one book at a time and don’t mind carrying it around with you, a Kindle might not be worth the cost.
Another major drawback is that Amazon distributes their Kindle editions via the Sprint wireless network. If you don’t live where there is Sprint coverage, forget it. Amazon does allow you to download books, etc. to your Kindle through your computer (if, for example, you are traveling outside the U.S.) but it’s a bother.
Another big drawback for some is that the Kindle’s screen is only black and white – and shades of gray (and don’t expect a color version to be available anytime soon). The Kindle does not display pictures, photographs, maps, or graphics very well. The Kindle editions of newspapers like the Washington Post contain only the major articles and no photographs. You do get a 14 day free trial for every subscription, so if you find you don’t like the Kindle edition you can cancel and pay nothing.
Amazon now has newer Kindle, the Kindle 2 (making mine a Kindle 1). It has better graphics (more shades of grey), a slightly lighter screen, and some other improvements. I doubt if many Kindle 1 owners will buy the newer version, but some have and are selling their Kindle 1s on eBay. Prices run about $175-190 which may be a better choice than paying $300 for a new Kindle 2, plus it recycles an unused Kindle.
Please remember to pass your Kindle on when you no long need it. Reusing a product is better for the planet than recycling it. If it becomes obsolete in the future, be sure to take your Kindle and any unusable electronics to your local electronics recycling center. Most electronics contain toxic metals that should not be added to the waste stream.