18 months of ebooks

October 23, 2009 | 5 Comments

It’s been a little over 18 months that I’ve been using a Kindle. The last few times I’ve traveled, I’ve seen at least one other person on the plane with one and most people now recognize it. Now, with the release of the Barnes and Noble Nook, ebook readers are in the mainstream.

All that means that I’m asked more than ever how I like my Kindle, by both strangers and friends. I’ve posted thoughts about the Kindle a few times, but now that I’m 18 months in, I have a lot of experiences to share insight from.

Pros

  • It’s light and compact. I can easily read with one hand, or even no hands by setting it down in front of me if I need my hand(s) to eat or type.
  • Speaking of light and compact, it’s a lot more fun to carry in my bag. The last few times I’ve traveled, I only took my Kindle for reading, and didn’t have to worry about running out of reading material. I’m always ambitious about reading when I travel, and used to overload on books. Not anymore. The books I receive from publishers for review are all hard copies, so I read plenty of them. I have 1300 pages in my backpack today…I’d much rather have a Kindle!
  • I try to keep a lot of notes/highlights. After I read a book, I retype them. WIth the Kindle, it is just copy and paste, either from a file on the Kindle or from a secure website where Amazon stores my notes. The only negative to this is that I don’t have the benefit of reviewing all of those notes as I capture them like I do when I retype them. But I also save a lot of time.
  • Syncing with the iPhone version is great because I can always have my latest book(s) handy. Even more, now that the iPhone version allows for highlighting and notetaking.
  • I love having a library of influential books available to me. I’d like to get Kindle books of some of my favorite theologians like Dallas Willard, Lesslie Newbigin, etc. for ongoing reference.
  • Moving isn’t fun. It’s less fun when you have hundreds of books.
  • An ebook reader is the only way to go for reading older books that are available in the public domain as digital texts. Why pay for what I can get for free, and I certainly don’t want to print them…

Cons

  • I enjoy looking over the spines on my physical bookshelves and thinking about what ideas each book has shared with me. On a related note, it’s more fun to go browse in a real bookstore than on a website or the Kindle screen, in spite of the convenience of the latter.
  • It’s not as easy to scan, skim, or flip through an ebook as it is a real book.
  • With the release of the Nook, I worry about proprietary formats. I don’t think Kindle is going away, and I’m not worried about losing access to what books I have. But everyone benefits when one format is readable on every reader. This needs to get sorted out and soon.
  • Some books are just better in hard copy, especially if they have a lot of visual content. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a perfect example. I read this on the Kindle, and wish I would have read the paperback.

What About the Nook?

I’ve obviously not been hands on with a Nook, so I can’t offer firsthand experience. (Of course, I’m more than willing to offer this experience if B&N wants to send me one!) It seems like a great device, and I think B&N will benefit from having people be able to try it hands on in the store. The ability to share books with others is very nice. I’m neutral about the color screen for browsing and text entry. It might be nice to have, but I don’t feel like I’m missing anything by not having it. The one thing that isn’t clear to me is the availability of books and at what price. I’ve heard that more books are available for the Nook, but they are generally more expensive.

The Bottom Line

I’ve had a great experience with ebooks. Some have said they just like the smell and feel of a real book, and I say to each his own. For those that are considering an ebook reader, I hope some of this will be helpful for you.

  • now if only they didnt cost so much, and if there was a way i could import my current library (or at least a few books) for a minimal fee.

    Im actually annoyed at the cost of ebooks. i keep seeing plenty that cost the same a a physical copy. do publishers get paper and printing for free? shouldnt there be some sort of cost savings for paperless?

  • Just got my Kindle this week and loving it so far! I do like reading with one hand and not worrying about the book closing is surprisingly functional. I’m a techie so it’s an easy switch, no nostalgia for turning paper. Great review, I too hope they standardize the format soon!

  • Zac

    I”m getting closer and closer to making the leap. I think that I would value all of the same things that you mentioned here. I like to read several books at a time, and this seems to make that easier (at least for my nightstand!). Great article though. Very insightful.

  • Daryl

    I’ve had my Kindle for almost a year (last Christmas), and feel about the same way that John does.

    John mentioned, but I think underplayed, all the free, public-domain books that are available out there. All the old classics including Dostoevsky, Swift, London, Twain, Austin, Poe, Melville, Cooper, etc. etc. are free and instantly downloadable from several online sources. In the 10 months since I got my Kindle I’ve read maybe 40 books on it, but only bought about 5.

  • Al Carpenter

    I have owned a Sony Digital Reader for about a year now and I love it. To be honest I have not missed not having wireless since I don’t get magazines or newspapers.

    At the time it was sleeker and better looking than the Kindle v1 was and it was an easy decision.

    Today that decision is not so easy. The newest versions of the kindle look better although the plastic stills seems cheap.

    The Nook looks great and I am excited on what Android might turn “digital readers” into 🙂

    As for the Cons that John brings up….

    I sometimes miss perusing my physical books and lovingly fondling well read books like the old lovers they are, but more and more I am moving away from that. Sometimes in like we have to move on… goodbye loves.

    Scanning and skimming are not really an issue with me… I don’t feel the need to read the later part of the book and then return to where I left off. I could always jump to a page number and then back (or to a book mark) if I need… but I don’t… Others might.

    One of the things I do like about the Sony Reader is the number of formats I can use with it. I use Calibre to convert and add files to my Reader and it is great! check out the formats:
    Input Formats: CBZ, CBR, CBC, EPUB, FB2, HTML, LIT, LRF, MOBI, ODT, PDF, PRC**, PDB, PML, RB, RTF, TCR, TXT Output Formats: EPUB, FB2, OEB, LIT, LRF, MOBI, PDB, PML, RB, PDF, TCR, TXT

    I understand the Calibre works with Kindle among others so this might open up the world a bit more as far as format goes. Surprisingly enough it is free!! Here is the link:
    http://calibre.kovidgoyal.net/wiki/Features

    Finally, it is hard to argue with the the need for large full color pictures in some coffee table books. Color is the next frontier for eReaders to conquer and I don’t mean a LCD book browser. Until then the coffee table books will stay on the coffee table and not in my eReader.

    In conclusion, I will hold off purchasing a new eReader until the color issue is resolved. I am confident that it will be in the next few years (maybe that is just wishful thinking). I think we will see more good eReaders hitting the market and that is good as it will force everyone to make improvements!