Shameful Kindle Love

Hi. My name is Kirsten, and I’m a gadgetaholic. My drug of choice generally comes from that shady company just over the hill from me in Cupertino. I have had 5 (or is it 6) iPods, not counting two iPhones. I’ve had umpteen mac laptops, a mini, a time machine… pretty much, they make it, I buy it. It’s fair to say, then, that my design sense has a bent toward a certain aesthetic. I appreciate gadgets which try to magically know what I want. I’m willing to pay extra to avoid Microsoftian clumsiness in my day. So how, then, could I possibly like the Kindle?

The Kindle is a gadget unlike other ‘e-readers’. When I asked to get one for my birthday last year, I wanted it because (erudite person that I am) I thought I would enjoy being able to read periodicals on this device, that it would increase the percentage of “grown-up” reading I did as a result – and that I wouldn’t enjoy reading actual books on it at all. A second to redraw the page? I couldn’t imagine relaxing with a book that had that kind of lag.

Then I got the Kindle, and I spent some time getting to know it. Yes, it’s ugly and clumsy, in a warty orc kind of way. Tossing out the silly black tote-around cover helped a lot, but it stubbornly retained its “I’m a prototype” flung-together aesthetic. Other than the forward/back buttons, the interface is really pretty primitive. Everyone who picks it up accidentally changes the page forward or back… in fact, you can accidentally move forward in your book 20 pages just by tucking it under your arm to fish for something in your purse. The keyboard is clunky and not very responsive, and nobody ever gets the scroll wheel until you point it out to them.

But I confess I love the little guy. Once you figure out what that little scrolly wheel can do, it’s pretty keen, and the shiny indicator is really cute. The ability to get books wherever you are, without tethering the Kindle (and you) to your computer, is amazingly useful.  While I love reading pretty much everywhere, books tend to present you with annoying ergonomic challenges. Holding the book open to the right page with one hand is something we’ve all mastered, and we’ve all found little tricks to help us with that part (edge of the dinner plate, anyone?). Turning the page, however, always requires some amount of negotiation with the book. Whatever else you’re trying to do while you read, every minute or so you need to recruit your other hand to help with the turning of the page, and that’s really a lot more annoying than you realize. I only know this now because the Kindle removes that annoyance. I settle into a comfortable position for reading and turning the page is a no-op (other than the delay, which turns out to be not that big a deal).

As far as reading periodicals and being a well-informed intellectual, I’m afraid that I haven’t actually become a more erudite person. While the magic updates are great, the periodicals themselves are more difficult to scan in Kindle form than they are in paper-printed form. I can’t glance at the paper and know all of the stuff from the front page. I don’t want to plod through three different pages of headlines to know what’s going on in the world, particularly not these days. 10 seconds is pretty much all I can stand to devote to absorbing our current situation before I’m ready to dive deeper or head to greener subjects.

So what do I actually *read* on the Kindle? Books! I love reading books on the Kindle. I can download the first couple of chapters of a book someone suggests for free and decide if I want to read the rest. I can grab free books from the Gutenberg project and read *them* (sadly, so far this has fallen into the category of “things I haven’t really done yet” even though I did get Sense and Sensibility on my Kindle for reading). I particularly love that I can be reading the 7th book in a series, get to the end and then summon the next one immediately for me to read. I can read outside in full sunlight without getting a migraine from the glare of bright-white paperback pages. When I’m reading late at night, and my eyes get droopy, I can make the text bigger and get through a couple more chapters before I fall asleep. While I also have some textbooks and non-fiction books on there, the majority of my Kindle time is spent reading fluffy novels. 

Still, I’m not completely blinded by my love for this little guy. I can’t borrow books on the Kindle and then return them. I’d like to be able to do that – I don’t actually *need* to be able to access books I’ve read forever and ever once I’ve read them, with very few exceptions. A subscription service would be swell, sure, but I’d really just prefer that Amazon adopt the itunes rental model and rent me a book for 2 weeks for 20% of the price of the book. Or let me trade my Kindle books with other people. But even with these drawbacks, the Kindle is one of my favorite gadgets.

Dialogue & Discussion