About the Kindle by jgn on Monday, March 2, 2009 in Reading and Technology

So I bought the Kindle. My motivation was to stop buying books; I'm sick of accumulating the mass and killing the trees. It's both less and more than I thought it would be.

On the "less" side, it is amazing what it can't do. It can't flip rapidly between pages. It isn't super-easy to make notes or search (though you can do all of these things). . . . It is optimized for reading, that is, reading paragraphs of prose text, moving from page to page. Because of the small size of the screen, it wouldn't be very good for reading computer manuals which frequently have important images or bits of code that shouldn't wrap to the display. The fact that it is optimized for this particular kind of reading also means that it is really not a general tool for, say, students who want to conduct research. Apparently Amazon designed to do this one thing very very well (read prose, page by page); if you're a student, you probably want your whole computer anyway, as you might have a PDF open in one window, a caculator or Excel or MATLAB open in another.

On the "more" side, the free network connectivity is going to be interesting. I'll be taking a coast-to-coast train trip this summer, and I was wondering what I would do to rent an AirCard for the 10 days we'll be traveling. Well, you can read your GMail just fine on the Kindle. And there are no charges for this connectivity -- it's included in the purchase price.

Another surprise is that there are quite a few Kindle books (4,000+) from Amazon that are free; most in the public domain. So I downloaded the Bible, Pope's "Rape of the Lock," and a few other goodies. Unfortunately, not all of these free editions have tables of contents, so my download of Fitzgerald's Tales of the Jazz Age isn't so useful if you want to jump right to "A Diamond as Big as the Ritz." Still, that's pretty neat.

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