The problem with Liz is that she devours books. It’s a problem because a boat can only store so many paper-backs, which is compounded by the fact that many novels circulating within the book-swapping fraternity have a tendency to fall into the ‘holiday pulp-fiction’ category. Our Liz wants a bit more from her reading so a couple of months ago I bought her a Kindle.
“That’s not one of those e-book readers, is it?”, she snorted when I suggested the idea to her. Up until this year my attitude towards these devices had been the same. Why would anyone want to move from the reassuring, tangible sensation of a page-turning paperback to an electronic screen? Well, I’ll give you ten reasons why this Kindle has Liz hooked:
1. It Looks And Reads Like A Book
Unlike the i-pad and other devices the Kindle is designed to actually look like the page of a book. I don’t know how they have done it but when you view the screen it doesn’t look like you are viewing liquid crystal displayed on a pixelated window. It looks ‘real’. The Kindle screen can be read in broad daylight, with the sun shining directly onto it. Neither is the screen a shiny super-bright colour affair. The background is a ‘paper-back’ colour and the text is a paper-back ink. Compare that to backlit devices like a computer, the i-pad etc and you’ll see the difference. Check out this comparison from the official Kindle page:
2. It’s Lighter Than A Book
This gizmo is super thin, considering the electronic gadgetry that’s packed into this thing. Amazon has made a point of it being the same size and weight of a paper-back so it may be read like a paper-back (think lying in bed on your side holding a book up to read).
3. It Has A Battery Life Of A Month
Yes, a month. For someone who lives on a boat not having to charge an electronic item for a month is a real boon. Read that again: a month!
4. Access To Amazon’s Library
Many e-book readers have tie-ins with book suppliers, which means paying a premium for the third-party deal. The Kindle is owned by Amazon, however, which means it has direct access to Amazon’s huge e-book library at a fraction of the cost of other e-book deals. Sony’s e-book reader charges around £6-7 for a new title, which is almost as much as a hard copy. Amazon’s prices hover around £3 for a new title. We’ll be buying the Lonely Planet via Kindle in future. Just think how much space that’ll save.
5. Loads of Free Books
If you don’t want to pay for your book, don’t. Amazon offers hundreds of free titles: pretty much every classic is available for free: the entire back-catalogue of Austen, Dickens. Hardy, Elliot, and Trollop, to name but a few.
6. Easy File Transfer
Liz is fairly au fait with plugging, copying and transferring, but actually getting the books onto the device is as easy as transferring files from one folder to another. Your computer sees the Kindle as another hard drive.
7. Massive Storage Capacity
With a 3Gb hard disk the Kindle can store 3,500 books. When was the last time you read 3,500 books?
8. A Paid-For 3G Connection
We paid £109 for our Kindle but for an extra £40 you get a free 3G connection. Yep, somehow Amazon has negotiated a deal with 3G suppliers around the world allowing the Kindle user to access available 3G connections in order to browse, buy and download books directly onto the Kindle. The only reason we didn’t go for this option is that 3G is not supported in India but the coverage elsewhere in the world is impressive. Click here to see Kindle’s world-wide 3G coverage.
9. Intuitive With Great Functionality
The Kindle is really easy to use but it has a whole host of features too: with a built-in keyboard it is possible to annotate text; the dictionary is a very useful tool; page turning is quick. Also Liz is currently working on a genealogy project for her father so she saves her Open-Office document as a pdf and then proofs it in bed on her Kindle.
10. It’s Cheap
At £109 the Kindle is one of the cheapest e-book readers on the market, and the extra £40 offers world-wide 3G connectivity. I really don’t understand how Amazon has managed to pull this one out of the bag.
And The Rest…
The above is just my top-ten. I haven’t even begun to mention that you can get magazines and newspaper subscriptions; download and play mp3s (the built-in speakers are actually quite good but there is a headphone socket too); get the Kindle to read to you, albeit in a Stephen Hawkin kind of voice; there are loads of accessories; and then there’s the excellent Amazon support. When we first purchased Liz’s Kindle she dropped hers within three days and broke the screen. She phoned Amazon and they sent her another one before she’d even sent back the old one, all at no extra charge! Perhaps the most important feature, however, is its use of ‘Pearl’, which is a special electronic rendering of text. The contrast between the ‘ink’ and the ‘paper’ is really impressive.
You’ll have noticed that I refer to the i-pad. It’s an easy comparison to make if you don’t understand what these two devices do, but as an e-book reader there is no contest. The price and battery life alone make this an attractive offer to heavy readers of books. Compared to the Kindle the i-pad struggles to identify exactly what market it is aimed at; the Kindle, on the other hand, is quite clear about what it is. It is is not trying to be anything other than a book. It’s not a touch-screen PDA or a pocket PC or a phone. It’s just an e-book reader with a large hard disk and great functionality. I’m guessing that Amazon have marketed this product at people like Liz: heavy readers who are going to take some convincing to switch to electronic books. With this device, they may just have achieved that goal.
The fact that Liz, a cynic of such devices, is now using hers on a daily basis is testament to the design of the Kindle. More to the point, as liveaboards with limited physical space and power, this is such an obvious boat accessory I’m surprised more liveaboards don’t already own one.
This quick synopsis merely scratches the surface of the Kindle deal. Check out the official Kindle page fore more details.