A Bookworm’s Christmas Present – The Kindle

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.

 

Liz yesterday in bright sunlight reading her Kindle

This is a close-up of the same image above (there is some pixelation in the image quality where I have zoomed in). It illustrates how clear the text appears with sun shining directly above Liz's head.

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.

 

Conclusion

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.

 






23 Comments on “A Bookworm’s Christmas Present – The Kindle”

  1. Lotte

    Book prices set aside – what are your other reasons not to buy on of Sony’s Readers?
    I’m currently trying to figure out which e-reader to buy (since I’m a wordaholic and shelve space is very limited in our boat too). The thing about the Kindle is that you can only buy books at Amazon, right? But with the Sony you also have access to thousands of free books at i.e. the Gutenberg Project – but I’m still in doubt so any input on the matter would be highly appreciated 🙂

    1. Jamie

      Hi Lotte. Firstly Sony books are TWICE as expensive. Compare £3.50 to £7. You can’t say “books prices set aside” – this is the main reason for going for the Kindle. Secondly there are hundreds of free titles at Amazon. Hundreds. Free. Hundreds. Cost nothing. Hundreds! Thirdly you said “you can only buy books at Amazon”, yet Amazon has the largest collection of books online. Find me a title that isn’t available on Amazon that you can buy elsewhere. Seriously, why would you want to go with Sony that charges twice as much for half the available books? It’s a no-brainer.

      I received an email from a friend today who asked “Does the kindle have a touch screen?” The answer is “no, it doesn’t”. It’s one way in which Amazon has managed to keep the price of the Kindle competitive.

  2. Bobby

    My attitude was the same – can’t beat the feel of a book, the tantalising expectation of turning the page… the look of a well designed cover… bla bla bla… but then… a colleague had a Kindle delivered to our office. I had a play around with it and was blown away. To cut a long story short, this is definitely on my shopping list when I have some spare dosh. I’m especially looking forward to getting rid of the mountain of books permenantly lying next to my bed.

  3. John Ellsworth

    Thanks Jamie for the Kindle praise….we are getting one for Cheryl from Amazon!…..you make it clear that it is a no-brainer to have one….AND ENJOY/USE it…cheers from New Zealand.

    WE ABSOLUTELY LOVE YOUR PHOTOS….WOW…No wonder you are getting the professional recognition. EXCELLENTLY DONE!!

    John/Cheryl/Ian

  4. Susie Harris

    Jamie, having read your article I think I might be converted too. Books are v expensive in the Middle East and although the library in the Brit Club is good it’s not that up to date. Wonder tho if I might have the same problem as I have when trying to buy music to download here – rights don’t permit it? But the free stuff sounds great… I could read Dickens & Trollop all day every day!

    1. Jamie

      Hi Susie. I’m not sure about that. My guess is that rights shouldn’t come in to it, but if they do: do your browsing and buying behind a proxy server (not that I suggested that, you understand).

  5. Cheryl Ellsworth

    Hi Jamie and Liz,
    I was a true book lover, the feel, smell, turning of the pages, until I held a Kindle and changed my mind, now we have ordered one from the States. I like the idea of being able to access newspapers and magazines, something you miss whilst travelling around the Pacific.

    Jamie, congrats on your award. What type of camera are you using these days.
    Cheers Cheryl

    1. Jamie

      My trusty Canon 30D, Cheryl. I covet the 5Dii but my bank manager simply won’t allow it! Yes, the idea of newspapers and magazines is very useful, particularly if you have a 3G model that downloads directly onto the device. Whilst I appreciate non-sailors may prefer other more expensive e-book readers I think the Kindle is perfectly suited to us yachties where power and budget are the main concerns. Enjoy yours!

  6. Lotte

    Thank you for your answer – the thing is that I’m danish and I could easily mention hundreds of titles that I can’t buy at Amazon, but in, say saxo.dk 🙂
    You can also borrow library books on the Sony Reader – a nice way to keep the book prices down I think… But anyway, I’m pretty sure I’ll end up with a Kindle too. Just want to be sure that I buy what’s right for my purpose.

  7. Fantasie 19

    I don’t have one, but in addition to all the benefits you highlight, it also has a beta version Internet Browser (apparently) – be interested if you’ve used it and what your thoughts were…

    Do they have the facility to turn on a back-light so you can read it in the dark without having to switch a light on??

    1. Jamie

      The browsing is really for hitting Amazon to buy and download books. That works well but the rest of the browsing is clunky and not what the Kindle is for. This might improve in future versions. There is no back-light. This is whyt the Kindle’s battery can last so long. In that respect it really is like a book in that you need light to read it in the dark! I have seen clip-on, bendable LED torches available in the accessories.

  8. Geoff Mander

    Hi there Jamie & Liz,
    Long-time no speak.
    I’ve also recently succumbed to a Kindle for much the same reasons as you describe. I’m very impressed with it. However there are two significant problems I’ve found:
    1) The Wi-Fi connection will only work in countries/territories that Amazon has an agreement with. I’m currently in the Turks & Caicos Islands and my Kindle flatly refuses to recognise my Wi-Fi connection. I am told by others who live here that this is because Amazon identifies the location of the Wi-Fi connection and bars it. This means that whilst I am here I cannot download any more books. I haven’t yet been able to verify this with Amazon.
    2) You can’t get all of your most wanted books on the Kindle. Some particularly interesting books are the ones that are unfortunately unavailable on Kindle and also the ones that have the size and weight of a house brick. So much for saving on the weight of your luggage.
    I’ve really enjoyed your blog over the last 18 months and have meant to get in touch earlier. So now I’ve made the plunge I may be encouraged to respond more often.
    Fair winds, good sailing and have fun exploring the track that is always new.
    Geoff & Eileen Mander

    1. Jamie

      Hi Geoff, great to hear from you! Glad you’re loving your Kindle. One of the reasons we didn’t go for the 3G connection was because we just download e-books onto the netbook using any connection, plug in the Kindle and simply cut and paste. It doesn’t surprise me that Amazon hasn’t yet got round to striking a deal with the Turks & Caicos Islands telecommunications corp! And no, you can’t get all the books you want but I imagine this not an Amazon thing. I doubt the titles you can’t get on the Kindle you can’t get on any e-book reader. Really nice to hear from you, please stay in touch, send our love to Eileen and feel free to comment any time.

    2. Liz

      Hi Geoff,
      You may not be able to get everything you want on Kindle… yet. I have managed to download War and Peace, though, which is quite a brick! You can get Lonely Planet on Kindle too, very useful for us travellers. My Guide to India paperback version is two inches thick, and I wish I’d owned a Kindle before buying it.
      If you find anything on Amazon which is not available as an e-book make sure you click the “tell the publisher I’d like to read this book on Kindle” button. Us Kindletons have the power!

  9. Neesh

    You can also get a Kindle cover with an inbuilt light, quite expensive though, so the clip-on thing is probably just as good. I use a Kindle all the time for work and am a big fan, have even asked for e-books for Xmas – and I work in publishing, making physical books!

    1. Jamie

      Hey Neesh. As a senior lady of publishing Amazon couldn’t have asked for a greater commendation. You’re the biggest bookworm I know, I’m surprised you don’t have at least three Kindles already 😉

  10. OliveOyl

    Pretty convincing. Had written the idea off as another i-gadget. Am also an avid bookworm, reluctant to let go of paper. But, in preparation for our ‘sell up and sail’ next year, am in the process of geting rid of 30 years worth of books. Painful. But am still buying – maybe I should go to an addiction clinic?
    Anyways, will ask for a Kindle for next birthday

  11. Markje4

    Bought my Kindle early last year in preparation for a three-month sojourn in Greece. Dowloaded 30 books before I left Australia and put another 14 on while living in a little village 6 hours from Athens.(So easy!)
    Best investment I ever made for travelling!

  12. Bob Griffiths

    Hi Jamie,

    That was one of the best reviews of a Kindle I have seen in terms of relevance. I think we will invest in a Kindle shortly to achieve the same as we did with our iPod a few years ago when we got rid of loads of heavy CD’s from the boat.

    I hope you are still enjoying life.

    Cheers,

    Bob

    PS we met briefly in Yat Marine a day or two before you left for the Vasco. (Yacht ‘Ile Jeudi’, tag on ybw forums – bob234)

    1. Jamie

      Hi Bob, I certainly remember the boat name if not the face! I hope your Kindle brings you as much joy aboard Iie Jeudi as it has for Liz aboard Esper.

  13. Chrissie

    I have 2 questions:

    When you say that Liz proofs her Office Documents, does that mean she can also edit them or add to them on her Kindle?

    Is there a ‘find’ function? I’m a University student, and would love it if I didn’t have to buy expensive and heavy text books.

    1. Liz

      Hi Chrissie. There are two functions for ‘editing’ text. You can highlight and make notes, both of which I use. As far as I’m aware there’s no ‘find’ function, but the Kindle always opens back at the last page you were on, for every document.

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