Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gadget lust: Kindle

I broke down and bought myself a Kindle, this past month, despite my reservations about the DRM, the 1984 scandal, the Macmillan scandal, etc. If I were a stronger person, I'd have... I don't know what I'd have done. I'm not a stronger person.

I've been dipping my toes in e-books for a while - I got an iPhone for my birthday in 2009, and promptly installed Stanza. I really like it; it's really nice to have a book in my pocket at all times. But the screen is so small that it's a hassle to flip back to re-read something you missed, and you know, you have to charge it sometime, so it's not that hot for regular reading. Mostly, I read from my iPhone over lunch at work - which is still awesome, mind you.

What finally pushed me over the edge into outright dedicated e-reader lust was my second pregnancy, now in its 8th month. During the first maternity leave, I distinctly remember spending a lot of time in the rocking chair with a baby in one arm, and all the library books I'd stashed up were hardbacks. Maybe some people can read hardbacks one-handed, but I am not one of them. I had to watch a lot of Babylon 5 on Netflix instead, which almost caused marital discord because my husband was a little jealous that I was watching them without him.

I bought the keyboard Kindle. The $79 one was very tempting, but it doesn't do audio; my first pregnancy also gifted me with migraines, so if I'm buying an e-reader, it had damn well better support audiobooks and podcasts too. I also bought the version without ads; I don't trust them to stay unobtrusive/inoffensive, and I seriously suspect that in the long run, Amazon is getting more than $30 per Kindle out of Kindle advertising. I'm not interested in subsidizing that game.

So far, I'm pretty happy with my choice. It's definitely one-hand-able (although I often find myself accidentally turning pages when I pick it up), and it puts me only a few minutes away from a zillion books I haven't read before, which is very nice. But it's also very dangerous: it's incredibly easy to finish up one book and then just immediately go buy a new one. This is bad, both because I could easily spend too much money on books, and because I get really pissed off when I discover I spent money on a book that sucks. As you know, Bob, money does not grow on trees, and I already cannot afford to buy all the good books in the world, so when I realize I spent book-money on a bad one... I sort of throw tantrums.

I started with one rule: Do not buy a Kindle book until the moment you are about to start reading it. I'd heard too many stories from family members who had accumulated massive Kindle stashes they hadn't read yet. When I realized I was falling prey to serial purchasing, I added: Find free books. Which, so far, has included Project Gutenberg, my local public library, and the Vorkosigan series, from the Cryoburn CD. (Putting the Vorkosigan on helped a lot.) I also added: Read the free sample first, but the sneaky little buggers always seem to end the sample at a weird, non-chapter-break place that compels one to click the "Buy this book" link immediately, so that quickly morphed into Read the sample, and then walk away for a while and see if you really want to come back. That's kind of hard to do, too, so I downloaded samples of pretty much every book that I have heard intriguing things about, so that I can hop between samples.

I don't really know if that works yet. I, um, kind of bought the book I had most lately sampled, anyway. It makes me feel better about the contents of my Kindle, though. It looks nice and plump, full of interesting things, instead of like a bare bookshelf begging to be filled.


  1. I have the same Kindle!

    If you haven't already encountered it, Calibre is software for ebook conversion, and a lot of what I gave you can be converted using it.

    Also, the Kindle Collection Manager lets you set up collections using your computer, much more quickly accomplished than creating them directly on the Kindle. I have alphabetical collections and also genres and a "Currently Reading" collection.

    My Kindle's processing slows down markedly if I load over 700 items, just FYI.

  2. I do have Calibre - mostly I use it to make my existing ebooks .epubs, so I can read them on iPhone Stanza, over lunch at work. I figure my Kindle needs very little help acquiring content.

    I didn't know about Kindle Collection Manager! I looked for something like that, but only very cursorily, so it's good to have a name to search by now. The direct Kindle interface is quite annoying for collection management. The arrow buttons are too small, and apparently don't know about "up" at the top of a list meaning "go to the bottom". Thank you!

    I imagine I'll feel differently when I hit 700, but right now that still feels like a lot. I have about 70-80, more than half of them samples.

  3. Doh! I can only find a Windows version of the Kindle Collection Manager, and I'm running on a Mac these days.

  4. Oh, bummer! Well, here's one that claims to be platform independent and runnable on a Mac: