I’ve been using my Kindle as my primary reading device for over a month now. I got it for Christmas but I was actually using it a couple of weeks before (I’m not very good at the whole surprise thing). I thought that this was enough time for me to form a few opinions on it and know whether ebooks were right for me.
I’ve very much enjoyed using the Kindle for reading novels. I’ve probably bought and read more books over the last month than I have done in the proceeding six or twelve months. There are several reasons for this.
Firstly the screen is amazing. When opening the box it looks like there’s a sticker over the screen telling you to plug the Kindle into a computer or power socket. But it’s not a sticker. It’s the screen. e-ink doesn’t consume any power so leaving it on in transit uses minimal battery power. If you’re apprehensive about replacing paper with an electronic device, you should have a look at the Kindle – you’ll be surprised at the clarity of the screen and how easy it is on the eyes. I’ve read using the Kindle for a few hours in a row and actually find it nicer than paper due to the choice of larger fonts and line spacing.
The second reason for buying more books is just how damn easy it is. As soon as I finish a book I can navigate to the Kindle Store in a few clicks. Browsing is relatively easy and downloading takes a second or two. I’ve made myself a separate Amazon wishlist for Kindle books so I can refer to that if I can’t think what to read next. Overall, it’s an incredibly easy way to buy books – much easier than a book shop or ordering a paper book from a website.
The store is, however, also one of the downsides of the Kindle and ebooks in general. This isn’t Amazon’s fault really but it should be mentioned. The combination of books unavailable in electronic format (on any website), high prices and restrictive DRM do put a slight downer on an otherwise excellent experience.
Certain books haven’t been released electronically and some publishers haven’t signed contracts with Amazon so certain titles are completely absent from any ebook shop. There are also discrepancies between what is available in the US and the UK due to various licensing issues. It’s unavoidable but it’s also detrimental to the customer and the adoption of ebooks.
DRM on the Kindle is an annoyance but not a massive problem. The ebook management software Calibre has a array of plugins for many ebook formats that strip away that pesky DRM. So DRM is a negative but not a deal breaker.
Now we come to price. This is a bit of an issue and has caused a lot of soreness all over the web. There are many books that are priced reasonably. So far I haven’t spent over £5 on a Kindle book and I’m fairly happy to pay that for most non new releases. There are, however, some really awful pricing decisions that are making me, and I’m sure others, shy away from certain books. Ian M. Banks’ Consider Phlebas is £7.99 whereas the paperback is £5.39. If I really enjoy it and want to read the rest of the Culture novels I’m going to have to spend hundred of pounds. Considering the complete lack of distribution, printing and storage cost I expect ebooks to be cheaper than the paper copy. I’d even be happy with parity between ebook and paper copy but paying much more is outrageous and needs to rectified. These prices are set by the publishers so Amazon isn’t really to be blamed. It also doesn’t help that ebooks are subject to VAT whereas paper books aren’t. This is another problem that needs to be sorted out as soon as possible.
This covers the main points I’ve thought about whilst using the Kindle. I’m more than happy with other areas such as build quality and battery life. I’ve charged only twice in over a month and it’s not fallen apart yet so all is good on that front. PDF support is a bit ropey. The A4 documents I’ve tried are unreadable and converting to a Kindle friendly format like .mobi can lead to varied results. It’s not really an issue for me. I don’t read many PDFs but I could imagine it annoying someone that does. This post is getting a little long so I’ll save talking about great services like Instapaper for another time.
Overall I’ve enjoyed reading much more in the past month than I have in years. It’ll be interesting to see if it carries on or dies down in six months or so.