Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Thoughts Upon my Entry into Kindle Nation

So i'm 37% of the way through my first Kindle book (Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus) and I thought I'd share a few of my observations of the kindle experience so far. The size and weight of the device is simply amazing. It really is easy to hold and read in just about any position, from sitting to lying down on the couch or bed. The screen is generally very legible, although there are occasional small glitches where a word or two are not as crisp as the rest of them - but this doesn't happen very often. However, I have two main quibbles so far:
  1. No page numbers. This is bugging much more than I would have thought. While I admire the precision of knowing that i'm "37%" of the way through a book, it doesn't mean much to me yet. I also miss the ability to quickly flip through the pages to find out how far I have to go until the end of the chapter.
    Related: I'm curious how to share where a quote is located in a book if you're reading on a kindle and the other person is not. How do students indicate where a reference is located on an ereader? Do they need to highlight? Which leads me to quibble #2...
  2. Highlighting. By default,   "popular highlights" was turned on, meaning that occasionally a page would appear with an underlined passage and a note stating "Click X to see how many people have highlighted this passage." Now, I'm the first to admit that I like highlighting, although I stopped the practice a while back in favor of noting what passages I like on the book's bookmark. But I've found this setting very distracting; it's like picking up a used textbook in a college bookstore and having trouble studying because of all of the other student's calculations scribbled in the margins.
    Perhaps the useage for this would be the same as page numbers in tradtional books - when pointing people towards a passage, you would direct them to highlight X on your kindle account - but the paranoid in me isn't comfortable in sharing so much information with our corporate overlords. (This may have something to do with Barry Lynn's disturbing reportage on amazon's use of their monopolistic powers in "Killing the Competition", located in the February issue of Harper's.)
In the end, I like the experience, but can't shake the sense that i'm missing out on something. Perhaps this is cheap nostalgia, but I think it's something more. In the past, when I was done with a book, I could store it, sell it, share it with other people, etc. - it was a physical object that I controlled. I don't have that sense of ownership with the kindle books. For one, you can't realistically loan them out yet, and those that you can loan have some undue restrictions on them - and, of course, the other person has to have a kindle as well. Perhaps i'll get over this the more I use the kindle, but for now, I'm intrigued with the reading, but ambivalent on the entire experience.

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  1. page numbers are there... i would assume you have the proper OS version (i needed to upgrade the OS on mine to get them). hit the menu button, or however you do that on your version, and you'll see page n of x and the bottom.

  2. I'd add that some Kindle books have page numbers (using the method Eric described), while others do not. It depends on whether or not they were included when the book was converted to e- format.

    Agreed, turn off popular highlights.

  3. Ah, yes, I see the page numbers now. Thanks for the tip! Quibble one negated - at least for the two ebooks I have to date.

  4. I turned off the shared markings; it felt too big brothery to me. My favorite moment in Kindle reading has been the immediate word lookup.

  5. Agreed, Jenny, the on the spot dictionary is great.

  6. Tried the immediate lookup for the first time last night - that is pretty sweet! Also noticed that there's a setting for emailing your kindle documents so that you can read them on the kindle, which also seems very convenient. Have any of you tried this yet?

  7. Yes. I email myself lengthy word documents from time to time to read on the Kindle. Making notes on them is a little bit cumbersome, but its much better than hauling the entire Word document around.

    I've also tried sending myself PDFs, although readability depends on the initial formatting of the PDF file. I've not played with other file types.

    If you're paranoid, don't send yourself anything super-confidential, since these pass through Amazon's servers, and its unclear (to me) what Amazon does with the files after it formats and delivers them to your Kindle.

  8. You know me too well! Speaking of paranoia, I think the first document I'll email my kindle will be a PDF version of Gravity's Rainbow and see what happens.

  9. you could always download calibre and put files on your kindle from your PC (without using Amazon's whispernet).