Wednesday, 29 December 2010
Kindle: the good, the bad, and the oh-so-pretty...
Frankly, when I realised that the latest generation of Kindles were black - sorry, 'graphite' - in colour, I have to admit that I was disappointed. Functionality aside, the white finish of the previous versions appealed to my girly sense of style in a way that the new models just don't. And I say this as someone who bought her first ipod because it was pink and shiny and pretty, not because she wanted to listen to music on it.
Santa, it seems, knows how superficial I can be and does not judge me for it. Right after I unwrapped my rather austere looking Kindle on Christmas morning, I also unwrapped a pretty hot pink leather cover to dress it up in. Cute, right? And it'll stop the Kindle itself getting all scratched up in the murky depths of my handbag, which is a major win.
Previously, I've tried to read the occasional ebook on my laptop and found it impossible. It doesn't feel natural to be reading a book onscreen, and the act of trying to read on such an alien, unbooklike format winds up distracting me from the words themselves. Having now read my first entire ebook, I'm happy to report that I haven't had any such problems with the Kindle. The Amazon site tells me that the screen uses fancy-schmancy 'E Ink Pearl Technology' for higher contrast, but what's made it work for me is that the words look... flat. It's like looking at words on a printed page, rather than a computer screen, and that's the difference. It's surprisingly difficult to get used to reading books without page numbers, but the Kindle does keep track of your progress through an ebook in the form of a percentage, which is a little disorientating but just as useful. The Kindle even gives you the ability to highlight passages, dogear pages and make notes on what you're reading, if you're so inclined. Which I am.
Now, at the risk of sounding like a whiner, I think this is pretty dumb. I mean, Amazon knows which Kindle ebooks are YA: on the website, the 'Children's' front page even shows brief selections for different age groups, including teen. Plus, it's possible to search the full Amazon site for Kindle books in the 'teen' age group using the advanced search function. So, the capability is there. It just isn't, for whatever reason, being used. What I'm finding is that if I want to shop for ebooks via my Kindle, it's easier to search for specific titles. Which is okay for me, as a book-obsessed blogger who has a wishlist of around 500 titles at any given time. But what about all those not-quite-so-obsessive readers who don't already know exactly what's out there? They'll miss out on books they might love. Boo!
That said, there's a surprisingly good selection of ebooks on Amazon UK and even some bargains to be had. While it's a shame that UK customers can't download ebooks directly from the US site, there are still a fair few American titles available, which means that I can pick up a copy of some of my US-only wishlist items way quicker than I could order and receive print copies. Instant > a three week wait, that's for sure.
Overall, there's no way that ebooks would ever completely replace real printed books for me. Let's face it, if I read an ebook I love, I'm going to need to purchase a printed copy for my shelf. I love books, and I love book covers, and an ebook just doesn't have the same charm. Then there's the fact that the review copies I'm offered are generally in printed form - although having a Kindle has tempted me to give NetGalley another try.
However, there's a lot to love the Kindle for. It reads so much better than I ever would've expected, and I love the fact that it's so light... no more hefting hardbacks around on my commute. The ability to take two weeks' worth of reading on vacation without exceeding my baggage allowance? Yes, please. Books to my Kindle in under one minute, whenever the whim strikes me? Okay, this could be dangerous...