Buying a Kindle has cost me big, if not in financial terms, in respect from my son. He put up with my fussing, griping, railing, and other demonstrations of fear about e-readers changing the publishing industry and access to books. Now he’s putting up with experimentation and — dare I say it? — qualified enthusiasm. I’ve been informed he will “never listen to me again.” I haven’t decided if this constitutes news.
Now, I realize many of you are far ahead of me on the e-reader curve, but in case you are not, here are the thoughts of an e-book virgin upon the occasion of her deflowering:
1. The Wait
I chose a popular Kindle model — the third generation one with 3G and WiFi — and when I placed my order through Amazon on August 19th, they could only estimate its date of arrival as September 9th. I’d told myself I was buying it to stay experientially informed about trends. (In other words, I made the decision on intellectual grounds.) I found myself stalking my order, lest the e-mail about the delivery date had gone astray. I checked three times a day.
Yeah, a little denial going on in my life, but that’s okay. I’m supposed to be more conflicted than my characters, right?
In the end, I received an e-mail September 5 and had it in my hot little hands September 7.
Conclusion: superior customer service through the classic strategy of under-commiting and over-delivering.
Anyway, does this look like the embodiment of evil to you? Nope. Doesn’t to me either.
2. The Set-up
The Kindle comes in a box with a 12-page manual and cord. The former includes diagrams, large font, and is super readable. I haven’t referred to it once, and even then, it was from curiosity rather than need. That’s because its e-Ink display illustrates your first step: take the only other element in the box — the cable designed to plug into the wall socket and/or USB port of another electronic device — and put it to use.
I’m not certain how long it took to charge my Kindly-Lindly because I ate dinner out, but four hours later, it displayed a pretty black-and-white nature image and instructions to “slide and release the power switch to wake.” When you do, boom! About ten seconds later, you’re ready to lock and load a book.
Conclusion: Honestly, the hardest part of this step involved opening the #$%^ box, and this would be only because I can’t read instructions. Please, for the love of dog, pull the tab. Don’t fight the Glue of Death. You will lose.
3. The Browsing and Purchase
My Kindle came loaded with a welcome message, a user’s guide (notice the apostrophe placement in that phrase), and two dictionaries. I’ve referred to the guide twice — once to delete a sample chapter of a book I won’t end up purchasing, and again, to learn how to bookmark.
Accessing Amazon was incredibly simple and intuitive. The first “snag” — and I hesitate to call it that because I’ve shunned their instructive material just to see what I could accomplish on my own — comes with browsing.
I don’t care for their menu system or buttons. When you hit “Shop in Kindle Store”, you’re in the position to buy in mere seconds. But the menu is linear, without visuals to make it more intuitive, and you scroll by employing eensy-teensy buttons. Alternatively, you can enter a search term through a QWERTY keyboard, but it doesn’t prompt you with options. In other words, if your brain works like mine, you’ll find yourself browsing and picking your books through your computer, not your Kindle. The exceptions to this would be when you’ve already placed an item in your wish list, or go to the store with a specific purchase in mind.
However, there are distinct wins here too:
- sample chapters, so as in a bookstore, you can get a sense of the author’s voice and the book’s premise before you commit
- Buying is incredibly quick if you have a pre-loaded credit card
- You have easy access to your Wish List.
Conclusion: A device like the iPad would be light years ahead in terms of book choice. Amazon could do better in terms of prompting and intuitive menus. But it’s workable.
4. The Reading
Although its physical dimensions are similar to that of a trade paperback, the Kindle’s density makes it feel very different. It’s not a paper book. It lacks the right smell, the textural association with pleasure (not to be underestimated for kinesthetic people like me), and it’s heavier than I anticipated. At the same time it lacks the solidity and sense of permanence of a hardcover. The model I chose also gives a little less than a third of its vertical space to the keyboard, so I’m very conscious I’m reading on a device. That may yet change. I hope it changes.
For what it’s worth, that sense of distance from the material doesn’t appear for me in non-fiction, where I’m already engaged through my intellect more so than my heart. I hope I will learn to enter story in the same way I do with paper books. If not, this will be a major, huge, all-encompassing barrier for me. But it’s too early to tell.
Otherwise, unlike the Kobo and Sony models I’ve demo-ed, the page turns are incredibly fast. I love the ability to adjust font size and don’t mind the e-Ink at all. Not at all.
Conclusion: While bookmarking isn’t near as easy as Post-Its and highlighting, I can see the appeal of an e-reader for non-fiction. With fiction, I suspect I’ll default to having my keeper books in paper but my whimsical choices on the Kindle.
5. The Entitlement
Yes, I can feel it beginning, and I’m a little shocked by my thoughts: “Are you freaking kidding me? No ability to share, exchange through a second-hand bookstore, or give to a library, yet the prices are so high?”
I feel this way, even though as a writer, I am terrified about books being devalued. (I know. *shrug* I do not understand how my mind works, but I thought I’d be honest.)
The consumer in me who wants instant gratification still isn’t pleased at the…disrespect shown to my intelligence through e-book prices. As mentioned above, there is no sense of permanence. I don’t feel the “value” of the work in the same way as I do with paper. It feels like I’m buying a knock-off at almost-original prices.
Conclusion: Honestly, given my inability to subsume myself in a fictional world because of the factors I mentioned above, the prices cheese me off. Unless I’m making an impulse buy, I’m not certain why I would obtain my fiction this way. I can drive to a real book store, hit all the pleasure-points involved in a physical browse and night out of the house, have a sense of genuine ownership and rapid service with virtually the same price; or I can wait a few days for library rental or delivery.
6. The Content I’m Choosing
Want to know which book I first purchased? It’s one in which I’m apparently featured, though I haven’t hit that part yet.
Remember when I changed my Twitter name to @Jan_OHara from @Tartitude, and the woman who drove that decision? I’ve been reading her blog ever since, and if you write, you really should too. I’m reading Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. I’m a third of the way in and already having a few head-desk moments about my stupidity, but that’s okay. I like to learn and she’s a gifted teacher.
7. The Naming
After Glinda Harrison introduced me to Oberon Designs, I wanted one of their Kindle covers with the fiery passion of a thousand romance novels. Alas, I couldn’t justify the price or the delay. I ordered a basic, blue leather cover through Amazon. It’s sleek, seems to do the job, and at present has inspired my Kindle’s name: Old Bluey.
However, this is where the post gets interactive: Do you have comments? Questions? Books you think I should buy and/or tips? Alternate names for my new i-Toy?