Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Klick, Klick Go The Kindles

If you will indulge me for a moment, I would like to gush a bit about reading books the new-fashioned way - with an e-reader.

Since I am an atmospheric guy, let me set the stage for you. It is late in the evening, all the girls are finally asleep (why is it the energetic kindergartner always stays up the latest?). We live on a dead-end street down near the bay, so it is quiet - really quiet. No traffic noise. No background noise, unless the wind is up (but for sake of atmospherics lets assume the sea breeze has died down and a light northerly has taken its place).

But there is one curious sound that can be heard - every handful of seconds there is a metronome like 'Click'. nothing else. This, my friends, is the new sound of reading. I am of course talking about reading on an Amazon Kindle. Each subtle Click represents another 'page' turned. I promise, this will not be the typical critique about e-readers where I expertly convey that one button is too big, another is too small, batter life is 9.65 hours on average. Just a brief essay of our enjoyment reading on a Kindle.

As to some background, both Grace and I have Kindles. This really was a survival mechanism for me, because the moment I received mine, Grace stole it (like any good book). I got mine as a birthday present (from Grace ironically), then wasn't able to read on it. So I bought one for Grace for St. Patrick's Day, or some such lame excuse to buy a gift.

Now, we have had them for several months and are completely addicted. There are two main reasons why we love them.

First, to the delight of publishers if they are paying attention, it is easy to search and buy books instantly through the Kindle whispernet (sprint) cell phone network. We have bought A LOT of books - many more than if we had to buy printed books and then find space on the shelf. Grace and I have our Kindles linked to one Amazon account, so we can share the books on our devices. Publishers bemoan the 9.99 price point on new releases, but ultimately we have spent far more money, due to the convenience of reading on the Kindle.

Second, they are incredibly portable and can be read in ways that you can't read a conventional hardcover book - like lying down and holding it over your head, or on the bow of the boat on a windy day (yes, this is important to me). Direct sunlight by a pool? Even better. Poor Grace, after reading a Kindle for a month, read a 'conventional' hardcover book and struggled mightily to keep the cumbersome book from hitting her in the head, or flopping over onto the floor as she turned the page.

And a bonus, if I don't have my Kindle handy, I can always read my book on the Iphone using using the Kindle E-reader. It even magically knows where I left off on my kindle and brings me right to that page.

There are some arguments against ebooks and e-readers. One is that they are not back-lit and require a light, but last I checked, printed books required light as well. The trade off for not having it back-lit is the comfort with which you can read the "E-Ink" screen without eye strain. The second advantage is that the battery is barely required when reading, provided you turn off the wireless. It can last for days.

Another typical argument is that a printed book is both the delivery mechanism and the content rolled into one package. With an e-reader, you need to buy the device (an investment), then buy the content. I don't buy that one either. I am pretty sure we are comfortable with that - I bought a DVD player, then bought the content to shove into it. I bought a CD player (eons ago), then an Ipod, then bought the content for those players. Heck I even bought a refrigerator, and then bought the content for it! (Is that a stretch?)

I would also point out that I have never really read the New York Times or any other printed newspaper - I have always hated the waste of paper as they piled up in a corner every day. Now, I pay $15 a month for a NY Times subscription and it automatically downloads to my Kindle each morning. I read it religiously - like 3 times a week or something.

Bottom line? We love the Kindle, and hope Sony Reader and Plastic Logics (Barnes & Noble) provide the same simple wireless shopping mechanism. And hopefully, in the near future they will all play nice-nice and we will be able to buy the content where we want and move the content we purchase seamlessly from device to device. Maybe even share with a friend or two as B&N has hinted.

So if you are wondering what new-fashioned reading sounds like, it is Klick Klick. Get used to it.

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