The Kindle Adds to, But Doesn’t Replace, Your Book Collection

February 11, 2009

The Kindle 2 Amazon's announcement of the Kindle 2 e-reader has book-lovers in a tizzy again, wondering how anyone could give up timeless paper-based books for the electronic version. Thing is, no one has to give up anything. I've got shelves of books and a Kindle, and I'm reading more than ever--mostly because of the Kindle.

Someone who's never actually read a book on the Kindle focuses on the things you can't do with it. Your favorite author can't autograph a book on the Kindle. You can't dog-ear pages. (Though you can virtually bookmark pages on the Kindle, the autograph point is true.)

But that same someone is often surprised by the stuff you can do with a Kindle book. When you encounter a word you haven't seen before, you can look it up in the built-in dictionary in two clicks. (As a vocabulary nerd, this is the feature I love most.) You can highlight sections of the book as you read which get saved to a text file on the device. Then you can import the text of those paragraphs to your computer for stowing away in your favorite note-taking application or to include in your book journal or blog review.

You can take lengthy PDF files that are difficult to read on the computer because of its bright, eyeball-hostile screen, and send them to your Kindle to read it in its electronic ink (which is so paper-like it's readable in San Diego's noon sun). You can enlarge or reduce the size of the type in the pages of your Kindle book (no need for Mom to put on her glasses when you want to show her something). Even though the Kindle's keyboard is awkward, you can type your own notes into sections of the book as you read--and import them onto your computer as well.

When your friends tell you there's a book they know you'll love, you don't have to wait till your next trip to the bookstore to check it out. You can get a sample chapter on the Kindle on the spot, and if you like what you see, you can get the rest, without leaving your couch. (In truth it's a book-buying machine dressed up as a book-reading machine; I've bought and enjoyed so many more books since I've had it. At least Kindle books are generally cheaper than their dead tree versions.)

I have a cherished collection of paper books, some of which are autographed by their author, which grace the shelves of my home and will never be replaced. But if I want to read the most current bestseller that I've only got a passing interest in, I'm buying it on my Kindle. If I want a non-fiction or educational book that I want to take notes on and highlight sections for further reading and research, I'm getting it on the Kindle.

In short, my one piece of advice for folks wondering about the Kindle is this: don't knock it till you try it. If getting your hands on one isn't an option, at least watch the whole video demo.

We’re a two Kindle family and love ‘em!

I wonder if the 2 will enhance the web browsing capability of the original?

drmelho [+28]
Feb 11 09 at 12:21 pm

I’ll be picking up a Kindle because the form factor is perfect for toting around all of those heavy programming reference texts that grace the home and office bookshelves. I really like the annotation/note-taking features. As you said, unless the book is one that I absolutely must have on my shelves, then the Kindle is the perfect solution for my reading consumption.

Ian Parker
Feb 11 09 at 1:07 pm

Hard to try as it’s not sold in stores. Those of us without early adopter friends or the willingness to trust Amazon’s marketing people will just have to wait until they get much more popular.

I don’t know, I’m pretty intrigued by the whole idea of having a Kindle. However, it would wind up being another device I’d have to carry around with me, in addition to a cell phone and mp3 player, but these days, I guess that’s just how it is, and maybe that’s okay.

I’d like to see one in the wild before I make a decision, which is probably easier said that done.

Gina, why do you find that you read more books on the Kindle versus carrying around the dead tree book you’re currently reading?

mrhaydel [+7]
Feb 11 09 at 1:35 pm

So if I dont want the wireless selling machine, I better go for the Foxit eSlick reader, much cheaper and with same greatness of eink, right?

Gina, why do you find that you read more books on the Kindle versus carrying around the dead tree book you’re currently reading?

It’s ease of browsing and acquisition. I find myself visiting Amazon on the Kindle and downloading sample chapters of books a lot more than I ever physically visited a library or bookstore.

Gina Trapani [+195]
Feb 11 09 at 2:03 pm

Can the Kindle back up downloaded content to my desktop or an external hard drive?

How many books can it store?

Are the expansion memory cards available?

ericbono [+2]
Feb 11 09 at 6:14 pm

Forgot to ask:

If the Kindle downloads via cell signal, does it require a cell plan?

ericbono [+2]
Feb 11 09 at 6:19 pm

Please delete ALL of my previous questions. I hadn’t watched the video yet…

ericbono [+2]
Feb 11 09 at 6:24 pm

I’ve never been sure why this has to be a black or white issue, but a lot of people seem to want to make it so (I don’t think Gina is). Some people love physical books so much that they claim a desire to never give those books up. Great, don’t.

Others think there is a lot of promise in devices like the Kindle and ebooks. I don’t have a Kindle yet. I’m sure I’ll end up with one someday, but for now I carry a Samsung Epix, a BlackBerry, and an iPod Touch. I’ve been using MobiPocket to read public domain books on my Epix, but the screen is kind of small and I’ve started reading them on my computer instead. My dad has a Kindle and loves it.

Eric S. Mueller [+1]
Feb 12 09 at 4:14 am

I think that many book-lovers have an old-fashioned / nostalgic attachment to paper (aka “dead tree”) books but I’m sure this will change over time. Actually for working in book publishing, e-readers are fantastic. Who wants to lug around all those paper manuscripts?

phoebe [+2]
Feb 12 09 at 5:34 am

So, it appears, the content you purchase for you Kindle is not yours. My concern is, if you cannot use that content on any other device, such as backing it up on your computer, then what, really are you purchasing? The right to read? I guess, since the prices are mostly much lower than buying a book outright, that this is sort of fair. Really, I love the look of the gadget and would probably enjoy using it but, I don’t think I am comfortable with the idea of paying such a high price for what amounts to rental rights. Hopefully, in the future, pricing will accommodate this in a cheaper manner, sort of like netflix.

Eric Bono
Feb 12 09 at 5:28 pm

Two features you’ve turned me on to that I think I would like:

1. Note taking while reading. I’ve always been a big fan of marginalia – especially when it’s in other people’s books – and can see myself slowing down to record my own observations on a kindle more so than its dog-eared bretheren.

2. A better way to read PDF’s. I’m a big buyer of books on demand and really do want a better way to read them.

Clearly the Kindle will not replace my annual sojourn to my favorite out-of-town used bookstore. BUT…

Well, you get the picture.

Thanks for the post, Gina. I’m glad you took my Kindle bait!

Feb 15 09 at 7:03 am

Because you qualify your fascination with Kindle with the phrase “adds, but doesn’t replace book collection,” I’m fine with it. Perhaps, I’d even try it myself, after borrowing a friend’s Kindle to see what makes it tick. That you can type notes and import the same to a another device makes buying one really tempting. For now, however, I’d prefer my books on dead-tree version.

jan geronimo
Feb 17 09 at 6:53 am

Comments are closed. Thanks for reading!