28 August 2011

777: 7 Kindle books, 7 pluses and 7 minuses

I've been a fan of Amazon's Kindle ever since signing a contract for digital versions of two of my books - when I discovered that the author's share of the royalties is about seven times more than the miserable 7.5% we get from sales of conventional paperback books.

Now, having just finished reading a seventh book on a Kindle of my own, I can report on the gadget from a user's point of view.

1. Pluses
  1. My main reason for getting a Kindle was that I found the print in a book I was trying to read so small that it was almost unreadable without a magnifying glass. By letting you select the size and type of font suits you, the gadget solves the problem at a stroke (and I finished reading the said book much more quickly than expected).
  2. The screen really does make it easy and comfortable to read for long periods - compared with those on computers, iPads, etc.
  3. Very portable.
  4. Long battery life between recharging.
  5. Good connectivity with a computer.
  6. Fairly easy to convert PDF and Word documents for reading on Kindle.
  7. Spectacularly fast downloads of books from Amazon.
2. Minuses
  1. Given the ease of reading via bigger fonts, it's odd that the colour and size of the Kindle's QUERTY keyboard makes it quite difficult to read and use, especially in poor light.
  2. It's difficult to stand it up on a table without it slipping down - why it doesn't have a lever on the back for propping it up at an angle (like many portable radios) is quite beyond me.
  3. No good for reading in the bath.
  4. Although you can search backwards and forwards, it's far more complicated than flicking through a proper book.
  5. Page-turning and other buttons make it too easy to press the wrong one by mistake and get lost and/or end up in the wrong place.
  6. Pictures, footnotes, bibliographies, etc. are grouped together at the end of Kindle books, which requires much tedious manipulation if you want to refer to them while reading the text. As a result, non-fiction books are much more trouble to read than fiction.
  7. I hadn't realised that, when reading a proper book, you're constantly monitoring how far you've got and how long it's going to take to get to the end. Kindle doesn't have page numbers, but does tell you what percentage of the book you've read so far. But, if it's a very long book 1% can mean as many as 8 pages of densely packed pages - which can be more demoralising than I'd realised.
3. Verdict
There may be as many minuses as pluses, but Kindle's supreme virtue (1.1) makes all the cons seem little more than minor irritations.

I do, however, think that Amazon should be trying to do something about some of the minuses, and especially those that would be so cheap and easy to fix (e.g. 2.1 & 2.2).


Mark Richards said...

Like you, we must have 1,000+ books in our house. So now we both have Kindles. (I can't believe all our books could fit on a Kindle. That's magic, right...)

I love books, and a Kindle isn't a book - especially for flicking backwards and forwards. But if the Kindle had come first, and then books had been invented, I'd be saying, "These book things are great. But they're not a Kindle..."

Max Atkinson said...

Mark - Thanks for this. Kindles certainly don't feel like books and the prospect of having to 'browse' through a list of thousands of them is not a happy thought compared with the ease of browsing through books on shelves. So there's another minus to add to my list.

So too is the inflated price that results from our barmy tax regulations. In the UK, for reasons no one's been able to explain to me, there's no VAT on hard-copy books, whereas VAT is charged (at 20%) on e-books. Kindle's may be able to store thousands of books, but not unless you're willing to fork out a huge amount of tax to HM Revenue and Customs...

Jack said...

If you update the software on your Kindle, you should find that pressing the Menu button whilst reading will now show what page you are on & the total number of pages!

Max Atkinson said...

Thanks for the tip, Jack. Will do as you suggest.