A bit of light reading: Kindle-phobe turns into Kindle-aficionado

December 8, 2009 — by Nandini Ruparel

I have always skeptical of the new e-book fad. I thought that e-books were a sort of blasphemy. As a book lover, I couldn’t imagine reading a book on an electronic device—I had never seen electronics that way.

Recently, though, I had the chance to try one of these devices and, surprisingly, I like it. Here’s what happened: My parents have become annoyed at my habit of taking way too many hardcover books on long trips and nearly breaking my back. So they suggested the Kindle.

Of course, I tried to argue my way out of it: They’re too expensive, I said; they’ll destroy my eyesight; or they won’t have all the books I would want to read. But as the Kindle grew more popular and increased the number of books in its “stock,” I realized that my arguments were growing weaker and weaker. So when my parents surprised me with a Kindle, I decided to give it a fair chance.

After having my Kindle for a month or so, I can see myself become part of a generation of e-readers. Every morning, I’ll wake up and go check on it to see if it hasn’t grown legs and walked away. OK, maybe not, but in all seriousness, I really do like my Kindle. It’s sleek, shiny, user-friendly and sort of simulates the fun of reading. There are some definite pros and cons to having my Kindle.

1. Pro: It has cheap(er) books
Apart from being addicted to books in general, I’m also a book-shopaholic. However, books are extremely expensive, and when a new book comes out, it usually costs anywhere from $20-25. These new books are nearly impossible to find at the library (145 requests? You’re kidding, right?), so I end up spending lots of money on my books. The Kindle, however, has these same books for $9.99. Call me stingy, but I’m thinking a 50 percent or more discount adds to their value.

2. Pro: It downloads your books.
Bye, bye, computer downloads. The Kindle has a feature called Whispernet that allows users to search the Amazon Kindle website for books and buy them directly from the device. Now, not only do I not have to waste energy going to the book store, I don’t even have to go to my computer. It’s almost like an iPod Touch for books.

3. Pro: It has a built-in dictionary
Ever read a book and didn’t understand a word you were reading? With the Kindle’s handy Oxford American dictionary, all you have to do is click on the word and it will define it for you. This feature will probably only please those who are studying for the SATs, but there you go.

4. Con: You can’t “borrow” books.
Unfortunately, there’s no Amazon Kindle library. I have to spend money to get a book on the Kindle. Without a library, it almost seems like while buying all those cheap books, I’ll be spending all of the money I’d normally spend on expensive books by buying books I could get for free at the library.

5. Con: The Kindle is delicate
The Kindle is a small device and is extremely thin. These features also make it very prone to accidents. If I drop my Kindle accidentally, I may just not have a Kindle anymore. The Kindle I have, which is the smaller 6-inch version, is $259 on the Amazon website, while the larger version (the Kindle DX) is $489. Buying a Kindle case is a good option, but of course those are just extra expenses on top of a book light (the Kindle does not have a backlight), books and the Kindle itself.

6. Con: The Kindle only comes in one color
Maybe a pink Kindle would be gaudy, but white is certainly not a good color for a device that is generally always used by grimy, dirty hands. While I have nothing against the color, I’m always afraid my Kindle will turn into a different gross color if it is used by too many people. Unfortunately, I can’t force everyone to wear surgical gloves while using it.

7. Con: The Kindle doesn’t have “Harry Potter”
I know. It’s crazy. But J.K. Rowling doesn’t want her books read in e-form, so none of the e-book consoles out there—Sony Reader, the Nook from Barnes and Noble and the Amazon Kindle—have “Harry Potter” on them. Because the Harry Potter books are my all-time favorite series, I can’t honestly say that the Kindle is worth it without “Harry Potter.”
The Kindle is a brilliant idea, and it has some impressive features. You can download your music, surf the web and write notes on the side of books that you’re reading. But it certainly needs improvements. Maybe Kindles in the future will be a lot better, because I have a feeling that the e-book fad is only just beginning.

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