Tuesday, November 27, 2012

DigiWriMo Day 27: I support Kindles

Last January I bought myself a Kindle Touch (then made a cool DIY Kindle case!).  Amazon.com doesn't even sell Kindle Touches anymore (I believe the Kindle Paperwhite would be the most similar to what I own), but regardless of which one, a Kindle is a wonderful purchase.

When eReaders and Kindles first came out, I swore I would never use one.  I love physical books.  Feeling the pages between your fingers.  Being able to write in them.  Visually knowing how far you are through the book.  I also love buying used books, and thought I would never be able to afford digital Kindle books if I had one so what's the point?  Why spend $100 on a device when I'd have to then pay $7+ per digital book if I wanted to read something, when I could just keep buying $0.50 softcovers from thrift shops?  Continue reading to find out what changed my mind.

Reading while traveling

I do read a lot, and while living in Spain I also took many buses for weekend trips.  I never really knew how much I was going to read before I left for a trip.  Sometimes I would finish the only book I brought on the bus ride to my destination, and be itching for another book for the return ride home.  Other times, I'd bring three books along and never even finish one.

It was when I brought four books along with me to my two-week HelpX gig last winter break when I realized the weight of all those books.  Also, my fellow HelpX volunteer had a Kindle -- the first friend of mine who had a Kindle -- so I was able to see why she liked it.  The first realization that changed my mind towards eReaders is that they are perfect for travelers.  A Kindle would easily solve my "How many books should I bring on this bus trip" dilema.

Kindles for all

But you needn't be a traveler to benefit from a Kindle.  Even when I wasn't traveling - just living in Madrid - I would read my Kindle on the metro every day, because it's so compact and lightweight that I always carried it with me in my purse.  Now in Wisconsin, I always have my Kindle in my backpack and read in the mornings during my bus ride to work.  If you're a college student, once textbook companies start making digital copies  of textbooks more available, that will be another reason to own a Kindle.

Piano brother tweeted at me the other day:

@RebeWithAClause* Considering getting a kindle...your thoughts?  Battery life/memory space/availability of affordable books?

That's the tweet that sparked this post idea, so I'm going to get into further detail to answer some of his questions.

Kindle battery life

Battery life is amazing.  The Kindle Touch has no backlight, making the screen look exactly like real paper (and using way less battery than other electronics with lit-up screens), and when it's on screensaver it uses 0% of the battery.  So I never turn mine off.  I maybe charge my Kindle once a month, but have definitely gone longer without charging it.  Of course it'll depend how often you read, but I've found the battery life to be really long.  Amazon says that the battery life of the Kindle Paperwhite is 8 weeks, and I believe it.  The Kindle Paperwhite does have a built-in light, and that 8-week batter life is with the light on.

Kindle memory space

My Kindle touch has 3GB for user files, which is about 3,000 eBooks.  I do not have 3,000 Kindle books, but nor do I own 3,000 real books (or anything close!).  So space has never been an issue for me.  I have tons of Kindle books on my computer that aren't on my Kindle, because until I read the thirty-or-so books that I've got on my Kindle right now, there's no need to have more at my fingertips.  I can always put on new ones or take ones off via my USB cord whenever I want.

Kindles can also hold many other file types, so I often put pdfs on my Kindle.  Before I went on my Germany trip this past summer, I typed up friends' addresses and saved it as a pdf on my Kindle - which made sending postcards really simple.  When we had pdfs of work schedules or game schedules for the ultimate tournaments we hosted, I would put those on my Kindle as well so I could access them during the tournament (without having to print).

Availability of titles

I have not spent a cent - not a single cent! - on Kindle books, and I've owned my Kindle for nearly a year.  Firstly, you can find tons of classics for free on the internet... legally.  Amazon's Kindle store has free books, many of which are classics.  For example, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, and A Tale of Two Cities.  Sites like Project Gutenberg can also help you build your digital library.

My friend that I met through my HelpX stay over last winter break had bought a flash drive from eBay for about five pounds (she's from Wales) that had hundreds (perhaps thousands) of eBooks on it.  When she came and stayed at my place for a weekend in Madrid, she let me take whatever I wanted from the flash drive.  This is where 99% of my current digital library has come from.

But Rebe, what if you don't know anybody with a magical flash drive of books?

Well, I'll just have to share with you the best kept secret in digital book world: libraries!

Digital book loans from libraries

Many libraries now have digital collections.  Lucky for me, my library community here in Wisconsin has a great digital library.  In fact, all last year while living in Spain, I would check out digital books from my local library back in the states.  Awesome!  Any notes or highlighting that you do on library copies is saved in your "cloud" so that if you ever check out or purchase the same book at a later time, it'll have all your markings and notes!  Digital library loans have allowed me to read over half of the books I've read on my Kindle thus far.

3G? Advertisements?

Most kindles have multiple variations of itself.  The Kindle Touch could be bought for a lower price, but there was no 3G internet (to buy a book from Amazon you would have to be connected to wifi), and the screen savers were all advertisements of some sort.  I do not want to be exposed to advertisements when I'm reading, because we're already bombarded by enough ads every day, so I paid more for the Kindle Touch without advertisements.  My Kindle Touch also has 3G wireless.  This does not mean I can surf the web from anywhere.  My Kindle Touch does have an "experimental" browser that I can use when I'm connected to a wifi network.  I hardly ever use this on my Kindle, as I didn't buy a Kindle to use as a tablet or laptop alternative.  I bought my Kindle to read books, which is what the Kindle Touch is best made for.  Having 3G wireless means that I can shop the Amazon Kindle book store from anywhere, and download books directly to my Kindle without being connected to wireless.

When Gregorio and I had hours to kill before a late fireworks show at Las Fallas in Valencia last March, I downloaded some free French classics from my Kindle so he could help me practice my French.  That's where the 3G comes in handy!  I really haven't used it that often, but I figured that to pay a little more once is worth having the 3G for the rest of your life whenever you may need it - which is why I went for the 3G Kindle Touch.

Learning languages

That last example reminded me of a final reason why I love my Kindle.  The dictionaries!  I don't have a great vocabulary, and when I read normal books my mind naturally jumps over words I don't know.  When I'm reading on my Kindle, I simply touch a word I'm unfamiliar with, and the definition pops up.  It only takes a second, so I'm learning words I would normally skip over.  The dictionaries are also what make Kindles great for reading in a second language.  I found some French and Spanish eDictionaries for Kindles on the web and put them on my Kindle.  A Spanish friend from Madrid sent me about thirty Kindle books in Spanish, so I'm stocked!  Being able to see definitions in Spanish of Spanish words I don't know is wonderful for improving the language.

Kindle Paperwhite

I think I'm about ready to end this post.  Have I convinced anyone to buy a Kindle yet?  Reading about the Kindle Paperwhite while looking up info for this post has made me wish it had been available back when I bought my Touch.  The Kindle Touch is great, don't get me wrong, but the improvements in the Paperwhite look oh so appealing.   But alas, that is technology.  Once you buy, your purchase is outdated.

*This is not my actual twitter name

Post Word Count: 1,552
DigiWriMo Word Count Total: 16,913
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