21 October 2010

A note on the Amazon Kindle

[See here for an update to this post.]

With the release of the third generation Kindle not too long ago, people this side of the world are starting to take notice. The common remarks I often hear are 'maybe I should just get an iPad' or 'but it will never feel the same as reading a real book'. Here are a few reasons why I've always been a Kindle advocate.


How the Kindle works is it pixellates black text onto a white screen. Whenever you push the "next page" button a small charge is emitted and in a split second it erases whats currently on the screen and pixellates the words on the next page. That is my layman's understanding. Think Etch-a-Sketch, only much more sophisticated.

The major advantage of e-ink, particularly in a reading device, is that it is perfect for reading. Because of the matt screen and the black/white contrast, it does an excellent job of replicating the sensation of reading a real book. Also, because it is not backlit, there are no issues with glare. In fact, the brighter it is, the better for reading your Kindle. One major disadvantage of i-things (iphone, ipad, ipod touch) is that you can't really use them when you're out in the sun. That's probably why Amazon advertises the Kindle with a picture of a girl reading her Kindle at the beach. Sold!

Glare aside, reading on an e-ink device is just better for your eyes. I for one prefer not to stare at another LCD screen when I'm reading to wind down, particularly when I've been in front of a computer the whole day.

Long lasting battery

Because a small amount of battery power is used only when "turning the page" (i.e. it does not consume any power when you are actually on a page, or in standby mode), the device hardly needs to be charged. By that I mean you could, with the wireless off, use it for about 2-3 weeks without charging. You really only need to turn the wireless on for a short time to buy your books anyway. 

24 hour walking bookstore

Need I say more?

Actually, on that, at US$139 (S$180) for the device, assuming an average cost of US$10 (S$14) per e-book, and assuming the physical book costs an average of S$20 at your local bookstore, you save S$6 per book by buying it on your Kindle, which means that by the time you've downloaded 30 e-books you've made back the cost of the device in savings. At the time of writing this I've got 44 books in my Kindle collection, and I've had the device for less than a year. 

Sheer convenience

Since I can carry my Kindle around in my handbag, I hardly ever leave the house without it. I never know when I'm going to be waiting for someone, or find myself eating alone, and at those times I'm grateful for its companionship. I sometimes read more than one book at any given time. When I'm on the go, what I feel like reading is quite different from what I feel like reading on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The Kindle is perfect for doing that. And when I'm travelling long distance, it's fantastic not having to lug my reading material (usually 2 or 3 spy/crime novels) around with me. 

But what about real books?

Well, yes, I do sometimes feel sad that I don't get to physically see my books lining up all pretty on my bookshelf. And yes, I do sometimes judge a book by its cover and have on more than one occasion bought a book because it was aesthetically pleasing. But the fact is, I haven't really missed the feeel of a book much. The Kindle is really well designed - the "next page" and "previous page" buttons are ergonomically placed where your thumb usually sits when holding a book so instead of turning the page, you push a button. It's lightweight, and sure beats reading hardcover books.

Ultimately, I reject the notion that a real book is one that is made of paper. The paper, the e-book reader, the computer from which you are reading this blog, they are all conduits through which you receive what you are really after - content.

1 comment: