Posts Tagged ‘e-book’

Where we last left off, it was Christmas 2010 and I had just been given a Kindle by my mom.

My first Kindle book was East of Eden, on my mom’s recommendation (and on her credit card). I have to admit, reading on a Kindle is very cool. The text is so crisp that it looks like an actual printed book. And once you get used to pressing the “Next Page” button instead of turning a physical page, one-handed reading is far easier in places like a crowded subway.

Based on my last eight months using my own Kindle, here are a few points worth exploring before you decide to bite the bullet and enter The Wonderful World of E-Readers:

Buying Books

Mostly every book title is available on the Kindle through Amazon.com, and Kindle titles are often a couple bucks cheaper on Amazon than their print counterparts—plus an e-book comes with free, instant delivery.

The second best feature of Kindle is book sampling. (The #1 feature is the Dictionary; see below.) This is the digital version of leafing through a book at a bookstore; I can have a sample of a book sent to my Kindle to try free of charge. If I like what I’ve read, I have the option to buy the full book and my Amazon account will be charged.

Free Books

On Amazon’s website, there’s a list of e-libraries where free e-books are available. I’ve attempted to navigate these libraries on several occasions and found it not worth the trouble. Amazon has a few free titles as well, which are mostly classics whose copyrights have expired. I got about halfway through Bram Stoker’s Dracula before cutting my losses—the best perk of a free book is there’s no guilt about not finishing!

I’m also currently reading an e-book I “bought” for free on Amazon called Stealing Jake (published June 2011), which averages 4 ½ stars on Amazon. I’m getting the sense that users factored the bang for their buck into their ratings.

My biggest disappointment about the device is that the New York Public Library doesn’t currently support Kindle. Nook owners can download select e-book titles from NYPL, but Kindle owners are out of luck, at least for now. I tweeted @NYPL to ask them whether there’s a timeline for supporting Kindle through their digital content solutions provider, Overdrive. Their response was “unfortunately not yet…but stay tuned…” According to Amazon’s website, “You’ll be able to borrow Kindle library books from any of the more than 11,000 libraries that work with OverDrive, the leading provider of digital content solutions for libraries.” We’ll see.


In my opinion, this is easily the best feature of the Kindle. In the past if I was reading a book that was full of SAT-level vocabulary, I might carry a dictionary with me or mark pages that contained a word I wanted to look up later. Often, I’d just forget to look them up and when I did, I almost never retained the definition.

Kindle allows me to quickly and easily access its dictionary and look up a word without distracting me from enjoying the book I’m reading. This feature is so good that when I come across an unfamiliar word in a print book, newspaper, magazine, or an online article, I find myself wishing I was reading it on the Kindle.

Lending Policy

Amazon’s Kindle lending policy says that the owner of an e-book, if that title is deemed “lendable” by its publishing house, may lend it one time to one other Kindle user for a period of 14 days.

I was able to borrow the entire Hunger Games Trilogy at no cost from a co-worker. This worked perfectly because the books were quick reads and the 14-day policy never came into play. However, the policy is largely impractical for longer books like The Pillars of the Earth, which might take months to read.

As Kindles become more mainstream and publishing houses (hopefully) become more malleable about the “lendability” of their titles—though I don’t see why they would—the lending feature may become a legitimate selling point for the device. But for now, it’s a non-factor.

Vacation Reading

Another theoretical selling point for the Kindle is that if you went on vacation for a week and planned on reading at the beach, you wouldn’t need to lug around a bunch of heavy books.

I’ve traveled fairly often since I got my Kindle and I have run into a few cases where I finished a book and wanted to download another title and start reading right way. (If I didn’t have a Kindle, I simply would have packed more than one book and complained about the extra two pounds.) Having a thin, light reading device might have made my life a little easier during my two-week trip to China, but is that convenience alone worth the $180 price tag for a Kindle?

Percentage Reading

If you’re a Kindle owner, chances are you’ve said some variation of this sentence: “Oh yeah I’m reading that right now…I’m 63% through it.” Many Kindle owners I’ve spoken to find the percentages, as opposed to page numbers, a little odd. The lack of page numbers becomes particularly inconvenient if you’re in a book club or a classroom where not everyone has a Kindle. (For that problem, Amazon has a solution.)

I’ve gotten used to the percentage thing for the most part but in some cases it really gets on my nerves. The Kindle factors in acknowledgments and “also from this author” pages into the total, so most books end around 90 to 95%. Fine. But I was reading the nonfiction book Little Bets, which is full of footnotes, and when I finished the last chapter I was at just 70%. What??? Turns out, the remaining 30% was academic sourcing, which of course I didn’t plan to read.

Technical Difficulties and Customer Service

I’ve already had my Kindle replaced twice. One was due to my own carelessness, leading to a cracked screen; the other died on me while I was on vacation (which, by the way, never would have happened with a print book). Customer service in both cases was extremely accommodating and sent me a new Kindle right away at no cost.


For me, I’ve found the cost of buying books once a week or more often to be a little expensive. To cut costs, I’ve actually read my last four books “off-Kindle”—which prompted me to explore my feelings towards my Kindle in this very blog post.

My recommendation is that if you already buy lots of books, the Kindle probably makes sense for you–provided you have $180 to spend on it. Sure, you won’t have an impressive book collection to show off to guests, but if you’re living in a cramped NYC apartment, you’ll be happy to have some of your shelf space back.

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