25 August 2011

The Kindle Update You've Been Waiting For...

... with bated breath.

I've been using Kindle quite a bit; I've uploaded numerous books for The Mate, The Offspring, and myself, including some essays for an academic article I'm currently writing and a couple of things that might be helpful in teaching and advisement.

I find reading the "digital ink" screen very soothing to my eyes, and I like being able to customize the type size and line spacing so I can cram quite a bit of text onto a single page. (I read fast. Very fast. Having to turn the pages really really fast in the "page-turner" section of Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves was a cute little joke, but it also got kind of annoying.)

But I'm also still buying hard copies of books.

Yesterday I biked over to The Strand to pick up some half-price books. On for The Offspring, two for The Mate, and one for me: a pre-release copy of Laurie R. King's newest book, The Pirate King. Most of the rest of the world has to wait until September 6 to get it in hardcover or on Kindle, but I started reading my copy last night.

Right now, a box containing most of the books in the Redwall series arrived from Better World Books. The Offspring will tear into it the minute he gets home.

Why Kindle? Why "real" book?

It depends on two things: availability and price. Redwall, the first book in that series, came out in 1986, and you can't get it on Kindle. The series is being reissued in a fancier paperback version, but I got the backlist used at $3 a pop. Given the speed with which The Offspring reads, price is not insignificant.

The article I'm writing is about blogging and academic identities. I'm reading a lot on my computer for this project, as usual with academic writing, though I've downloaded a few reports from Harvard on identity and new media to Kindle. Oddly enough, the book Uses of Blogs: Digital Formations is available only in hard copy. It came out in 2006, though, which in blogging history is pretty much light-years away.

It is theoretically possible to download pdf's to Kindle. I haven't tried it yet; I usually just use the computer screen for those. I assume the Kindle software must reconfigure pdf's for their screen, but I just keep imagining tiny, tiny pages.

The other issue is annotations. I've tried the annotation feature on Kindle, but the keyboard is, well, there's that word "tiny" again. Also, when I read articles while working on an academic project, I have a couple windows open at a time so I can take notes in one while reading in another. I'm going to have to take notes off these articles in Kindle soon, but I anticipate it's going to be awkward.

The other issue is cost of documents. It seems utterly reasonable to me that as backlist gets more distant from publication date, the cost of the eBook should drop with the cost of paper copies. But (so far anyway) that doesn't seem to be the case.

That said, there's plenty to read for free or cheap. Amazon offers links to gazillions of free "classics" (running the gamut from Jane Austen to Zane Grey, Aristotle to War and Peace). I could go the rest of my life reading just books I can download for free.