Positive Kindle Surprises I Did Not Expect


Here is a comment from a reader of my New Era post:

I am on the brink of buying something kindle-like, too. But the issues for me are: can I make comments on the book? The difference between a marked and an unmarked book for me are everything–highlighting, marginal marks, questions, etc. The book doesn’t feel like it is mine without them.

Issue two: why does kindle, and its corporate headquarters, have to store my comments, and any other personal documents that I want to read on its pages? I should be able to “kindle” my word documents without Amazon.com taking possession of them.

Issue three: I can’t lend a friend a book without lending them the entire library (my kindle).

Issue four: I love to see and feel the pages, and thumb through them. I don’t really know of a kindle equivalent to that.

So right now I am inclined to wait for a different version, or, if I break down and buy one, to use it for newspapers, magazines, and books that I want to read but don’t want to keep in a holdable, thumb-able library form.

Return Comments:

Here are some thoughts to those comments:

Issue 1: Contrary to the commenter’s strategy of reading books, mine are always pristine when I am done. So while I appreciate the comment, it’s not an issue for me. As a matter of fact, I put in bookmarks and comments while I was reading, just for testing, and I took them out when I was done, just so my copy was pristine again when I “put it back on the shelf.” However, it does allow you to leave them in, of course.

Issue two: Well, not necessarily because they want to or are interested, but there is a sinister aspect to this too. Read the Fourth Realm trilogy, reviewed in these posts below, if you are worried about being On The Grid or in the Vast Machine. However, I challenge you: You keep your photos on Flickr, you keep your private musings on FaceBook, you tell people where you are in Twitter, and your cell phone can indicate where you are, down to the Starbuck level, to the Vast Machine any time. Who cares? Perhaps we SHOULD care, of course. Valid issue, therefore.

Issue three: That is outright wrong. I have not tried it, but as far as I know, you can share up to 5 copies of your books with others. As a matter of fact, it’s better than hardcopy books, because you and your partner can read the same book at  the same time sharing it, provided both of you have Kindles.  Noted, I haven’t tried this, but I have been told by other readers that’s what they are doing.

Issue four: I do too. I love the feel of pages. I also love the act of  purchasing a book at the bookstore. Tough. But read my surprises below.

Kindle Surprises:

I have now read one book and started another one on the Kindle, and here are the positive surprises so far:

One: Traveling with the Kindle is great. Your books are all there. You don’t have to decide which to take with you. That is the overriding benefit of all. I have the thing in my briefcase, and downtime, waiting for a meeting where I arrive 30 minutes early now turns into reading time. Small breaks here and there, and I have my entire library with me for the weight and size of one paperback.

Two: It requires less physical effort, and I am more comfortable when I read. Reading a book like Stephen King’s Under the Dome is work. The book is huge and weighs several pounds. My arms hurt holding it up in bed and everywhere else. You can hold the Kindle with one hand, but mostly I lay it on my lap. You can “turn pages” with a simple push of  one link of one finger and move on. So you turn pages faster than you would otherwise. In bed, it’s also easier. I just rests there on my chest and I don’t have to move to read. Zzzzzz.

Three: I read faster. I am a slow reader for fiction. I like to savor my words. But I have now sized the screen just right for me, and all books look the same. So my reading  cadence has sped up without any downside. Every book is read the same from the mechanical aspect.

Four: I like to read over meals when I am alone. Being a very frequent traveler, I often have to eat alone, which does not bother me at all if I can read. Most books, however, are very awkward at dinner. They don’t lay flat. The salt shakers are not heavy enough to hold down the pages. The plate rim does not function well as a book holder. So it requires constant use of the left hand to hold a book while eating for the most part. The Kindle just lays there, perfectly for reading, and you can even turn the pages with the back knuckles of your hand if your fingers are chicken-licking-greasy and read right on while munching away. This is a huge benefit that I did not expect.

Five: I have made it a tacit goal to read the hundred best novels ever written. I have probably done ten or twenty of that list (which I need to post here someday) and there are probably eighty left to go. Devin just gave me The Count of Monte Cristo for Christmas, which is on every list. Just for kicks, I started checking Amazon, and I found that you can “buy” classics for zero dollars. These are books that were converted to Kindle format by volunteers. So just to test, I “bought” Treasure Island, which is also on the list (surprisingly, from the movie industry I know the story but I never read the book). It’s now on my Kindle and it cost me nothing. So I went on searching, and I must say, since the 100 best books of all times are mostly all classics, they are in the same category as Treasure Island, and without any specific research and counting I would estimate that half of those books are available for free for the Kindle.


I have not come up with any serious negative issues or arguments, other than I have no “proof” in form of a book on my shelf, or rather, in a box in the garage, that I actually read a book.

6 thoughts on “Positive Kindle Surprises I Did Not Expect

  1. I’m not a gadget person AT ALL but I have to confess the new e-Readers have been a tremendous boon re: my writing. I offer nearly 300,000 words of prose on my site for free downloading and I have noticed big numbers of folks coming over from e-book and e-Reader sites and scooping up almost everything I produce to read on their devices. I don’t own a Kindle or iPad but I’m not one of those people who turn their nose up at them. If it gets more folks reading, I say all the power to ’em…

    Good post, thanks…

  2. Chelsea

    Wait a second… so I can’t give you physical books anymore for Christmas? Just an Amazon gift card? Oh dear, this is going to cause some extra thought on my behalf around the holidays. 🙂

  3. Eric Petrie

    Hey, Norbert, forget kindle. This WordPress essay plus comments means that I never have to send you a letter again. Not that I have written you in the last twenty years. But still…I might have!

  4. Eric Petrie

    Okay, time for a more considered reply.

    Issue One: Reading Strategy. Is there hope for a book-marker like myself on Kindle? My guess is that you have a better memory than I do, so you can leave your books clean and still find important passages 5 years later when you pick your copy up again. I can’t.

    Issue Two: The Grid Problem. I will have to read the Fourth Realm trilogy. Thanks for the recommendation and watch for comments to your reviews some day. I am probably oversensitive. But I try not to leave such a good digital trail. Yet look at me now–maybe my best bet is to leave so much digital information that no one will want to bother to put it all together.

    Issue Three: Book-lending. Glad to hear that Amazon figured out that they needed to address this problem. Let’s push them to allow ten free sharings of a title!

    Issue Four: The Touch of the Real Paper. Okay, we agree, but you’re willing to trade it for the surprises. I would never do that. But that makes for a perfect opportunity to weigh those advantages:

    Surprise One–Traveling Convenience: you’ve got me. One of my biggest troubles is to select the books I need on a week or longer trip. I usually fill a milk crate, after long deliberation. Then I inevitably find that I have forgotten five and included a bunch that I never open. And who can take a milk-crate on a plane? And guess what? The books get beat up in the travels.

    Surprise Two–Ease of Reading. Now my brawny forearms make me less concerned about the bulk of any single book, but in bed–now that is a good point. Who wouldn’t just prefer to prop a nice light screen on one’s chest, and press a button? Heck, you could cover it in fluffy cotton and treat it like a throw pillow! You win.

    Surprise Three–Reading Speed through size manipulation. I have to say, this point is not altogether clear to me, but I love the phrase “my reading cadence speeds up.” I think I can imagine it, but tell me more.

    Surprise Four–Reading in Public Places. Great point. Keeping pages open while eating, or standing in a line, or any other tight spot, is a problem, and the bigger the book, the bigger the problem. I can add an example I already mentioned: hardcovers take a beating in these spots and really want to be left on a shelf, and read in a study, not while traveling. You win.

    Surprise Five–Free Classics. No complaint here! I know how LibriVox is doing free audio-books for all public domain materials; why not the same in a not so distant Kindle future? That is worth supporting. A big win.

    Summary: the issue is too complex to summarize yet. More to come.

    1. Issue One: Bookmarking. Ask not if the Kindle can keep your annotations and marks for many years. Ask if the Kindle format will be around 10 years from now and there will be Kindles to read the books with. This is analogous to all the issues related to digital photography. Our parents left us shoeboxes in attics filled with photographs, annotated in pencil or pen on the back, hopefully, so we recognize the faces and places. With digital photography, there are no more shoeboxes with photos created any more, let alone left in attics. I have written entire digital computer programs, only 10 years ago, that I have lost, even though I am good about backing up everything digital that I do. Where did it go? Where will all my pictures be that I am now keeping in the “My Pictures” directory? Where will the pictures be that we forget on Flickr, when Flickr gets sold to Google or some company that does not yet exist today? They won’t end up in a shoebox. That, my friend, is the ultimate destination of the Kindle notes and bookmarks you leave.

      Issue Two: Your tracks are the size of a freeway. Just don’t piss off the mafia, the NSA, the IRS, the FBI, al Qaida or the bookie in Vegas, and nobody will bother putting it together

      Issue Four: When I buy a hardcover book, I take off the paper jacket, put it in a safe place, read the book, then put the paper jacket, no tears, no marks, no smudges, back on the book to make it go onto the shelves. Like new. Tell me about the clean feel of a clean and well-maintained book.

      Surprise Three: Reading speed. Study up on speed reading and you learn that the brain takes in chunks at a time. Paper books have smaller and larger fonts, the word-count per line varies from book to book, and as a result, the eye’s jumps vary depending on the book you are reading. On the Kindle, every book has the same font and size of text. The word-count per line is always the same on average, so you can set it up that you look at one line or two lines at a time as a chunk. Ergo – reading speed increases. I am a slow reader. This I did not expect, but it delights me.

      New Surprise Six: Many books in Kindle are configured for “Text to Speech.” You get a robot voice that reads the book to you. It does this through a speaker, or through standard iPod headphones. The voice is robotic, and the intonation is often flat-out wrong. But I think you can get very used to it. I will be testing it tomorrow while driving to LA on “The Count of Monte Cristo”. And further more, since it’s a robotic voice, you can speed it up and it reads faster than normal human language. I suspect that you can “read” as fast as reading with your eyes once the brain adjusts. I have yet to experiment with this — planning on it.

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