As regular readers will have noticed, I’ve ordered an Amazon Kindle, delivery due around the end of the month. I bought it for two reasons – I’m running out of space for books, and it’s becoming difficult and painful for me to hold books, particularly heavy ones, and it’s the latter that I’ve been thinking about.
My previous Kindle post is here.
The Kindle, would be useful, even valuable, to those members of the disabled community who love to read but find books problematic. For the physically challenged, it obviously removes the problem of heavy books. Additionally, it will be easier to read in bed than a book currently is (for me, at least), and, protected by its leather cover, can be slipped under a bed wedge/pillow when finished with. I’ve gone with black (£29.99 and overpriced at that), but as with the lighted cover, below, it comes in a range of seven colours.
For the visually impaired, it offers a range of larger-than-normal font sizes and, where the ebook producer has enabled the function, it offers text-to-speech. How successful this is I’ll let you know when I have a chance to play with it, especially its usability for the blind. Obviously, it won’t be as good as a proper audiobook, but it will allow a far wider range of books to be listened to, if the rendition is at all tolerable (the Windows equivalent, incidentally, is atrocious).
For those who like/need to read in the dark, Amazon offer a leather cover with a pull-out LED light but, at £49.99 it’s obscenely overpriced. Much better, and cheaper, is a flexible, clip-on, battery-powered LED light, designed for earlier Kindles but equally applicable to the new one – I’ve ordered one for £4.94, delivered. Despatched from the US, it’ll take a little while, but I won’t have my Kindle for a while, either, so that’s no problem and, at the price, there will be no hassles with VAT or duty. You can, if you’re so minded, shop around on Amazon and pay £8.48, plus delivery, for the same light if you’re feeling reckless! (OK, it’s silver, not black – big deal!)
For those worried about buying outside the UK it’s perfectly safe – I’ve been doing it for years (my drugs, for example, come from Fiji). Items costing £18.00 or over will attract VAT and duty, if applicable, then the Royal Mail will stick you with a bill for £8.00 for the privilege of collecting the VAT/duty!
There is, by the way, no excuse for being charged extravagant sums for shipping from outside the UK, so shop around. My espresso machine was recently shipped from Padua, Italy, in three days, for £7.50, and postage on the light, above, is £1.99. As a classic example of a rip-off, try this – an item, costing £4.27, and sold from Florida with a mind-blowing £20.43 delivery charge – about £16.00 more than it should cost, based on my experience, and that’s being generous. Avoid.
The Kindle Store, the absence of which I complained about in my earlier post, is now up and running, and book prices seem to be sensible, with a whole load of out-of-copyright freebies. The Stieg Larsson “The Girl…” trilogy can be had for less than £9, for example, with new books costing pretty close to the paper version price. I still think that’s wrong, as there are no distribution or storage costs to be factored in to the price, but Amazon isn’t alone in this so, for now, we’re stuck with it. Nor is there any justification for putting VAT on ebooks – they should be VAT-free, like any other books.
So anyway, if you’re disabled, and you’ve found the previous Kindle versions, or other ereaders, to be of benefit then please post a comment, but note that it will not become a “this ereader is better than Kindle” debate as such things tend to be almost entirely subjective.
If you read through Amazon’s Kindle Forum, keep a large sack of salt handy – a pinch just won’t do – and be aware that a hell of a lot of what you’ll read there is prejudice, not informed comment (because no-one has the new Kindle yet, though it’s been reviewed very favourably in the media). For example, one clown has started a “Why buy a Kindle when the iPad can do so much more,” thread, which is as deranged a question as you’re ever likely to find – there is simply no comparison, at any level, with these totally different devices – not to mention the huge cost differential – the Kindle costs £109 (or £149 for the 3g version), and Amazon have the iPad from £484.
Anyway, just try putting an iPad in your pocket – 242.8 mm x 189.7 mm x 13.4 mm, and weighs 680g, compared to the Kindle at 190 mm x 123 mm x 8.5 mm and 241g (the 3g version is 6g heavier). No contest.
This thread, in particular, is Paranoia Central – treat with caution, and keep that salt handy. The main gripe – that Amazon will hold a lot of information about you and your reading habits, is a total crock – if you buy books from Amazon, they already have the information anyway. And it really doesn’t matter.
If you spend much time shopping online – or, like me, have an online presence (a website and 2 blogs) – there is a massive amount of information about you already out there. The fact that Amazon records the annotations you make on your ebooks (the info is archived, just as your book purchases are, so if you ever lose your Kindle, everything is safe), is of no consequence at all. Seriously.
It was suggested, in that thread, that confidential documents (child abuse reports were used as an example), uploaded to a Kindle would wind up in Amazon’s archives but, hey, here’s a thought – don’t do it! That’s what laptops are for. This, along with others like it, is really a non-issue. That it will happen at some point is almost certain, but that’s not the fault of the device, or of Amazon, but the fault of the user, and to suggest otherwise is dishonest.
I still feel that, overall, the ereader/ebook concept remains a solution in search of a problem (though much more recycled paper needs to be book-grade, not toilet-paper-grade), and, also, until there is a common format for ebooks, the readers will never become a mass-market item, like PCs.
There are, though, clear benefits for the disabled and, of course, there are other ereaders available, but from what I’ve read (which was a lot, before settling on the Kindle), nothing can match the Kindle on price and functionality.
See also Ebook intro…