Life with Kindle, two months on…

My Kindle, I think it’s fair to say, has inserted itself into my life as deeply and securely as, say, my PC.

Already, since I’ve owned the Kindle a mere 2 months, I feel as if I’ve had it forever, so familiar has it become. And as I think I’ve said elsewhere, it’s perfect for reading in bed. But, unlike books, just don’t drop the bugger! I haven’t, so far, but it is something of an Achilles heel.

Despite one of the posters in the Kindle’s reviews on Amazon claiming that’s it’s so complicated his review needs a video for clarity – which is rubbish, it’s just an ereader, not a nuclear power plant – the device is remarkably easy to use. There’s a manual stored on it, and a PDF version is available for download on the Amazon website – I have them both and I’ve opened neither; there has been no need.

I had thought, initially, that I was reading faster on it than with a book, but put it down to an illusion caused by, in effect, having to turn the page twice as often – in a book, a page turn gets you two new pages, in a Kindle only one. However, having lived with it for a while, I don’t think it is an illusion at all, as I seem to have read far more than I would otherwise have done.  I’ve also read 4 or 5 print books, including a doorstop of a tome, Local Breads, by Daniel Leader, which is destined to remain a work in progress.

Project Gutenberg (books obtained via the Many Books website) has proven to be a veritable goldmine for free books (though their conversion process tends to be a tad careless, some publications being littered with errors, and with the title repeatedly, and randomly, inserted into the text as, indeed, are chapter headings, which frequently are not at the start of the chapter.

And, in the case of Ayn Rand’s Anthem, the declaration “prepared by the Project Gutenberg legal advisor” is inserted into the text at or near the end of each chapter, as if it were part of the text, but with no indication of why (it wasn’t as if it was libellous, or offensive in any way). God, it’s annoying. I suppose, as they were freebies, I shouldn’t be too peeved, but is the fact that they’re free really an excuse for sloppy work? Hell, my blog’s free but I’d be mortified if my standards were so low. I was, briefly, tempted to sign up as a proof-reader, but on reflection decided I might be more of a liability these days, as my vision continues to fail.

The Kindle, itself, is a gem, but one which is very slightly flawed. It does what it does impeccably, I have to say; faulting the reading experience is, in my view, impossible – you simply can’t tell, most of the time, you’re not reading printed paper.

The Kindle, though, has page-turning buttons on both sides, and it would be an improvement if one pair could be turned off. I’m right-handed so, naturally enough, I use the right-hand pair of buttons. If the left hand pair could be disabled (vice-versa for lefties, of course), it would be much easier to hold, and pick up, without accidentally pressing a button. Most of the time mine’s in its leather cover, so it’s not a major problem, but for anyone who feels £30 is too much – it is, I have to say – then without  its cover the buttons are a bit of a pest, unless you want thumbprints on the screen.

My only other gripe is the auto-shutoff which should, I feel, be optional. I rather resent the Kindle designers’ assumption that I’m too dumb to turn it off when I’m done with it for a while. Still, it restarts where I left off, so it’s hardly a major problem (you can have several books “open” at once, and it’ll always remember where you left off), it’s just that people making decisions for me, or thinking they know what’s best for me, really get up my nose. And if I’m distracted – answering emails, or whatever – it’s aggravating to find the thing has switched itself off. It’s a battery-saving measure of course, but I still feel it should be my choice. On mobile phones and digital cameras you can control the auto-shutoff, so why not Kindles?

Talking of mobes, I’ve recently bout a new, touch-screen model (but with a slide-out qwerty keyboard), and I keep finding myself poking futilely at the Kindle’s screen!

Finally, in the US Amazon Kindle store, you can buy a wide range of very nice skins. Most are particularly feminine (why, this isn’t a gender-specific product?), but the dark burlwood version looks particularly good if you want something rather more masculine (there’s also a rosewood version) – so why can’t we buy them here in the UK? I know we can order from the US, but that’s not really the point, is it? That’s not the only example of the US getting preferential treatment – there you can buy the 3G kindle in white, as well as grey. Again – why not here?

Oh, and a caveat – many ebooks are, in fact, short stories. That’s not a problem with freebies, but it also affects the paid-for sector too. Buy with caution.