Ebook Debate

Lisa and I recently decided to purchase a Kindle – having first moved to Auckland and then Sydney, we were unable to take many books with us, something we both regretted – as the plan isn’t to settle in Sydney long term, it’s not worth shipping them over to only then have to ship them elsewhere again.

In the last 5+ years almost all the reading I’ve done has been on my laptop, but this has some unfortunate side effects:

  • It’s never as easy to lie on the beach or at the park with a laptop as it is for with a book, as a result, we do far less reading or lying outside than we would like.
  • Years of working in IT has turned me into a screen skim reader – I was always a fast reader, but in order to keep up with analysing logs and complex information, I’m become a very impatient skim reader. If I try to read any large textual content such as books on my computer, I’m liable to skip through content.
  • Computers make me context-shift – I’ll be reading a book, and then jump into email, then IM and lose all depth and concentration on what I was reading. Sometimes I just want a book to be a book.
  • LCD screens are very difficult to read outside in bright sunlight – this is particularly an issue, since we want to try and get outside and out of our apartment more to escape the crippling heat of Sydney.

We pondered getting a small tablet, such as the iPad Mini or Google Nexus 7, but these share a lot of the same problems as using our laptops, such as the LCD screen being poor for reading and the multi tasking nature of the device leading to context shifting and loss of focus.

In the end, we decided to buy one of the current generation of basic Kindle models, and if we like it, upgrade to having two of the newer generation Paperwhite Kindles once they launch in the AU market.

We had a bit of a mission getting one – the Paperwhite is currently only available in the US market and Amazon won’t ship to AU – but when we tried to order the regular model via Amazon, it kept refusing to ship to AU for some unstated reason:

Hi Amazon, I have a bug report for you...

Hi Amazon, I have a bug report for you…

I ended up giving up and shelling out an extra $20 to buy from Dick Smith’s who had the model we wanted in stock. It’s been a long time since I shopped retail, it’s certainly an interesting experience….

With the expensive prices, display models that were two generations out of date, display Kindles that hadn’t even been setup leaving them unusable for demonstrations and pushy sales pitches trying to offload warranties, cases and screen protectors, it’s no wonder that online shopping is decimating the AU retail market.

Aside from the purchasing hassles, the Kindle is shaping up to be a great device – at least based on what I’ve experienced so far, which is only the basics, as Lisa keeps stealing it away from me….

The e-ink display is excellent in daylight, although it suffers a bit in our apartment, which has somewhat dull lighting levels – the newer Paperwhite model with the front-lit display would help resolve this issue for us, so I expect we will look to upgrade once it’s released.

In bright sunlight or even just outdoors in general, the display is clear and easy to read, something that is a huge difference compared to my conventional LCD laptop and I expect we’ll make more park and beach trips for reading & relaxing now that we have it.

Kindle in the park. [lovingly stolen from Lisa's instagram feed since I forgot to take a picture myself]

Kindle in the park. [lovingly stolen from Lisa’s instagram feed since I forgot to take a picture myself]

I had some reservations about the Kindle, the DRM around their book store and the amount of control that they have over it is of some concern (see FSF for details), but we’ve decided to use it primarily as a side loaded device, where we download and store all our ebooks on our laptops (using a tool like Calibre) and then side load them onto the Kindle, which is easy to do via USB transfer or emailing them to the Kindle itself.

When buying books, I’ll stick to getting them in a downloadable DRM-free format, so that I can copy them to any device in future – this also solves the backup issue for the Kindle, since anything on my laptop or servers is backed up reliably.

Of course I have to try resisting hacking the Kindle and bricking it in some way, or I’ll have an angry fiancée on the warpath, so for now I’ll keep trying to treat it as a book only.  ;-)

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