A Kindle for all Seasons

image About three weeks ago, I splurged and ordered myself a Kindle 2.  I had bounced back and forth between wanting one and not but finally convinced myself that it was time to add another gadget to my repertoire.  And let me say, I love it!!  To alleviate any guilt over spending that kind of cash on another gadget, I replaced my personal laptop with it and I haven’t regretted that decision for even a minute.

Here’s a short summary of what I’m using it for these days.

  1. Reading Books. 
    Duh! I know.  Who would’ve of thought that an ebook reader would work so well for reading books?  I’ve been impressed with just how easy it is on the eyes.  The font size is easily adjustable and there are times when I fill the page with tiny text and times when it is more comfortable on the eyes to have a large print. 

    The first book I read was “A Study In Scarlet” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, first of his Sherlock Holmes novels.  As a huge fan of House (the medical drama on Fox starring Hugh Laurie), I have been intrigued by the incredible similarities between the characters of House/Holmes and Wilson/Watson.  Plus, with the new Sherlock Holmes flick at the movies, I felt it was time to brush up. 

    The best thing about starting with these books is that they are all free!There are a huge number of public domain classics that you can put on your kindle for free and with the Whispernet service included in the Kindle, you don’t even have to plug it into the computer.

    For the record, I have actually purchased two books so far for the Kindle.  The first was “The Complete User’s Guide To the Amazing Amazon Kindle 2: Tips, Tricks, & Links To Unlock Cool Features & Save You Hundreds on Kindle Content (#1 Guide to the Kindle US & Global)” by  Stephen Windwalker.  The second was a Bible (which I’ll go into in more detail later).

  2. Lecture Notes. 
    I’ve begun using the Kindle for my lecture notes in all of my courses that I teach.  This was the deciding factor when wavering on whether to buy the Kindle or not.  I was fortunate enough to have a friendly neighbor lend me their Kindle so I could test out the PDF rendering.  Scanning my hand written and occasionally typed up lecture notes is a breeze with the copier at my office.  Once converted to pdf, I just move the files over via USB and the Kindle 2 natively renders the pdf.  As long as I’m careful to scan with the darkness turned all the way up, they are perfectly readable.  It’s extremely convenient to only have to bring my thin little gadget to class in lieu of the 1.5” binder.  Plus, it remembers where I left off.
  3. Daily Bible Reading
    Thanks to a free but awesome piece of software called Calibre, I have a daily bible reading downloaded from BibleGateway.com.  I’ve not missed a day since I bought the Kindle.  I’m well into Exodus and wrapping up Matthew.
  4. News
    Using the same software, I can also have a USA today news feed prepared daily for my Kindle.  You can subscribe to newspapers and magazines through the Kindle store at Amazon, but cheapskate that I am, I have found a nearly as good solution for free.  Calibre has recipes built-in for several news sources including NYT, WSJ, USA Today and many, many more.  I do have to manually plug in my Kindle each morning to move these “subscriptions” over but the minor inconvenience easily outweighs the cost of these subscriptions on Amazon, in my opinion.
  5. Bible
    At first, I did not plan on putting the Bible on the Kindle.  However, the fact that I saw a friend using one in church combined with the fact that you can highlight and insert notes into the Kindle for any book convinced me to give it a try. I did some reading of reviews and found that the NASB by the Lockman Foundation is probably the best choice.  They were smart enough to include the book name with each chapter heading so that you can quickly look up a passage by just typing in the book name and chapter into the built-in search tool on the Kindle.
  6. Samples
    Just about every book in the Kindle Store at Amazon has a sample that you can have sent directly to your Kindle.  You can ready a chapter or two and see if the book is really something you are interested in.  You can shop for these books right on the Kindle or through the Amazon website.  When you click to send a sample, it shows up on the device within a matter of seconds.
  7. Checking Email/Facebook/Twitter
    The Whispernet service which delivers the books to the device is actually a data network just like I use on my Blackberry, only it’s free!!  I can log into my gmail, facebook, twitter, etc. and check all my stuff out from anywhere I have access to the the mobile network.  I’m pretty sure AT&T provides the service so if my Blackberry works, so does the Kindle.  It’s not a great browser and it’s relatively slow, but it’s still everywhere accessible and occasionally that comes in handy.

I’m aware that Apple’s probably about to announce the next big thing with its “iTablet” and I’m sure it will make a big impact on the world of ebook readers. And yet, I can’t imagine an Apple device that’s going to appeal to me in any way. I can guarantee it will be out of my price range.  I can guarantee that once I had it in my hands, I would be wishing it could run my windows stuff natively and that I could figure out how to get it to do what I want.  I’m not saying that Apple does things worse (or better) than Microsoft, but that I know how to do what I need to do and I don’t have the patience or the mental fortitude to balance my life between the Windows world at the office and an Apple world at home. 

Of course, the Kindle is not a device that runs Windows stuff natively but its niche doesn’t require it to.  If the iTable/iSlate or whatever it is going to be called, comes out and is basically an enhanced color ebook reader with awesome battery life and is in the neighborhood of $250 – $300, I will be totally bummed and will probably admit to having made a mistake in buying the Kindle.  Fortunately, that scenario is extremely doubtful.

In the end, I’m going to be very happy with my gadgetry for a good long while (at least 3 months, I’m sure).

6 thoughts on “A Kindle for all Seasons

  1. It’s great to hear your thoughts. I recently put a Nook on order and everything you’ve said is nothing that I cannot do on the Nook. Currently my only concerns are 1) the Apple device, but like you I doubt it will be anywhere near my price range. Everything I’ve read puts it at close to $1000 so even if it’s a wonderful device that’s color and awesome battery…I couldn’t ever push myself to spend that much on something like that. 2) Amazon’s weight and their recently released KDK (Kindle SDK). I feel like that at some point I may want some products that are being developed for the Kindle and it won’t be available for the Nook. 3) Amazon has a lower barrier of entry for self-publisher. Amazon’s DTP is really nice, where B&N isn’t quite there (yet).

    I have tried both devices though, and feel the Nook is the better device. Nook seemed to render the PDFs a little nicer (may have been the darkness level thing, but even unscanned docs seemed a bit washed). The content side is the biggest drawback, but since that’s B&N’s bread and butter, I feel they will get there. Also, as far as the KDK goes. The Nook is built on Android, so after a few years of use, I’m sure I’ll be able to find a modified ROM that greatly enhances the nook’s features. I’ll let you know more when I get it in. Feb. 12th is the day, so if Apple stuns us with something that’s actually affordable I can cancel.

  2. I actually took a long hard look at comparing the nook and kindle. It was pretty neck and neck but the Kindle won out for a few minor reasons:
    1. Availability.
    2. I’m no fan of the touch screen, especially a keyboard. The Kindle keyboard is easily usable. (By the way, that’s of the main reasons I’m a Blackberry bold guy instead of an iPhone guy)
    3. Speed, I read many reports that the nook is noticeably slower in both start up and page turning. My kindle is on the edge of being too slow for quick finds in class when using it for lecture notes. That doesn’t bode well for a device that’s supposedly slower.
    4. Browser. Even though the Nook has WiFi capability and the Kindle doesn’t, they both have a data network connection. Kindle has a browser that can visit any site (with limited support beyond text). As I understand it, the nook doesn’t (unless hacked). Will it eventually have one, who knows . . . probably. The Wifi on the nook is just for accessing content (books, etc.) through B&N

    Nevertheless, none of those issues would have been a make or break deal for an ebook reader for me because, I can do (almost) all of the things I listed on the Nook as well as on my Kindle. Some people have complained about the proprietary document format but that’s a non-issue. For example, all the free content on Google is available since you can easily convert with a tool like Calibre. Who knows what the long term holds, but for me, for now, Kindle wins by a nose.

    For the record, I’ve never held a Nook.

  3. I have thought about your same points.
    1) This on was hard for me. Very hard…very hard…
    2) I had to go use the Nook before I discounted the touchscreen. And I had to admit it wasn’t pretty good. I’m not going to write a novel on it, but I wouldn’t do that on the kindle either.
    3) The speed issue has been greatly improved with the latest firmware update. Using a friends and comparing to what I checked out at the B&N store, they were both as slow as each other (if that makes sense). Neither impressed me as far as search speed, etc, so I couldn’t truly compare.
    4) The browser thing was kind of a problem for me at first, then I read that at a early CES or something they demoed a browser on the bottom screen that you could then shoot to the eInk display. Bugs pushed it back and so the WiFi was “crippled” to be used at B&N only. The benefit I believe the nook has is that the Android engine can be heavily upgraded along the way. Page turns were slow, people complained, a few days later it was corrected. The advantage I saw was that the Kindle has proven difficult to upgrade and correct problems, mostly repackaging. Nook looks to have pretty effective upgrade-ability, as well as when the warranty is up I’d be happy to SoftMod the thing and nookDevs are doing some crazy things.

    But I’m not closed returning the nook and getting a kindle. I will use the thing for a little while and if it is crap, I’ll get a Kindle in a heartbeat. It’s good to see your experience with Calibre. I tried using it on my Tablet PC and it bugged me…probably because it’s not built around a tablet pc. Not like ComicRack, where it’s not built for a tablet was works awesome on one.

    It’s good to see your info and using Instapaper on the Kindle looks awesome (have to sync with nook) and things like these that keep me thinking…decisions…decisions…

  4. Have you tried out any PDF’s on the Kindle that involve math typesetting, like a journal article or something you made up with LaTeX? If so, how does it look? I heard that the PDF rendering works fine unless there is certain kinds of special formatting — of which math typesetting may or may not be an example.

    I’m not exactly in the market for a Kindle (I like reading stuff on my iPod just fine, despite the small screen) but if I could read and annotate PDF’s of articles and other math stuff, my interest would ratchet up a notch. And for the record, although I am an Apple fanboy, my interest in the iTablet or whatever it’s going to be called is somewhere between slim and none unless it turns out to be a full-on Macbook in tablet form, and even then the price will be astronomical.

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