A year with the Kindle

Last November, I became one of the first people to acquire an Amazon Kindle ebook reader. A year later, I thought it might be interesting to reflect on a year of living with the device. I’m doing this purely on my own behalf; even though I work for Amazon, I don’t need to pump up demand for the Kindle. Oprah has done this very nicely; indeed, she was so effective that the Kindle is sold out until next year.
So what’s it been like? I’ve used it more than I expected, but less than I wanted to, and the experience has been mostly great, with a few niggling defects. I haven’t used it as consistently as I expected, in part because of my involvement in the Vine program. (If only Vine would deliver content on the Kindle – hint!) And I’ve still bought plenty of paper books, because although Amazon has managed to get over 200,000 titles on the Kindle, there are still plenty of publishers who aren’t on board.
What do I have on my Kindle? Let’s take a look. In the order that I purchased them, I have:
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman.
Arsenals of Folly by Richard Rhodes.
Takeover by Charlie Savage.
The Complete Poems of John Milton by John Milton.
Second Philosophy: A Naturalistic Method by Penelope Maddy.
The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James.
In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion by Scott Atran.
The Jefferson Bible by Thomas Jefferson.
The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi.
The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson.
Blind Lake by Robert Charles Wilson.
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller.
Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy by Douglas A. Anderson.
The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby.
History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (six volumes) by Edward Gibbon.
Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life by Carl Zimmer.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.
Chess Strategy by Edward Lasker.
The Necessity of Atheism by David Marshall Brooks.
Red Moon by David S. Michaels & Daniel Brenton.
Spirit House by Christopher G. Moore.
The Dark Side by Jane Mayer.
Illegal Action by Stella Rimington.
Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi.
Sexus by Henry Miller.
Anathem by Neal Stephenson.
The Iron Heel by Jack London.
The World Is Curved by David Smick.
What On Earth Have I Done? by Robert Fulghum.
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum.
Nation by Terry Pratchett.
Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham.
At one point I subscribed to the The New York Times, but I found the content quite inconsistent. I now have two subscriptions on my Kindle:
The Independent, which I use to keep up with British news and politics
This blog(!), which I set up to check out the blog publication system.
The Kindle book of the year was clearly Neal Stephenson’s Anathem. Like Alan Jacobs, I found that the Kindle was the perfect way to become absorbed in the story without being distracted by Stephenson’s neologisms and asides. The most expensive item was Penelope Maddy’s philosophy text, which was $63.50. (It’s since come down to $40.) The cheapest? Well, there’s a “long tail” in the Kindle catalog: it’s amusing to search for books sorted by “Price: Low to high”. (Caveat emptor: some deals are too good to be true.)
Things I haven’t tried yet: having the MP3 player supply me with music while I’m reading, and using the Kindle as an Audible.com audiobook player.
Weaknesses? Just a few. Occasionally I will go for several days without reading the Kindle, and when I return to it I find that I need to individually delete back issues of my subscription content. It would be nice to be able to configure an expiration date for ephemeral items. And I’d like to be able to compose book reviews, using text clippings as part of the review. The lack of built-in lighting was occasionally inconvenient (when I’m on a plane where everyone else is asleep, I feel guilty about turning on my overhead light), but I’ve recently solved this with a replacement case for the Kindle from Periscope It has a built in LED lamp, as well as a notepad, and it works pretty well. (It would be nice if the light was dimmable, but never mind.)
The bottom line: I love it. For frequent travellers, it’s an absolute “must have”. During the next year, I’m going to add a few more “dipping into” books; poetry, short stories, etc.