Friday, December 30, 2011

The Dude Who Played with Fire

You may have noticed that I don't write much about my full-time job on here. There are several reasons for this, discretion being among them, but the absolute biggest is because, frankly, I dig it a lot and have nothing bad to say about it. Since I don't need to vent about it, it's rare that anyone hears (or reads) about it. The company I work for is extremely employee-friendly, and one of the perks is the big Christmas bash they have each year where all employees who attend are fed and amused for a couple of hours and then have a chance to win a plethora of big-ticket "gifts" the owners have picked out. A list of prizes is distributed a few weeks before the party, and each employee signs up for which one they'd like to try for; at the party, names are drawn to determine the winner of each prize.

Given my ambivalence about e-readers, I knew I wouldn't lay out the money for one without trying it extensively first, but winning one...well, that would be another story. After all, even if I didn't like it, it would still make a good gift for someone else. So, that being the case, the prize I elected to try for this year was a Kindle Fire. And I won. Pretty sweet, eh?

That was two weeks ago, and I've been putting it through its paces since then. The verdict? I like it, but I'm still not totally sure what role it's going to play in my reading habits, long term.

First off, I like that it's not just an e-reader. I can access Amazon Music through it, as well as Netflix streaming video, and there are a number of Android apps that can be downloaded and installed (some, like Facebook and IMDb, come preloaded). I also really dig the color display. I haven't yet used it to read any magazines or graphic novels, but I'm glad the option is available when I inevitably come to want it (that was one of the things I had against a regular (non-Fire) Kindle).

The convenience factor is big. Brandi and I went to visit her parents for a few days last weekend, and it was great to load a couple of books onto the Kindle and take that along instead of the bulk and weight of physical books. Of course, the fact that it's WiFi only meant that I couldn't access the streaming music or video during the ride. That said, even if it had a 3G or 4G option, I wouldn't pay to use it. WiFi is ubiquitous enough at this point that it's unnecessary.

Battery life is pretty solid. I last charged it a little over a week ago, and the battery is still holding a 29% charge. And that's with a fair amount of reading and streaming.

Using it to read is seamless. It's easy enough to hold and flip pages with just one hand, if you're so inclined. The screen can take on a little glare depending on the sun/light, but I haven't seen it so extreme that it couldn't be alleviated by turning it a degree or two one way or another. The fact that it's backlit is nice since I have a tendency to stay up and read later than my wife. There are plenty of display options to make it easy to read, if you like a larger or smaller font, or light text on a dark background or vice versa. It's handy that you can just tap a word or phrase to look up a definition or do a search, and while I haven't used the highlight/note feature, it's pretty cool that it's there, just in case I ever need or want it.

The main problem, so far as I can see, is getting books for the thing. On one hand, there are the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of books I have already. Unlike an iPod and a music collection, I can't just rip what I already own in order to use it digitally, which is unfortunate. There are some books (such as my extensive collection of Star Wars novels) whose physical manifestations I'd happily get rid of if I could load up a digital copy. Other books, I like having physical copies, but, as I mentioned, it would be great if I had them digitally as well.

And, oh right, there are some books I don't already have. Well, my local library does offer Kindle books on loan, which I've taken advantage of, but the Kindle lending library is extremely limited. As for purchasing, the thing about Kindle books is that they cost nearly as much as actual, physical books, which makes no sense to me since there's no material cost involved. If it comes down to a choice between a $9 book and a $8 Kindle copy, I'm generally going to get the book, because, let's face it, with a physical copy at least I can sell it (and recoup more than the hypothetical $1 difference, which, in many actual cases, from what I've seen, doesn't even exist) if I decide I don't want it. Or I can loan it out, or just leave it on my bookshelf to impress passers-by.

One Kindle purchasing option I do like, though, is Kindle Singles, in which short stories, articles, and essays are available for a fairly low price. I'll have to exercise some control to keep from going broke buying those.

So now that I have one and have actually gotten a chance to use it and see what the fuss is about, I find that I'm still a little ambivalent about the e-reader. It's definitely not going to revolutionize my reading the way iTunes and the iPod did the way I listen to music. There's no denying that it's a fun and useful little toy, though.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

Hi Jon! Matt got a Kindle for Christmas and is loving it (he goes through books like water, like you). I just like that I got the iPad back since he had been reading stuff there. :-). Hope you and Brandi had a great new years. Aldo, I started a new blog, check it out sometime when you are bored. ( talk to you soon!