More thoughts on the Kindle (and other things)

I’ve now really started using the Kindle in earnest, and I’ve gotta say I’m a pretty happy camper.  Though as previously mentioned it is somewhat heaver than I was expecting, it is great for reading on the crowded trains since one can flip through the “pages” one-handed.  I find myself pulling out the Kindle whenever I’ve got more than 5 minutes to spare (of course, it helps that I’m reading a really good book, but more on that at a later date) and reading a few pages before the next stop.

I actually hadn’t intended to gripe about anything Kindle-related right now, but now that I think about it, I do find myself wishing for a better Kindle case than the one I have.  The current cover is one that feels good, doesn’t add too much heft or thickness, at least keeps the screen protected when it’s in my bag.  The downside to it is that it flips open too easily.  In other words, a strap of some sort, or some kind of unobtrusive locking mechanism would be better.  Oh, and if waterproofing could be incorporated into the case/cover, it’d be perfect! (something to consider when a typhoon is blowing)  But enough of the gripe – I’m sure a better case will come out soon enough.

What I had actually wanted to talk about was free books.  EBooks, to be precise.  I’ve actually known of Project Gutenberg for some years now.  Back when I was still in university and working part time, a friend showed me a CD containing hundreds of books he had downloaded and saved to read later.  I thought the concept was great – thousands of books readily available to read – for FREE?  And we’re not talking about unknown novellas that no-one’s heard about either – many great classics by such authors such as Dickens, Keats, Victor Hugo, Mark Twain, Emily Bronte, Tolstoy, R. L. Stevenson… too many to list here.  But many of their works are freely available to download and read.

What enthused me less though, was that…well… they were “E”books – meaning they could only be read on a computer.  Now… many of us work in front of a computer all day.  The last thing we want to do is come back home and sit in front of another computer.  It also doesn’t make much sense to print out the books since we can probably get the Massmarket Paperback version for cheaper than the cost of printing ink and paper.  Finally, it’s really not practical to lug around a laptop to read on the train – not unless you want to expose your thousand-dollar system to the risk of dropping or the elements, as well as have to deal with the frustrations of batteries that deplete after 2-3 hours.

Well, no more.  The (yep, you guessed it!) Kindle (or any other modern eReader for that matter) solves this.  To be honest, I hadn’t really thought much about using the Kindle for reading free ebooks.  However, (again, as I’ve previously mentioned) I’ve realised that while the Kindle books are cheap(er) than most of their paperback counterparts, the ease of buying and getting a book means that I will probably be spending whatever I save in book costs getting new books!  Enter Project Gutenberg (and maybe later, Google Books).  I’ve just downloaded “The Count of Monte Cristo“, “Dracula“, “Great Expectations“, “War and Peace“, “Paradise Lost“, “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes“, “Les Miserables“, and a dozen other books – all for free. 🙂

Amazon Kindle supports eBooks in the .mobi format, but unfortunately not the epub format.  However, there is even a workaround for that in the form of Savory – a freely available application that converts epub books into mobi format directly on the Kindle.  To be honest, I haven’t tried it yet since I have too many books to catch up on as it is, but it’s good to know that such an app is out there (and I really REALLY hope that Amazon isn’t so fussy about 3rd party apps that they’ll try to take it down).

Knowing that there are thousand of free books out there gives one even more reason to consider getting an eReader at some point.  While I fully FULLY agree that nothing can replace the feel, the smell, the texture, the “warm fuzzies” that one gets when holding a real book, I do think that eReaders are definitely going to become more commonplace as more and more content gets digitized.  I hate to say it, but I can easily picture younger generations growing up not ever handling a paper book; I can imagine a future where books are, if not luxuries, then at least regarded the same way something like the… abacus is viewed today – something functional, and even elegant… but somewhat antiquated.  Or perhaps the way the iPod has supplanted the cassette tape Walkman.

I think the quote by Douglas Adams (of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” fame) is quite applicable here:

  • 1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;
  • 2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;
  • 3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.Apply this list to movies, rock music, word processors and mobile phones to work out how old you are.



  • Tet
    November 3, 2009 - 21:20 | Permalink

    I’m rather interested in buying a kindle myself now… Although to be honest I’m not sure if Im dedicated enough to keep reading once I actually buy that thing =P

  • November 5, 2009 - 23:52 | Permalink

    You also have your PSP/DS to distract you right? 😛

    I do think though, that if you’re a fairly regular reader, the Kindle is well worth the money 🙂

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