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Home » Random

How I re-discovered my love of books

Today we have a guest post by UK based web developer Pete Wiles, a self confessed technology nut who works freelance helping helping people get the best out of their websites and blogs. Pete has recently bitten the bullet and bought himself Amazon’s latest generation Kindle (UK) Kindle (US). Here he shares his impressions of the Kindle. If you want to see what the new Kindle looks like, check Kevin Rose’ of Digg.com fame’s video demo.

If you’re interested in writing for the Bigredtomatocompany.co.uk check our guidelines here.

Over to you Pete:

A £100 candle? No, a Kindle – I’ve bought a Kindle! For those of you who haven’t come across it, the Kindle is Amazon’s e-book reader. Quite simply it performs the same function for books that the Ipod does for music. A simple enough purchase I thought, but nothing I’ve ever bought has seemed to polarise opinion in the same way since the days of the PC vs Apple debate. From reactions I’ve had, the love of musty paper and dust jackets seems to run deep in peoples veins and so I thought I would set down the reasons that I finally hit the Amazon buy button.

Why would we want electronic books ?

Well, to me there are some really useful things to be gained from having books electronically. Who would go back to CDs now that we’ve all tasted the convenience of I-Tunes ? The prospect of reducing overflowing bookshelves into a tiny space is an obvious benefit, but what about the times you can’t quite remember which cookbook contained that cracking dessert that you had last Christmas. Or that elusive quote that you thought would be great for your best friend’s wedding, but cant quite remember where you saw it ? The benefits of electronic search really come into their own here.

As a freelance web developer, this is a key one for me. The web runs on a vast range of different technologies (“The wonderful thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from” Grace Hopper famously observed), which means that I have an equally vast range of reference materials. Being able to search for code fragments or specific tips efficiently amongst all this information can make huge differences to personal productivity. Having access to it all when out and about, especially when most reference books run to 500 pages or more, would be untenable without it being in electronic format.

But even if novels are your thing, how about being able to preview a book without making a trip to Waterstones, getting the books you want downloaded instantly or having access to free books (Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page has over 33,000 online). I must admit I was beginning to see the possibilities here.

But why buy a Kindle ?

In terms of street cool, the Kindle is no Iphone or Ipad that’s for sure. In fact quite the reverse ; the screen is black and white and not touch-sensitive, it has no accelerometer or GPS, doesn’t run apps, the web browser is a slightly flaky beta release. And as for composing a presentation, accessing your email, calendar or contacts – well you can forget that.

To top it all, the Kindle reader software can now be downloaded for free on Mac, PC and most smartphones ! So why on earth would anyone be mad enough to buy one ?

Personally I like that it does what it is designed for – no more no less. For me the main barrier to reading electronically has always been comfort. Reference manual lookups in the office chair are one thing, but if I want to read for pleasure I like to do it somewhere more comfortable and the laptop just won’t do. A quick look around the market at the number of laptop trays/tables/coolers on the market makes me suspect that I’m not the only person to find that whoever coined the term ‘laptop’ obviously hadn’t actually used it there ! Find a laptop screen tiring to read from ? So do I. Ever thought you would use this great new wireless technology to work in the garden on a nice sunny day ? Not great is it.

This is where the Kindle really scores. The screen uses an ‘e-ink’ technology which I guess can best be thought of as ‘photocopying’ the image onto the screen. Once a page has been displayed, the screen no longer needs power to hold the image there. This means that the battery life can be measured in days rather than hours and it never feels hot to the touch. Plus,the technology means that it can be read in sunlight. The fact that it is light and a good size to hold with one hand makes it easy to read from for long periods. OK, it’s not colour (which would have been nice), but I guess that will come in time. It all combines to make a device which is makes the reading experience quite similar to a small paperback. Easier, in fact, as you don’t have to hold the pages open.

So have I now got a full e-library of books sitting on the Kindle ? To be honest, not yet as the investment required to re-purchase all my books in Kindle format would be too great. I’ve no doubt that it will come over time though, and my books will follow my CDs and DVDs onto an unbelievably small USB drive.

What I didn’t expect though is that I have rediscovered reading purely for the joy of it. Yes, you are going to have to pay for the latest blockbuster, but equally there is some great stuff available for free. I’ve just revisited my childhood by reading ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ (for free!). Worth the money ? Every penny !!

To find out how Pete can help your business visit his webite at www.pmsolutions.co.uk

Real books or Kindle, tell us what you thimk in the comments below.

11 Comments »

  • Jazz Salinger said:

    Hi Pete,

    Thanks for your review of the Kindle. I love to read and have a huge collection of books.

    I’m not sure I could ever part with my books but I can see where it would be an advantage to own a Kindle.

    When I go on holidays, it seems like my books take up more space in my suitcase than my clothes.

    A Kindle would fix that problem easily. I might have to rethink buying a Kindle. 🙂

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Thanks for the comment Jazz. I too have a large collection of books. I know what you mean, I think it would be very difficult to part with the book collection. I think you’ve just got to think of starting a new one but on your Kindle. I can see the Kindle coming into it’s own with travelling. It’s certainly a lot lighter and more portable!!

  • Steve said:

    I have had a Kindle for well over a year now and I love it. I still buy regular books, just a lot less. Having something like this makes it a lot easier to read my books.

    For anyone who is a reader, I highly recommend it. Like you pointed out, there are some other functions, like a browser. But they are so cheap and antiquated, they are useless. It has one purpose: to read books. It does that function very well and is an awesome product.

  • Matthew Needham said:

    I had the a demo of the Kindle and like you say, it’s good at what it does. I saw the Random show with Tim Ferriss and Kevin Rose and Kevin Rose said he much prefered it to his iPad. Not only was it lighter, as it was less distracting.

    I think most people thought the iPad would kill the Kindle, but I think with the reduced price it has made it’s own niche. Personally, I’m very tempted.

  • Fran Aslam said:

    Hi Matthew and the guest:

    Thanks for the post. It is a well written post and I liked reading it. I agree with you up to some extent.

    Avid readers love using Kindle. University and research students all love reading via kindle. These students do not have to carry a bundle of books, a Kindle can carry hundreds of books.

    I personally like kindle, but I do not have one, because, for me it does not have much use. I have lots of oxford style printed books and they are good enough, my recent collection is all American. Because I studied lots of years ago and I am using the same mentality for myself. My children will have to adopt new technology, it is the call of their time. Their children will not like paper books at all.

    Because that is the time when paper book will be seeing its last years.

    Thanks Matthew for the post. Enjoy your Sunday
    Fran

  • Jason said:

    The new Kindle is ridiculously pretty. Sometimes I just stare at it for hours…in fact, I’ve gotten a lot less reading done since I got one… 😉

  • Matthew Needham said:

    lol funny Jason, thanks for stopping by!

  • Ryan Hanzel said:

    I don’t really have anything to add to your post other than great review man. Hopefully one day I will get around to purchasing one. So for now I will continue using my smart phone. The battery life isn’t that great but does the job for now.

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Hi Ryan, thanks for stopping by. Glad you like the post. I can see the benefits in having a Kindle, especially for someone like yourself who travels such as lot. Matthew

  • Patricia@lavenderuses said:

    For you techies I’m sure you are enjoying your Kindle. For me as a baby boomer technophobe I love reading “real” books. I know, I know so 19th century lol Loved the review. Always interesting to hear how you techies work and think.

    Even though they have been predicting the demise of the printed word for awhile noe; in fact the sale of books has gone up. Thanks for sharing.

    Patricia Perth Australia

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Hi Patricia, I too love the real books – in fact I even collect certain first editions, so I understand where you are coming from. When I saw the Kindle I thought it was a bit ‘old fashioned’ when compared to the iPad, but you can’t argue that it does everything it’s asked to do and very well. Sure it’s no iPad, but it’s not trying to be.

    I think the printed word will be around for a while, but in a few years I think the majority of people will buy books online. In fact, it could actually help the overall sales of books as the average person buys one book per year and 80% of all books sold are sold at the airport. Thanks for stopping by!