Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Kindling Books.

No, not the use of books as kindling. We're not quite there yet.

I have this Kindle gadget I bought after Christmas and have read this and this and this and this and am currently reading this. So far, no recharge. The battery still shows half charge. So my initial worry that I might run out of battery before finishing a book is definitely unfounded. Recharging just means plugging it in to USB and since most of my work involves computers all day, that's no hardship.

The screen... isn't. It's not a TV or computer screen. You will never play games on this. The refresh rate... there isn't one. It uses power to change but once changed it can stay changed forever with no further power. So leaving the thing on 'sleep' which puts up a picture, or on 'off' which gives a blank screen, makes no difference at all. If the book is a Kindle book you can change the text size. It will show PDF files but if they are not sized for the screen, it's not good. You can zoom in bit by bit but unlike actual Kindle files, PDF files won't reformat to cope with magnification.

The good part - many books are free, especially old classics like Sherlock Holmes or Dracula or Frankenstein and many many others. Books are in general much cheaper than buying paper versions. No postage, and the book arrives in a minute or less. No hoping to catch the postman.

There is also the matter of space and weight. Unlike bookshelves, no matter how many books you put into this thing it doesn't get heavier or bigger. If you lose it, Amazon can remotely disable it. All the books you bought can be re-downloaded from the Amazon site when you get a replacement.

The bad part - if all books ever go over to this format, one solar flare will erase all human history. Politicians will be delighted because in their stupidity, they believe that they can erase historical lessons by pretending they never happened. It never works, it just means that the same junk happens all over again.

A potentially sinister aspect is that the files could be remotely altered, so a real-life Winston Smith can change those newspapers you downloaded and kept even while you're reading them. Well, unless you burn them to CD and only read them with the Kindle wireless turned off. Winston can always be thwarted.

So what's next for my pocket library?

If you want a good book, ask a librarian. If he's called Conan, argue not, just do it or he'll speak Latin at you until you bring him a shrubbery. Conan's brother has books available on Kindle too. Soon, so will I.

Bottom line - I like this gadget. I can carry a whole lot of books around with me in this little machine and with a battery life measured in weeks, I don't have to be too concerned about recharging. For me, it won't completely replace paper books but when it comes to travelling, it's a lot easier than carrying a selection of weighty tomes around. The low prices of electronic books and the instant delivery mean I'm more willing to take a risk on one I might have left on a shelf.

If you already have an iPhone or similar gadgetry, you can download a free Kindle program for it and get a lot of the classic books for free. I don't have an iPhone and don't want one - I don't even want a camera in my phone but even the cheap ones have those now - and the screen might be a little on the small side for old eyes to read for long. The Kindle screen is paperback book sized, which is just right.

So, a successful gadget purchase, I think.

25 comments:

Random Squaddie said...

The only issue I have is that you never actually own any of the books and if Amazon or the copyright holders decide to change the licensing of the book they will, without letting you know or asking your permission, remove the book from your Kindle. What happens if the Government ban a controversial book?

I believe they are kind enough to refund any money you've spent but I like to think that, if I buy a physical thing (such as a book), I own it unless someone forcibly takes it from me.

Even with legally bought downloaded things (like mp3s) I own them unless someone comes and takes them from my hard drive (plus I always back everything up).

My concern is that the Kindle is too open to easy censorship.

I already use ebooks and would love a Kindle but this aspect worries me deeply.

JuliaM said...

"So far, no recharge. The battery still shows half charge."

*looks at iPad battery indicator*

*weeps*

Conan the Librarian™ said...

Cave ab homine unius libri...

Intruder said...

I looked at Kindle a year or 2 ago has it been improved to permit colour images etc. Back then it was only in Black and white.

RSVP

Petr said...

Couldn't agree more. It will never replace real books, but I got mine in readiness for some long train journeys (6 or 7 hours). The last time I did those journeys I ran out of books and had to start reading them a second time - fine when its months or years later, but not hours later.
And I also find that because, as you say, the oldies are free it encourages me to read the classics I haven't looked at for years - Dickens in particular.

Pods said...

Reading pdf files is easier if you alter the screen rotation (using the Aa button) so that it is in landscape format and also make sure that 'fit-to-screen' is selected. This way, it is possible to avoid having to magnify the image.

Leg-iron said...

Random Squaddie - important stuff should always be on paper or burned to non-rewritable CD. It's not just remote censorship, that solar flare is going to happen one day and anything in volatile memory is likely to be scrambled.

Hard drives should be okay as long as they're not accessed while the flare is happening but USB sticks, phones, memory cards and Kindles are likely to be wiped.

Solar flares aren't a mythical scare story. They happen, big ones sometimes happen, and we have no way of knowing when.

My Kindle is an entertainment device. Nothing vital goes in it.

Leg-iron said...

JuliaM - ah, but Kindle isn't a computer. It reads books and that's all it does. That's why it's a lot cheaper than a laptop.

You can get a free Kindle app for the iPad, I believe.

Leg-iron said...

Conan - shrubbery on the way.

Leg-iron said...

Intruder - no, it's still monochrome. Impressive greyscale range but no colour.

I think there are plans to develop a colour version but it'll be expensive and since all I plan to do with it is read text, I wouldn't pay extra to have colour book covers.

Leg-iron said...

Petr - I have a print copy of Dracula, and it's a hefty hardback. So is the Sherlock Holmes collection in one book. Kindle is lighter and both those books are free (and on the thing already!).

Leg-iron said...

Pods - thanks, I'll try that. I was surprised to find that even tiny text is readable though. The screen resolution is pretty good.

subrosa said...

The Kindle app is fine for the iPad and turns the iPad into a Kindle. It's not as smart as Apple's eBooks but I refuse to buy them because they're only pennies cheaper than the real thing which I can share.

I'm not so sure if the Kindle app can be censored but I expect so. Read somewhere recently that many who had downloaded 1984 had had it removed as the publisher had broken copyright law.

Julia, of course the iPad battery doesn't last as long. It does more.

Mine is usually in standby and using it for browsing an hour a day will last at least two weeks. I've no complaints about it whatsoever. It's my new-type phone which needs charged every day whether used or not. Still, I've kept the old Nokia and that battery lasts a while with irregular use.

Pleased you like the Kindle LI, but I'd agree with you it won't replace my bookcases.

Dangermouse said...

All - details on the book removal here...

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/07/18/amazon_removes_1984_from_kindle/

Anonymous said...

Best thing I've bought for years. Always a reader but now I find even more time for more books and love it. The battery seems to last for around a month or more if you keep the 'wireless' turned off.

KirriePete said...

I'm not a gadget man, but I've been thinking about one of these for a while now, primarily for sticking in the caravan instead of the mobile library I usually need to pull from my home collection.

Major birthday coming up (first one with a 5 in the 'wrong' place), hints being dropped to SWMBO on a daily basis.

Having an entire library at my disposal could make even a wet week in Wick sound attractive .... then again, maybe that's a step too far ....

Zippo said...

I got a Kindle for Xmas, just before doing a bit of travelling. Loved it and have been using it a lot, as gadgets go definitely a keeper. It does the primary task of reading books really well and although it will play MP3 files and you can browse the web, it really does not do those as well as other devices. It will also read to you in a computer voice if you are feeling terminally lazy, and you can get audio books for it.

Kindle reader is available for iPhone, Android, and Symbian phones, and also for Windows and Mac. You can syncronise your reading between devices so whatever device you are reading it with knows which page you are on .... if you have an internet connection of course!

Leggy, like yourself I didn't want a phone for doing anything except phoning. Just before Xmas my old phone finally gave up and plain refused to charge anymore :( So I bought a new one, one of those smart phones ... can't put the bloody thing down now!!! Can read your blog, and lots of other stuff anywhere (at work too ;)), send and reply to emails from anywhere :), actually finding it quite usefull!!

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

The Kindle can read its own proprietary format, plus PDF and MOBI formats. If you plug it into a PC and let the PC find it (speaking for Linux users only here) then it shows up as a USB mass storage device. Books in either of those formats can be downloaded onto it, one directory per book containing the MOBI text and the jpeg of the front cover.

If you obtain the Calibre ebook conversion software, you'll find that it converts almost any ebook format into any other; it can be configured to push books directly onto a Kindle, iPad or most other ebook readers.

Kindles use MOBI format, iPad iBooks uses epub, and on Android devices the app FBReader is one of the better reading apps; this uses epub format too.

To obtain books, I have heard it said that there are ever so many on bit torrent, not that I'd ever be seen downloading stuff of that medium, oh no...

Eddie Willers said...

I got a Kindle for Christmas - love the convenience for reading mass paperbacks but it will never replace 'serious' books and hardbacks.

About the pdf issue, Leg-Iron.

Download a converter for pdf to Mobi (the Kindle format) - I use MobiPocket Creator. Your pdf files will be reformatted/resized and have full Kindle functionality - excellent bit of software especially as you can find tons of books in OCR/pdf via Bit Torrent (I'm reading Harry Potter - gratis)

Anonymous said...

Can you transfer pages of books to your computer and then print them out?

Chief_Sceptic said...

You just HAVE to love the Kindle ! ...

I now have 3 (yes, I'm a gadget freeeeeek) ...

As for book \ data security, the Kindle can be 'hacked' (by yourself, if you wish) - also, you can copy all the book files to a PC, if you want ...

Random Squaddie said...

Well, I'm still not going to buy a Kindle but you have inspired me to convert my massive collection of extremely unwieldy and, typically of Microsoft, very user unfriendly MS .lit format ebooks (only readable in MS Reader - again a shit programme) to the epub format using the excellent Calibre converter and ebook manager.

I then installed the Aldiko ebook app on my Android phone and put all the converted books on there. First impressions are outstanding - very easy to read and it also has a night mode so the light won't bother the wife when I'm reading late at night.

I'm sure there will be issues in the future and it sadly now makes my PDA (previously used for ebooks and Sat Nav) pretty much completely redundant as now my phone will do all that and more.

I can't recommend Calibre enough, the entire 2000+ book collection was converted very quickly and it automatically synced them to my phone. The formatting is superb, bizarrely much better than the original .lit files themselves!

I think the battery is the only potential problem but I generally keep it plugged in every chance I get and I'm also planning to get at least one enhanced battery for it and for really long journeys I'll just turn it to "Aeroplane mode".

I now have an excellent open source ebook reader that is truely pocket sized. As far as I'm concerned Kindle and Sony can ram it!!

JuliaM said...

Oh yes, I've got the Kindle app - I had to, as a book I wanted (Insp Gadget) wasn't on iBooks, and the publisher suggested that the app from Amazon was free.

So I now have three apps - Stanza, iBooks and the Kindle app. I've got all bases covered ;)

Dioclese said...

But can you download the books off pirate bay??? ;-)

Frank Davis said...

Thing in the Telegraph about Kindle's success.

I've got a free Kindle reader for my PC a month back. It's okayish.

opinions powered by SendLove.to