How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Kindle

Kindle

When I first bought my Kindle about 18 months ago, it was kind of a pain in the neck to use.  Amazon offered a pretty limited selection of titles for purchase that didn’t quite suit my nerdy tastes, and I couldn’t buy titles from anyone else because they wouldn’t be compatible with my Kindle.  Which was actually OK by me, because they didn’t have anything I wanted to read either.

Eventually I ended up settling for a copy of War & Peace, translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky, for three reasons: a) it was available, b) I actually wanted to read it, and c) it seemed like a pretty awesome alternative to carrying around 4 pounds of book (no joke!).  I also experimented with converting several of Project Gutenberg‘s public domain .epub titles to Amazon’s proprietary .azw filetype using some free software that I downloaded from the Internet, but the outcome was fairly hideous.  So really I had spent $375 for War & Peace.

But soon things started to get interesting.  About a year ago, Amazon released a software upgrade that enabled Kindle owners to easily transfer .pdf files to their devices.  I bade farewell to my article-stuffed Library School backpack, and loaded all my homework onto my Kindle instead.  Finally, my Kindle had crossed the threshold into being actually “useful”!  But, it was still a little boring…

It wasn’t until last week, Readers, that I finally fell in love.  I started poking around on the internet for new upgrades and add-ons, and suddenly my Kindle looked much more attractive — hubba hubba!  These are the reasons why:

Sexier Software:

Amazon’s most recent software upgrades are pretty decent.  I can rotate and zoom in on .pdfs, sort my books by “categories” (think “genres” or “shelves”), view comments and notes about what other Kindle users are reading, and even tweet my favorite quotes and passages directly from the screen.  The Kindle’s web browser has also improved (although it’s nowhere near as sexy as browsing from an iPhone or Android).  Many of these upgraded features are a little clunky, but at least they are there.

Sexier Selection:

Readers, this is huge.  The single most drastic improvement in Kindle-enjoyment over the past year is the increasing availability of free ebooks.  My two favorite sites for downloading free public domain titles are Planet eBook and ManyBooks.net; both emphasize user-friendly browsing and aesthetically pleasing layouts.  And, by the way, I think the best-kept Kindle secret is that Kindles are compatible with .mobi files — just knowing this will instantly increase your free ebook supply!  Check your local library to see if they offer .mobi books for checkout.

Sexier Metadata Apps

One word: Calibre.  I am completely infatuated.  Calibre is kind of like iTunes, except it’s for ebooks: a user-friendly app for visually browsing and sorting your books, as well as editing metadata such as title, author, publication date, etc.  Better yet is the ability to manipulate the look and feel of each book.  Files that look like terrifying blobs of text can now be tweaked to include additional spacing, nicer fonts, prettier cover images, and even custom Table of Contents.  I also love being able to easily convert .pdfs to .mobis (or even .azws).  Calibre isn’t the only ebook app out there, but it is the best one I’ve seen that’s compatible with Macs.  Using it to manage my ebook library is what has truly transformed my Kindle into a daily staple.

Kindle

According to my cute techie spouse, what I’m experiencing is just the natural arc of being an early adopter — which lends a certain degree of cozy archetypal comfort.  Kindle owners old and new, I’m curious to hear about your experiences: how have you been using your Kindle?  Sony & Nook folks, I’d love to hear from you, too!

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6 thoughts on “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Kindle

  1. I’m still on the fence about buying an eReader (late adapter I know…) and now all these new fangled tablets and iPads are making me even more indecisive. Do you find the PDF reading capability of the Kindle to be a satisfying experience?

    • LOL Ian, you’re not late! I would say you still have time to hop on the “early majority” bandwagon ; ) Here’s my take on pdf & kindle — when Amazon first released its pdf feature, it was almost more trouble than it was worth. Now, though, with the ability to rotate, zoom, etc, the functionality is decent. If you download a program like Calibre, though, it will be able to convert your pdfs to .mobi or .azw for you (assuming the source of the pdf is text, not image). Very satisfying!

      Honestly, if iPads had been available 18 months ago I probably would have gone that route. But I have been pleasantly surprised by how the functionality of my Kindle is keeping up. Good luck ~ let me know what you decide in the end… you can make me jealous with all your tablet stories!

  2. I am actually working on a post about e-readers right now! I got a Kindle in early 2009 and instantly filled it with about 100 free books, most of which were for school, as well as my guilty pleasure chick-lit books. I’ve never tried to load it with pdfs, and I have to admit I haven’t spent nearly enough time exploring all its capabilities.

    My biggest problem with the Kindle and other ebook formats is that the formatting for poetry (line breaks, arrangement of the words on the page, etc) is always askew in ebook format. Sometimes, if you make the font small enough, it will maintain the integrity of the line, but, sadly, it’s just not ideal for reading poetry, which is a biggie for me, since that’s what I study, obviously.

    Of course now that I just got an iPad for my bday, my poor Kindle is basically obsolete…I have replaced printed out PDFs with my iPad now, and they are stored in the iBooks library, which is pretty slick. The iPad bright white display is harsher on one’s eyes than the Kindle electronic paper, though.

    • Yay iPad! I definitely would chuck my Kindle right out the window if an iPad came into my life. I want to hear all about it : )

      I get upset when my paragraph breaks don’t look pretty on my Kindle… so I can imagine the frustration of ugly Kindle poetry. It’s gotten better, but is still pretty far from perfect!

      • What’s interesting is that ebooks in PDF format come out fine in the Kindle app on my iPad and reading Kindle poetry books on my computer Kindle app usually maintains integrity too.

        I’m very glad to know about free ebooks at libraries, because I just discovered a treasure trove at my uni library!

        Re: the iPad vs. Kindle, I have to say, for long periods of reading or travel, the light weight and size of the Kindle is still preferable. My wrist gets sore (though I do have arthritis in the wrist I broke) after several hours of use of the iPad.

  3. Pingback: >The Kindle for LIS Students | My Blog

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