Ok so after reading reviews on various places about the Amazon Kindle (the first one being one posted by Neil Gaiman a year or so ago) and the Kindle being available in France since october 2009, I finally decided to get one. I received it last saturday and have been playing around with it every day. So these really are first impressions and they’re very good. At first I thought it would be a nice gadget tool for when I’m moving around, like going to cafés or visiting my family or when I travel South to teach. I wouldn’t have to carry the extra weight of the 3 or 4 books I’m used to bring with me everywhere and I would save the choosing time. Imagine: one small device, light as a paperback, containing my whole collection of books at all times, serving as a bookshelf as well as a bookstore. That sounded very reassuring: to be able to carry all my books with me, knowing that they are a great part of what makes home feel like… well, home. I wasn’t necessarily convinced by the real usage I would do of it. Would I use it to read even while not on a trip? Would it mainly sit on my desk, gathering dust, another underused useless tech device? Was I victim of just another fad?
But then I got it and all these questions faded away, only leaving me with one: How did I manage to live without a Kindle before? What first struck me was the comfort of reading. It really felt like a real book, as soothing and as forgettable a vessel for the words that would bring me out to imaginary spaces and times. My fears came from reviews I had read which stated the loading time between two pages was noticeable but I didn’t feel that much difference with the time it takes to actually turn a physical page. The words just stand there, waiting to be read, lit only by external light, easy on the eye and their size adjustable to your level of tiredness. Then there were all these agreable feats such as highliting or taking notes or the very much appreciated dictionary feature (just move your cursor next to a word and its description will appear at the bottom of the page, barely interrupting the flow of your reading).
Then, I timidly set foot on the uncharted land of Amazon Kindlestore. Accessible directly from the device it uses the 3G network to connect directly to 300,000+ references (400,000 in the US): books, magazines, newspapers, browsable, searchable, and buyable in just one click. It’s like having direct access to a neverending bookstore (because let’s face it, you’re never gonna read all 300,000 titles). The perspective is vertiginous. No more delivery time, no more waiting. If you want to read a book, you can download it in less than a minute and it will appear right away in your collection so you can start reading it in the exact minute your desire flourished. And if you’re not sure you really want to read that precise book, you have access to free sample chapters.
You also have the possibility to upload your own documents to your kindle (immediately if they’re .pdf or within 5 minutes if they’re another format), which is very comfortable if you need to read a report before a meeting and have only the time of the commute to get it done.
In just a few words, the kindle is a far greater device than I would have expected and even if I’ll still read on paper I can see how my future book buying will divide evenly between books I want to keep forever (that will be paper) and books I only care to read once ; books I want to always carry with me (kindle) and ones I just want to keep for research and reference (paper) ; books I want to read for my own pleasure (kindle) and books I want to share.
Yes, this is what I dislike the most about kindle: the fact that your device is linked to your kindle account and yours only, making it impossible to share the books you buy with others. Contrary to a physical book, the kindle version is trapped in its vessel, you can’t sell it or make a gift of it. And all readers know how pleasant it is to offer or receive a book as a present. You might, however, register up to 6 kindles to one account, which makes it possible to share one account among different members of a family, creating some feeling of a family collection. But we’re far from the actual bookshelves crammed with titles, inside which to lose oneself, the eyes gazing upon authors’ names and books’ titles, being seduced into grabing one and immersing oneself into unexpected words and characters. I don’t however see why the two couldn’t share an habitat, the kindle and the physical book, each with its own perks, each both enticing and repulsive depending on what you’re looking for in a specific situation.
I still need to see how the Kindle does pass the test of time but as of now, I’m reading far more consistently as I used to these last months. I bring it nearly everywhere with me, opening it up in the metro as much as in my bedroom, my kitchen or less admittable places. It’s pretty addictive.
[Edit: Maintenant disponible: le kindle en france!]