Kindle not really for me?
August 26, 2010 5:22 AM   Subscribe

I've been giddy with excitement and waiting anxiously for my kindle 3 ever since I ordered it a month ago--and then yesterday I read David Pougue's review and the comments to his article. Now I am sad and depressed. They are saying horrible things like when you buy the eBooks they don't really belong to you and you can't share them and worst of all I won't be able to read the eBooks from my public library on the kindle. Can this be true? Should I just pack up the kindle and send it back? Woe is me.
posted by sandra194 to Technology (21 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
No, you can't share on the Kindle (unless the other Kindles are linked to the same account).

I don't know how your local library's ebook lending works--but you can put non-DRM'ed content on the Kindle. This means you could go to Gutenberg and get an inexhaustible supply of public domain books on your Kindle, which is pretty cool.

As for eBooks not really belonging to you, yes, that's pretty much the way of the modern end user license agreement doing away with the doctrine of first sale. It is indeed outrageous. Write your congressman to complain.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:35 AM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's another link that might make you feel better:

However, that's a misnomer. They're free e-books, and in no way kindle specific, but you can read them on your kindle.

Think of how iTunes was when it was first released. If you bought music through iTunes it was locked (DRM = Digital Rights Management) to your account. You could tie multiple (but limited) machines to that account and listen to the music on any of them, but you couldn't "share with your friends" without going through assorted hoops to remove the DRM.

Same with the Kindle. As Haddock linked to, you can tie multiple kindles to the same account, but those devices will have access to purchase books using the accounts stored credit card information. Works well for a "share with family", not so much for "share with friends".

I spent many months struggling philosophically with the kindle, and ended up getting one. In the end, I rationalized my $10 ebook purchases as being more akin to a movie ticket, and I could accept that compromise. The chances of the kindle radically changing (google for the incident with nineteen eighty-four) before I was done reading was worth it for the convenience. And the kindle is really convenient.

To answer your title question, "Kindle not really for me?", you would need to say what you wanted the kindle to be, or to do. Build your library? No. Read books on the train? Yes.
posted by devbrain at 5:53 AM on August 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

The no sharing is, I think, the biggest drawback from me. I've worked that out by agreeing with my husband (who bought me the kindle long ago) that if I buy a book on the kindle that I end up LOVING and wanting to share with everyone, I can buy it in paperback as well. This hasn't happened much.

Also, for me, the greatest use of the Kindle is the new yorker. I don't want all those extra new yorkers lying around; I'm not likely to loan them out; a sub on the kindle is 2.99/month! That, and reading on the plane, make it worth it for me. Good times all around there.

So, yeah, it depends on what you want it for.
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:58 AM on August 26, 2010

I love books - the heft, the feel of the paper, the slight give as you open a new volume. And I'm well aware of the ridiculous end-run that publishers have made around the traditional understanding of copyright. None the less, I'm thinking of getting a Kindle just to read PDFs more conveniently.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:17 AM on August 26, 2010

I (a Kindle owner who plans to also get the new version) am having an ongoing email conversation about this with a friend who wants an e-reader... and we've written a lot (too much to even sum up here). She is concerned about exactly the same things as you are. I basically told her to gather information and hold off 'til September or October, because apparently there's a new Sony in the works. I'm cool with my choice for a slew of various reasons, but anyone who is wondering should probably wait and see what the (likely) new Sony e-reader will offer, and how it stacks up once reviewers have it in their hands.
posted by taz at 6:21 AM on August 26, 2010

The problems you mention have been issues with the Kindle since it came on the market a couple years ago, are not new to the latest generation, and are generally well-known. A cursory google search of "kindle review", "kindle pros and cons", or probably even just "kindle", would have given you that information.

That said, for books I know I'm not going to want to share with anybody else and don't want to check out from the library for whatever reason, I love my Kindle.

Also, wow, didn't realize the Kindle New Yorker subscription was so cheap! This might finally inspire me to start reading the New Yorker...
posted by Sara C. at 6:24 AM on August 26, 2010

Remember that Amazon has a 30 day return policy on the Kindle, so if you aren't happy with it, send it back.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:26 AM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Those reasons are exactly why I bought a Nook. I can share books with other Nook users and borrow books from my library. I can read all sorts of ebook formats with it and use third-party ebook stores. The wifi Nook is $149 and is stock at any brick and mortar B&N.

Its a shame the Nook doesn't get more love in the press. Its an incredible device. I think the original firmware on it wasn't too great, but there have been several revisions since and any Nook you buy now will come with 1.4. I often compare it to my gf's Kindle and am glad I did not buy a Kindle.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:49 AM on August 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

If you "buy" an e-book from any of the major retailers (Amazon, Sony, B&N, Apple, etc.), you really license it. And yes, unless you put your kindles on the same account, you won't be able to share Amazon books. That's true of any of the readers except the Nook, which allows limited sharing (a one time lend to one person per book for two weeks, I believe.) If you're willing to experiment with some of the smaller retailers, you can get non-drmed or less stringently drmed books. I believe Baen, for example, offers non-drm sci-fi/fantasy ebooks (and a large selection of free books); Smashwords books are non-drm, but they're also indie (self-published kind of things), so quality can be a bit of a gamble. Most of the third party options are non-platform specific; you can buy the book for Kindle or Nook or Sony or whatever you have.

As far as libraries go, you may be able to read some e-books on your Kindle. Some libraries offer a selection of books in .mobi format. In general, though, if the library feature is the most important to you, going with one of the e-pub readers (Sony, Nook, Kobe) might be a better option. I'd go on your library page and see what kind of things they have available. The library near my parents house had epub and mobi books, but all of the ebooks were self-help or management guides, so it didn't make any difference.

For me, personally, the K2 (at the original price) was one of the best purchases I ever made. I more than covered the cost with the free books that I would have bought anyway--I read a lot of older stuff--and the convenience factor is amazing. It's worth it to me just to be able to read an 800 page book without having to hold an 800 page book. But it's not right for everyone.

If you're not sure about the Kindle, try asking some questions on the Kindle forums or the Mobile Read Forums. If you're still interested in an e-book reader but want to explore some other options (for the library support or whatnot), you can look at The E-Reader Matrix.
posted by kittenmarlowe at 6:56 AM on August 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Since I ordered my Kindle (expecting it soon) I found some useful things that might reconcile you with the device:

Inkmesh, a ebook search engine to find free ebooks and compare ebook prices for the Kindle, iPhone, Nook, Sony Reader and more!

Calibre, "a free and open source e-book library management application", that lets you converse other formats to amazons Kindle format... But of course won't help against their DRM protection.
posted by ts;dr at 6:59 AM on August 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

Technically, this reviewer is right. You only really own the rights to read the material you've purchased, and Amazon can take those back when they want. Read up on the Amazon and George Orwell's1984 fiasco for the most publicized example of this. And no, you can't share them.

I'm not sure what kind of DRM your library has, so I can't tell you whether or not your kindle will be able to read those files. However, you CAN read anything without DRM. That includes a metric ton of public domain stuff, including all the old classics whose copyright has expired. Project Gutenberg is a good place to start - they claim 33,000 free ebooks, plus another 100,000 free books from their partners.

Don't discount the kindle quite yet. There's a reason it's as popular as it is. I absolutely love love love mine. I hoard gadgets, and this is one of the best purchases I made. Granted, I'm a little ticked I bought the 2 right before the 3 came out, but such is life.
posted by cgg at 7:15 AM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

OK, I kind of get this -- you're moving from giddy anticipation of awesomeness to a numbing list of constraints. And yeah, just like when you moved from a phonograph to an MP3 player, you can't as easily share with friends (legally), and you can't just slap anything you borrow from a library on the old player (legally). But you *can* walk around with access to a gadjillion books and magazines and newspapers in the palm of your hand!

This is one of the many occasions on which I have reflected on the wisdom of our greatest living philosopher, Louis C.K.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:39 AM on August 26, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks Clyde...Louis is pretty funny--and he does have a point!
posted by sandra194 at 7:58 AM on August 26, 2010

I successfully removed DRM from my one Kindle Store purchase by this method.

The resulting document was not as neatly formatted as the Kindle version. But I can do whatever the hell I like with it. is my favorite source of free e-books.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:23 AM on August 26, 2010 [7 favorites]

The information you read is correct about the current state of e-books, however this is still a very young market and the publishers are, predictably, acting just as music companies did in the early days of digital music - setting prices too high, clinging to DRM, throwing hissy fits with device makers. In the meantime, their DRM has been defeated and free versions of books without DRM are readily available. The current business model is going to change, it's just a matter of time.
posted by mattholomew at 10:25 AM on August 26, 2010

To clarify and expand what someone said about BAEN books: The Baen Free Library. There's also the guy who runs The Fifth Imperium website that posts the freely-distributable CDs that BAEN puts in the back of some of their hardcovers. (Yes it's legal, yes BAEN knows about it, etc.)

Books are available in various and many formats for reading fun.
posted by Heretical at 12:18 PM on August 26, 2010

One thing that's pushing me towards the Kindle rather than its competitors is the Internet support, although I think in Australia it may be limited to Wikipedia.

Someone really needs to come up with a portal from Wikipedia to everywhere else. [citation needed]
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:50 PM on August 26, 2010

Amazon got burned in the 1984 fiasco, so I doubt they'll take a remote deletion campaign lightly in the future, but because I'm one of those just-in-case folks, I back up the ebooks from my Kindle on my computer. Sure, if I turn on the wireless, they could just zap it again, but I keep it off to save battery anyhow. This probably violates the terms of use, though.
posted by smirkette at 11:12 PM on August 26, 2010

With that said, I LOVE my Kindle. One of the best purchases I've made in the past three years.
posted by smirkette at 11:13 PM on August 26, 2010

Joe - browsing in Australia isn't limited to Wikipedia on the current Kindle, though I guess they could always pull it back for K3. I hope not, because I got the 3G version for exactly that purpose.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:56 AM on August 27, 2010

smirkette, it doesn't violate the terms of use to back up your Amazon books on your computer. You can download your books to your computer directly from Amazon. And it definitely doesn't violate the terms to turn the wireless off; this is the best way to conserve battery, and not everyone even has access to Whispernet. So, you are 100% in the clear! :)
posted by taz at 10:37 AM on August 27, 2010

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