Decipher my Kindle concerns.
October 21, 2011 4:26 PM   Subscribe

I may or may not want a Kindle. Help me decide with your experiences and advice.

I have been thinking about asking for a Kindle for Christmas. Price-wise, the Kindle Fire is out of the question but the other versions are all on the table. I don't know anyone locally who has a Kindle that I could play around with. I've played games on my uncle's, but never read on it and never explored it. I am not interested in a Nook (I looked at them at B&N and just didn't like them).

So if you have (or had) a Kindle, what did you and did you not like about them. I've only heard from owners that they love them (but not why) and I've never heard someone say "I hate my Kindle."

One of the big things for me is the new ability to check out library books on the Kindle. Has anyone done this? Has it worked well or were there problems? Are you able to find what you want to read, or is there a very limited selection?

What are the advantages/disadvantages of each model? With or without ads? Ideally I would like to go cheap as possible, but is that $20 worth it in terms of a better product/features? I'm not interested in it for its Internet ability, so unless this is somehow a big issue, no need to comment on that aspect. (I have a smartphone that I already use for that stuff).

Are there any unforeseen charges? I am a broke college student, so if I do get one, I'll be aiming to keep charges minimal (as in, free books and borrowing from the library).

Is it possible to get textbooks on it? Some of the books for my classes are available in digital copy -- would I be able to use them on the Kindle?

What about other ebooks? Is there a way to read them on the Kindle?

What kind of data input is available? Would I be able to write documents using the Kindle? I haven't seen this anywhere, but you never know...
posted by DoubleLune to Technology (37 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
What about other ebooks? Is there a way to read them on the Kindle?

Kindle only reads Kindle-formatted and Mobipocket eBooks and text files. You can add DOCs or PDFs, which you can convert to Kindle format and push to your Kindle over USB (free) or email (small fee per-document).

Some libraries are lending ePub-formatted books, which do not work on the Kindle. Some libraries lend out Mobipocket-formatted books, which do work. Which libraries do which, depends on the library. You'd have to ask your local branch if they lend eBooks, and if so, which format.

Application development seemed to stop for the Kindle platform. I was on a mailing list for a Kindle software development kit, but almost as soon as it was announced, it was shut down. My guess is Amazon is focusing development resources on the Fire. So you're probably not likely to do much more than read documents with this thing, over its lifespan.

I have a Kindle 3, which is a fairly nice model. My gripes are that the screen refresh still feels slow, and that it is very easy to touch the next-page button when picking it up or shifting it from hand to hand. So if I was in the market for one again, I'd probably prefer a touchscreen model, if only to get rid of accidental page changes.

The Whispernet is a nice add-on, allowing you to buy and transmitting books and documents where there is no wi-fi. Is it essential? No, but I probably would use mine less without it. It makes using a Kindle more pleasant, more of an effortless reading process. Depends what that's worth to you, I guess.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:42 PM on October 21, 2011

The ads themselves aren't all that bad - they're on the screensaver and on the home page, so they don't interfere with actual reading on the Kindle. If you don't mind that, then the KSO (Kindle with Special Offers) is for you.

The only charges you'll get for using the Kindle will be for purchases you make. The 3G service (Whispernet) is free. You'll also be charged for sending documents to the Kindle, unless you use your address (provided when you register the Kindle with Amazon).

If the textbooks are in PDF format, you can transfer them to the Kindle via USB. If not, you can convert them to the Kindle format using Calibre.
posted by Telpethoron at 4:44 PM on October 21, 2011

Re ebooks that aren't in a Kindle-readable format, you can use Calibre to convert them for free. You can also find a ton of free books on torrent sites, not that I would ever do such a thing.

My Kindle is wonderful and I read so many more books that I did before I had it. I might choose it over my mother if I were confronted with a Sophie's Choice predicament.
posted by HotPatatta at 4:44 PM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have a 3rd Gen Kindle 3G version.

Love the e-ink screen:
- I can read in sunlight
- My eyes don't get tired or strained

Love how simple it is:
- Loading books to/from my computer is easy
- Shopping on Amazon and buying books is easy (just have kindle on and they automatically download)
- Shopping on the kindle is easy. I'm on the bus to school and I finish my book, I can get the next one in the series and be reading it within 15 seconds.
- Rented a book from the library last week, was pretty simple too.

What I wanted:
- An easy way to read/carry books with me everywhere I went. Kindle = Perfect.

What I didn't care about:
- checking email
- playing games
- unfettered internet access
(I have a phone and a laptop for all of this)
posted by magnetsphere at 4:45 PM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Forgot to mention - if you want a really good source for free books, the Project Gutenberg CD or DVD might be right up your alley. The most recent edition (April 2010) contains over 29,000 e-books. The only caveat - some of them are not in English. You can download the DVD either directly or via BitTorrent, whichever you prefer.
posted by Telpethoron at 4:50 PM on October 21, 2011

I have a nook because it plays nicely with my library. I didn't want to spend a bunch if time converting stuff. At the time it was the only major reader with the touch screen page turn which is The Bomb. Finally, my friends have Nook and we can lend each other books.
posted by fshgrl at 4:51 PM on October 21, 2011

I love my Kindle. All my office mates love theirs, including the guy who bought one because he liked ours so much. I specifically like:

- getting PDFs on it. That means I can do a lot of readings on it. As well as torrented books.
- the clarity of the screen
- i can make the text small enough to get a real full page on it, but if my grandmother wants to read it she can make the text bigger for her.
- the 3G. It's not essential but great for impulse book purchases or when you just have to have the next book in a series!

I don't use it for internet, although I technically can with the 3G, or for games. It's just great to be able to carry 50 books around in the size of a tiny paperback.
posted by hepta at 4:53 PM on October 21, 2011

Remember that your library has to purchase Kindle e-books for you to be able to borrow them. You should be able to use your library's catalog to find which books would be available to you. Also note that you may be able to borrow from your university library as well as local city and county libraries. Be aware that Amazon keeps a record of your Kindle library borrowing and likely will make no effort to protect your privacy from marketing or law enforcement snooping.

Textbook formatting tends not to work terribly well on the Kindle, even when they're available. Diagrams and photos can be difficult to see. Also note that the screen on on the non-color Nook is more or less the screen you'll get on the Kindle.

People like e-readers because they're light and portable. Taking a half dozen paper books on a trip uses a lot of weight and space. The Kindle (and Nook devices, and iPad to some degree) are light, slim and easy to pack. It's much easier to read an e-reader one-handed than it is a book. It's really convenient to finish a book and get the next book you want instantly, rather than making a trip to the store or waiting for one to arrive in the mail. If you're a person who reads several books at a time, it's really nice having them all at your fingertips, wherever you go. The text on a Kindle is a sharp as a book and the screen is a pleasant of-white color. It's really not a lot different from reading paper.

If you're looking to use textbooks, you might be better off with a Kindle Fire or Nook Color, because they have touch screens where it's easy to zoom in and out of text columns, diagrams and so on. However, I admire your restraint in only buying what you can afford.
posted by cnc at 4:55 PM on October 21, 2011

There are several new formats that will not work with the E Ink Kindle (which you want to be aware of since you mention textbooks).

  • "Print Replica" books (which many textbooks come in). They are only readable on the Kindle PC or Mac clients.

  • "Kindle Editions w/ Audio/Video" only work on iPad/iPod touch

  • posted by wongcorgi at 4:56 PM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

    I love my Kindle to death. I have the version that came right before the fire (not sure what number it is, sorry!) without the ads or 3G (why do I need 3G when I can get wireless just about anywhere?). I'm subjected to enough ads all day that I don't need it to be there when I'm trying to relax. It shamelessly lets me load it up with all my (bad) fantasy and sci-fi book series without clogging up my bookshelf. Plus, this way, when people see my shelf, they'll think I'm some super intellectual since I just have mainly philosophy and political science books I bought for classes plus a bit of Shakespeare and other "classical" literature, on the shelves.

    I wouldn't recommend buying school books on the Kindle though. I really like marking up my readings in the margins and that's just something that would take forever trying to type on the Kindle's keyboard buttons.

    Unforseen charges? Do NOT for the love of your wallet set up Amazon 1-click pay if you are going to buy a Kindle. I've inadvertently spent couple hundred dollars in a few clicks just because I came across titles that really interested me.
    posted by astapasta24 at 4:57 PM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

    I got a kindle in March and initially -loved- it. I ride the bus a lot and the ability to easily carry books with me, grab a new one while on the bus if it appealed to me and read samples at home before I bough the book were all fantastic.
    Other things to love:
    *Samples - I mentioned it above but it bears repeating: the sample feature is fantastic. I have a busy life and don't have time to lounge at a book store or library and I don't have the money to spend on books I'm not going to enjoy or read. The ability to read the first 10% or so of a book before I buy without having to go to the store is really, really valuable.
    * Privacy while reading - I sometimes read really embarrassing sci-fi and fantasy books. I know I shouldn't be so sheepish about it but it is nice not to have to announce to the world what I'm currently reading.
    * Reduced Eye Strain - I spend 50+ hours/week on a computer. The kindle doesn't hurt my eyes like a backlit display and I can make the font really big if I want to keep reading even after my eyes are begging me to quit
    * Web-pages not on a screen - related to the above. Sites like kindlibity mean I can take a document I need to read and send it to my kindle so I have less eye strain without having to print the whole thing out.
    * Persisting Books - I like the idea that I can never loose a book. Even if my kids destroy my Kindle, the book is still there to be re-downloaded.
    * Multiple-Devices - I like that I can read the same book on my iPhone and Kindle. This means that if I left my kindle at home I can still read on the bus, or if I'm lying down with my kids trying to get them to sleep I can turn off the light, switch the text to white-on-black and read in the dark without bothering anyone. This isn't really a 'kindle' feature per-se but is a feature of buying in to the whole Amazon e-book infrastructure.

    However, as I've owned it I've come to stop using it for the following reasons:
    * Device lock-in. It dawned on me that if, someday, someone else comes out with a better reader or better pricing, I'd have to leave all my books behind. Quite frankly, that's a deal breaker.
    * Bad OCR The text and formatting are often broken. Really, really, appallingly bad OCR. And what's more, due to the way in which Amazon designed their bookmarks, if they get enough complaints and re-OCR the book, people who already purchased won't get the improved version the next time they download.
    * Limited fonts I'm no font nerd but the text and typesetting of books does lend them a certain flavor in a way I had greatly under-estimated. Having all your books effectively typeset in the same way isn't great.
    * A lot of stuff is broken For example, if you download a sample and read all the way to the end you're prompted to buy the book. When you do it downloads a totally separate file and doesn't remember the last page of the sample so you need to go back into the sample, remember the location # and then open up the newly downloaded full book and jump ahead to that spot. It's obnoxious.
    * Lending is BS Amazon touts that they let you lend book but that is 100% BS. I've purchased *lots* of kindle books and none of them have offered lending. To make matters worse, there is no way to even search for lendable books on Amazon's web-site. I didn't really realize how big a deal it is for me to give away a book when I am done with it. Books are an item it is really easy for me to be generous with and no longer being able to hand a friend a book I read and loved on their way out the door was a big let down.
    * No residual value When you're done with an ebook you can't resell it.
    * Used books are often cheaper I'm not one to buy a lot of hardcover new releases. I get free prime shipping through Amazon mom so ordering used books for $3 and having them show up 2 days later often seems like a better deal.

    So, right now I use it for previews basically: I download samples, read them and if I want to buy them I get them in paper-back from Amazon new or used. I've never used a kindle for library lending so I can't speak to that.

    As to the device itself: I have the 3rd gen 3G version. I really liked the 3G because I have a very long bus commute and often finish a book enroute. I don't find the page refresh bad when reading but searching for a book on the kindle itself is painful. I've pulled out my phone to pick a book and then sent it to the kindle just to avoid searching around with the kindle itself. If you aren't going to take notes the bare-minimum cheap one without a keyboard is probably fine.
    posted by lucasks at 5:01 PM on October 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

    Best answer: I love my Kindle because I read fast and books are usually significant weight and volume in my luggage when I travel; it's now all replaced by something lightweight that fits easily in my purse. I also love how easy the e-Ink screen is on my eyes compared to a backlit LCD (which is why I have no interest in the Fire). I have the 3G version, without special offers, and I'm very happy with it. I especially appreciate the 3G when I'm traveling overseas for work and wifi is not always reliably available.

    My library (the Boston Public Library) has started lending e-books that work with the Kindle, but you get on a waitlist for them the same way you do physical books that are popular, so I haven't gotten any of the ones I really want yet.

    It is a 100% fantastic e-book reader. If you want it for email, web access, mp3s, etc, it's not designed for that, so its functionality in those areas is not great. You will be frustrated if you try to rely on your Kindle primarily for any of those functions.
    posted by olinerd at 5:02 PM on October 21, 2011

    I have had a Kindle since Day 1, and before that I had the Sony E-Reader.

    The Fire is a really a tablet, it's not an e-reader. Totally different experience. e-readers have an e-ink screen that is very easy on the eyes, is *not* backlit so uses ambient light for reading (just like a real book!), and has a much longer battery life than tablets. In this sense, the Nook is also a tablet, not an e-reader.

    I love my Kindle. Actually, I love e-readers, period. The Kindle is the best of them so far. What I like:

    * the e-reader screen is very easy on the eyes, just the same as reading a paperback.
    * you can adjust the font-size to fit your eyesight (or just make it larger when it's darker, like a half-lit movie theater while waiting for the movie to start).
    * you can easily attach a book light for reading in the dark, just like a regular book. There are also Kindle covers with lights built into them.
    * you can carry thousands of books with you. I LOVE this, it's awesome for traveling. I take my Kindle backpacking, boat cruises, intl. trips, across town, on the bus, etc.
    * the battery lasts so long, you can get away with charging it every few weeks.

    * nothing that you want to read is available in Kindle or other digital formats. This is rare, but I do hear it sometimes. Not everything will available, but I've found plenty enough that is available that I can keep plenty of reading choices on my Kindle.
    * some people want an all-in-one device; doing email, games, web, etc on the Kindle sucks. Those people should get a tablet (or the Fire).
    * you're in love with the feel of physical books (like my sister the librarian), then holding an electronic book just won't cut it.
    * it's not an MP3 player either, even though some models can play MP3s. Don't expect it to replace your iPod.

    I can usually find about 80% of what I want to read on the Kindle via Amazon. That's plenty to keep me busy :)

    I've not used the new lending feature for Libraries, so can't say much, other than the publishers are limiting how many copies a library can lend at once, so you're still going to be putting books on hold & waiting in line for popular titles :(

    Go to the Kindle Store on Amazon and look at their selection to see if there's books or other content you'd like to read.

    Are you someone who writes in the margins of books and underlines/highlights passages? Then get the touchscreen or keyboard models. Do you want smallest/no-frills? Get the basic model. Someone even made a flowchart to help you choose which model. Only get the 3G models if you travel a lot and don't want to deal with finding WIFI or using your computer via USB to sync books. Otherwise WIFI/USB is easy and simple.

    The ads are unobtrusive, if you're really trying to save money then the ad-supported models are great. You only see the ads on the screensaver and the home page, you don't see ads when reading a book.

    No unforeseen charges, except that you will buy more books and ready more :) I like to use to get free books - these are mostly older books with expired copyright, available in multiple formats including Kindle.

    Other ebooks like those from B&N, Sony, and such are locked down and cannot be shared.

    Kindle uses the mobi format, so anything in mobi can be read natively, while it also supports other simple format and has a conversion service to where you email documents to your special Kindle email address, and it gets converted to Kindle format for easy reading. There's a 10cent charge if you then deliver directly to Kindle, or free if returned via email.

    There are some textbooks available, but I'm not a student so haven't been paying attention to that market. One important note though:

    The Kindle the great for linear reading, like novels or short stories, but sucks for random-access like textbooks where you find yourself flipping back & forth or jumping around a lot.

    So personally, I'd avoid textbooks on the Kindle, it's just not there yet.

    For data input, the Kindles do have keyboards, but the keyboard on the basic model is navigated by the little multipad and sucks to use. The touchscreen is ok, or use the models with physical keyboards. But there is no note-taking app (that I remember) so you can only search or annotate books. The experience would suck anyway, as the Kindle is not designed for writing, you'd do better writing on your smartphone :)

    Finally, at $80 for the basic Kindle, if you enjoy reading then do it.
    posted by jpeacock at 5:04 PM on October 21, 2011

    I have a Kindle 3 with wifi capability (not 3G).

    I received it as a gift and was initially unsure if I'd like it because I am a diehard fan of actual print books. I can tell you that if you are hesitating because you think the experience will be too far from an actual book, reconsider. Because of the ink-like, matte, non-backlit screen, I still often flick the top right corner as if to turn a paper page.

    I very much like my Kindle's case with the attached booklight- it enhances the experience for me (but does add some weight).

    The one con I can think of is the Kindle's search function. It's kind of clumsy and it takes absolutely forever.
    posted by rachaelfaith at 5:07 PM on October 21, 2011

    What magnetsphere said * 50

    I bought one two weeks ago and I love it.

    I need reading glasses but I keep losing them - Kindle lets me embiggen the text. I have a few books on the go - kindle means I can now carry them all on the move with me.

    I love the dictionary feature. I'm more than happy with it.
    posted by the noob at 5:20 PM on October 21, 2011

    I luuuuuurve my Kindle. Interface is very simple, super easy to read, and I've got so many books on it, it'll probably take me a year or more to read all of them (and I read A LOT).

    -It can display PDFs, but I haven't been able to get mine to display at a readable size.
    -Organizing books on the kindle is AWFUL. You can put books into collections (works like tagging, not like folders), but only one book at a time, so if (like me) you load 50-60 books on right away, you have to click through EACH ONE to add it to the collections.
    -Keyboard and 4-way navigation button are both kind of a pain to use. My mother is thinking of getting a kindle, and asked if she could use it to send emails. I mean, you COULD, but I wouldn't.
    -Not great for flipping around pages.

    But really I love everything except those. If you just like to crank through novels and don't care about the internet/word processing, then definitely get one.
    posted by specialagentwebb at 5:35 PM on October 21, 2011

    I was given the Kindle 3 wi-fi (now the Kindle Keyboard) as a birthday present and overall I do like using it. The screen, size and weight are great for reading and having hundreds of books on the device is amazing. I forgot my charger when traveling and the battery was at 30% after using it daily for almost two weeks.

    When I heard of the Overdrive lending, I went to my local library web page and browsed the kindle selection without entering my information (I didn't have a valid library card). This afternoon I finally drove to the library for a library card. Downloaded two books using Overdrive about an hour ago - it was easy to do. Like others have said, the selection is based on your library and how many copies of a particular book they have to lend.

    The way Kindle organizes books is annoying but it's something I'm learning to deal with. I don't like being tied to Amazon for books but I've mostly used the Kindle for reading free Amazon books or books for Project Gutenberg. Calibre is great for getting daily news rss feeds on the Kindle.

    If I was purchasing one today I would probably purchase the Kindle Touch (the keyboard version doesn't have dedicated number keys so typing in passwords is a pain). Reading forums and seeing the offers at, I think the ads are not very intrusive and are pretty good deal. As for 3G, I've not missed it but I'm usually able to connect via wi-fi.
    posted by bCat at 5:39 PM on October 21, 2011

    Best answer: I'll try to restrict my comments to things that haven't been covered

    I like the kindle display. You don't have to worry about glare if you're reading in the sun and if like me you sometimes forget your glasses, you can adjust the font size.

    I like the 3G (I have a Kindle 3 with 3G) because I don't have reliable access to wifi and I like being able to load a new book while traveling even on the metro.

    This would be true of any e-reader, but I like being able to pack one thin device with weeks worth of reading rather than deliberating over which books are going to make the cut for work or vacation travel and worrying whether I'm really going to get to that 4lb hardcover and even if I do, is it worth the weight/real estate in my bag.

    The kindle is pretty tough. I've keep mine in my bag with just a neoprene sleeve and its weathered it very well (it's almost a year old).

    If you keep the Wifi/3G off unless you are actively using it, you can get 2-3 weeks out of one battery charge. I just charge it up before a trip and don't have to worry about packing the cable.

    If you get the graphite model, the contrast between the gray of the letters and the graphite on the keys makes the letters hard to read unless you have great eyesight. Also the lettering seems to be wearing off. I would go for the white model if I were to order one now. However Amazon has pretty good customer service and I know of at least one person who complained about this and was able to exchange their several months old kindle for a new one.

    If your local school or public library offers kindle books, they are very easy to download. However a few caveats, since library lending is relatively new for the kindle, there are far fewer e-books available in the kindle format (at least in my counties library system). I have been able to download exactly one book after a one day waiting list. I'm on the waiting list for 5 others and finding 6 books out of the limited amount of e-books available in the kindle format that interested me was a real stretch. I'm hoping that my library will increase the number of books available in the kindle format as time goes on, but with library budgets increasingly tight, I'm not expecting that to happen in a dramatic fashion for quite awhile. Your library systems might be better.

    Also as someone wrote, you can use Calibre to convert e-pubs to mobi or amz, but that is only true for books that are not DMR protected. You cannot legally download a recent DMR protected e-pub and convert it to mobi or amz without first using a program that illegally strips the DRM. (I'm not a luddite, but I'm not super techy so I may not be using exactly correct language to describe this, but the jist of it is correct).

    If you already own a device with a touch screen, you may occasionally find the lack of one annoying. Many is the time I've tried to buy a book or perform some other action by touching the screen even though I KNOW it doesn't work that way. The con to touch screen devices is that they tend to run down the battery a lot quicker.

    I find the control buttons at the bottom too close together. I have inadvertently bought books rather than moved the cursor (but Amazon thus far has been great at refunding the money).

    A lot of the titles are relatively expensive. If I weren't disciplined I could spend a lot of money buying the latest titles. Sadly now that I've gotten used to the convenience of an e-book, I'm less inclined to buy a hard cover or paper back that I'm going to have to lug around and that will take up valuable space in my already overcrowded studio apartment.

    Books with photographs or any type of unusual text (for example the power point chapter in Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad) do not display well on the kindle.

    Overall I've found that people who have Kindles generally love them as do people who have Nooks. If you want the convenience of an e-book reader than you will more likely than not adapt to and enjoy whichever one you buy. I got mine as a Christmas gift and am happy with it, although if I were to buy my own device today, I probably would opt for a Nook, because I think I'd have more choice with regard to free library e-books. As for the switching devices, my plan is to someday get either an iphone or an ipad and then I can still access my Kindle books using the kindle app, but also have access to other e-pubs. In the meantime my kindle has been a godsend for travel and my daily commute.
    posted by kaybdc at 5:48 PM on October 21, 2011

    Best answer: Contra what blazecock pileon says, with the Kindle 3rd Generation you can send documents free to the kindle via e-mail over wifi (using but not over 3G (when you send to it just waits 'til your on wifi to download). The 3rd Gen kindle reads .docs and .pdfs in their native format; no converting. I read plenty of .pdfs on my kindle. (You can zoom on pdfs, though it can be a little tricky.)

    A couple pros that haven't been beaten into the ground yet: it's easy to read one-handed (I use mine a lot when breastfeeding) and it's easy to read in the dark if you have a cover with an integrated light, easier than with a booklight on a normal book (I use this a lot for insomnia & midnight feedings).

    I have been borrowing books from my library since the feature came out a month or so ago. It's very easy. How extensive the library is will depend on your library; mine is mostly focused on popular books, which is actually good for me -- I'm often somewhat interested in reading popular books, but they're not the sort of thing I'm likely to buy and read again. (Specific lending policies also vary by library.)

    I easily found at least a year's worth of reading material free on amazon and gutenberg and; I also got a couple of "collected works of [classic out-of-copyright author]" for 99 cents, where the 99 cents pays for someone to optimize it for the kindle and add an "active" table of contents (kindle-useable). So I have, like, everything ever written by Wodehouse for 99 cents. I do follow a "free kindle books" blog and I download a lot of free promos. Some are good, some are awful, but if they're awful, I just delete them. Anyway, I manage to get a lot of reading material free or very cheap.\

    I do NOT think Kindle textbooks are there yet unless they're text-only textbooks (no pics/diagrams) ... but there are some free textbooks available (from there you can find several others from the CK-12 foundation) so you could test it out. However, I have friends in grad school who download lots of PDF articles for their classes to their kindles to carry around with them. (I also know more and more lawyers who download PDFs of filings to their kindles; and my state government is pushing local government units to think about kindles or tablets for the 300 pages of document you get for weekly or monthly board meetings -- reduced copying costs pay for the kindles.)
    posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:28 PM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

    One thing that I haven't seen mentioned above (apologies if someone did say this) but since I started commuting on the metro/subway, I have found the Kindle invaluable because, when I can't get a seat and have to stand, I can still read a book one handed, using the button on the right to turn pages easily, whilst holding onto the railing or whatever with the other hand. This is a clear advantage over a touch screen device/Kindle Fire in my opinion, where you really need two hands available, one to hold and one to swipe.
    posted by unlaced at 6:32 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

    Best answer: Textbooks: It depends on your field. I'm a public history phd candidate and I'm doing most of my reading for my classes and dissertation on my kindle and it works perfectly. Then again, most of my stuff is all text and very few photos or diagrams. When I do have to read an architecture related book, it's less awesome without the color pictures.

    Notetaking: I can't function without taking notes on the kindle. I have a Kindle 3 with wifi (what amazon call the Kindle Keyboard) and while the keyboard isn't the most awesome, highlight and make a quick note is flawless. Also, this website will convert the Kindle clippings file (where your notes and highlights live) to an excel spreadsheet, word doc or pdf. This has made dealing with my research absolutely fabulous. Really, I can't describe how much more awesome this make writing a paper.

    Loaning/formats: Technically, according to the DMCA, you can't circumvent digital protection. Which means you can't legally remove DRM, even if you don't intend to share it. However it can be done. I personally thing that purchasing a book that's only available in epub and converting it to mobi so I can read it on my kindle is within the scope of fair use. Whether the publishing companies agree with me is a less likely. This is something you do at your own risk. But a number of libraries are loaning books on the kindle, although they are far more likely to be popular best sellers rather than academic books.

    All that said, this week marks my one year with a kindle and I just read my first print fiction book since I got it. I still love books, but honestly, I read way, way more with the kindle. You can read one handed, you can put it down and not have to hold pages open with a hair brush. You can carry enough books to keep you entertained for two weeks with the family and still have room for shoes.

    I think, and I say this as a former librarian, that the kindle has changed the way I read forever. I look up words more, I think more critically about what I read, and I read a ton more.

    Get one.
    posted by teleri025 at 6:36 PM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

    I have a Kindle 3G. I've read more books than ever this year because of it. I still read plenty of actual physical books, but I've read plenty on the Kindle, too. I was getting discouraged for a while there, though, because before I got the Kindle I bought used books or borrowed books from the library, so I'm not used to spending much on books, and Kindle books generally aren't cheap. A few weeks ago, however, my local library started offering ebooks, and I've gotten three of them so far. I have the option of borrowing a Kindle version of the book, so the page takes me to Amazon, and I click on "send to (my name's) Kindle." The drawback is that the selection isn't vast.

    I do like that on a Saturday when I'm out running errands, shopping, etc., I can throw my Kindle into my purse so I always have something to read if I stop for lunch or whatever. It's definitely a cool thing to have if you can afford it.
    posted by ElizabethEllis at 6:41 PM on October 21, 2011

    astapasta24 - If you inadvertently buy a Kindle book you can actually "return" it within a certain amount of time. I'm not sure how long but I've done it after more than an hour. See customer support

    I've used the new library support and it works fine, though I was using it via the Kindle iPad app. It worked, in fact, better than the "Overdrive" client for iPad that my public library uses for ePub format book lending. Note that the limitation on copies that are lent out is, I believe, a limitation that all formats have, not just Kindle. If a ebook at your library is popular, you will have to wait regardless of what format it's in.

    If you have a smartphone or other devices, I will note that the Kindle system -- where you can read most books on pretty much any device -- is pretty sweet. On the bus I might read on my iphone and then switch to a bigger screen device at home and it autosyncs to my book location. This doesn't work as well if you're sharing the account with a spouse or kids since it only tracks one "last read" location.
    posted by R343L at 6:42 PM on October 21, 2011

    Response by poster: All right, you all have convinced me :) I have used the Kindle App for Droid, and liked it despite the relatively small screen and back-lit annoyance. I've looked briefly through the 2 libraries I have access to, and they have an adequate selection. I am quite used to a touch screen interface, so I think I'll go with the Kindle Touch unless anyone has some burning recommendation against it.

    Of course, my problem now is that I hate waiting, so waiting for Christmas to get a Kindle will be absolute torture :) On the plus side, the libraries should have a better selection by then.
    posted by DoubleLune at 7:13 PM on October 21, 2011

    Just a note a lot of stores like Best Buy and that ilk have a wide range of ereaders you can go and try out, including Kindles. I don't know if they have the Kindle Fire etc yet as I haven't been in the store for a while. If nothing else going in to have a look would give you an idea of the feel of some of the different ereaders before you buy.

    Some of the other readers allow a wider range of formats which is handy if you like to read books from more unconventional sources, though Calibre does a pretty good job of converting books (though I've only used it a few times) which might be worth looking into if being tied down to the Kindle format is a concern for you.
    posted by wwax at 8:11 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

    I love my Kindle 3. It's the best thing ever. It holds thousands of books, it's lightweight and portable, the battery is pretty good, the e-ink screen is comfortable the look at, the font sizes are resizable, etc. I've been reading about 9000% more since I got mine. Broke the first one I had from my own stupidity and I turned around the next day I ordered another one with no regrets. I would recommend getting the official leather lighted case/cover for it. It's a bit expensive but it's so worth it.

    Some of the downsides are that it's not all that fantastic for reading textbooks or travel books, or basically any kind of reference book where you'd want to quickly flip around to sections of the book and refer to something. It's best for beginning to end books.

    It has a feature called Collections which are basically just folders for the Kindle to help organize large collections but, you have to register your Kindle to activate it. Not a big deal really. Problem is last I checked they didn't have any good software to help manage Collections. Adding books to Collections one at a time from the Kindle can be tedious.

    Get one!
    posted by slumber at 9:50 PM on October 21, 2011

    I'm Canadian, so I have a Kobo. They don't have the 3G, but they read epubs natively and DRM'd epubs can be easily de-DRM'd. They didn't used to have the note taking, but I think the latest update may have added it. The case is excellent and the touch screen too.
    posted by jb at 10:45 PM on October 21, 2011

    I've had a Kindle for about two years now: love it! I describe myself as addicted to reading, and pretty much ALWAYS have to have a book (or three...) with me. The Kindle is lightweight, easy to use and sturdy, and can hold lots of books. I always keep mine in a case, on the grounds that it's worth it to make SURE the electronic doo-dad is protected; I recommend one that zips closed all the way around (keeping out dust or pointy stuff).

    A minor item for the "plus" column:
    One of my coworkers loved my Kindle so much she ended up geting her own. She enjoys the occasional really sleezy vampire novel, and was laughing when she mentioned that its FAR less embarrassing to buy one over the Kindle than face-to-face with a human being in a bricks & mortar store.....
    posted by easily confused at 2:20 AM on October 22, 2011

    I too love my Kindle for several reasons, most covered above:

    - the ability to carry about hundreds of books with me
    - no one knows when I'm reading children's books on the tube (The Secret Garden! *snif*)
    - I've learnt since owning a Kindle that I'm actually not that good with the small amount of logistics involved in paper books: I lose track of the page I'm on, I put paperbacks down and pick others up and forget that I was reading the first until weeks later when I can no longer recall what the book was about. No longer.
    - I recently read a biography that would completely have scared me off if I'd seen it in the shops because it was the size of a housebrick. I'm no longer scared of big books! It turns out I can read books longer than 500 pages if I don't have to keep looking at the amount of pages that are left. I feel emboldened to tackle some Dickens soon.
    - I look words up when I come across them in the linked dictionary, which is surprisingly useful. I don't think I'd realised before how many words I either skip over or try to guess from context.
    - I keep track of bits I want to highlight using the 'My Clippings' file - so this means that with no effort I'm becoming the sort of reader I always thought I would one day be who makes note of what I'm reading and can refer to key passages after when I'm trying to sum up the book in my head.
    - I'm reading many more classics than I used to because I can get hold of them free - as others have said, Project Gutenberg and manybooks are lifesavers. Although Calibre is a cranky counter-intuitive piece of software with an odd UI it's really very useful and once you have that you can download the Project Gutenberg magic catalog and now you are one click away from free books rather than having to fiddle about with downloading books then uploading to the Kindle.
    - I can't search paper books by word.

    Bad bits:

    - the 'popular highlights' that is turned on by default is horrible: it distracts you by starting arguments in your brain as you wonder who on earth would want to highlight that particular bit when the point is made more elegantly two pages earlier etc etc. All of the warm fuzzy feelings that you might get about the community of readers can be wiped out by this - but thankfully you can turn it off.
    - if the particular book that you have set your mind on having is not a classic, a 'modern classic' or published in the last 5 years you might be out of luck. Still, those 3 categories cover quite a bit.
    - not great for books that you don't read linearly - support for indexes differs from book to book. Likewise some books seem to do better than others with footnotes/end-notes.
    posted by calico at 3:20 AM on October 22, 2011

    Note that the Kindle doesn't understand PDF reflow hints, so reading PDF documents that are not straightforward single column text can be an exercise in pain and suffering. Amazon wants you to be locked into the Kindle, which is why they chose mobipocket over ePub I suspect, despite it being a poorer format. I doubt they'll ever implement ePub support because it would let their readers read books from other eBook publishers.

    What's great about the Kindle is not the device itself (you can get better e-Ink readers elsewhere frankly) but the ecosystem that Amazon has built around it. At the same time, understand that said ecosystem exists to do one thing and one thing only: to get you to buy as many Kindle books as possible & lock you into the platform.
    posted by pharm at 5:35 AM on October 22, 2011

    Love mine! Shopping on amazon is easy. If I desperately need email and have wifi.. it... uhh... mostly works. Not great for internet, but what do you expect? (I have an older model.. no touch or keyboard or what have you) Mom and her husband play lots of kindle games and like them. (word games, mostly)

    I had a large collection of PDF's and Notepad books that was easy to transfer from my computer to my kindle. Formatting IS an issue... I often get weird line breaks, it confusing letters pretty badly, and un-resisable tiny text (on some PDF's) However, this seems to be less of an issue recently. Maybe I am just getting lucky though.

    DO NOT STEP ON THE KINDLE! Mom had the issue where her letters wore off on the (last year's) graphite version. Amazon, since we were within the one year warranty, sent us both new kindles with no questions asked, no fuss, no hassle, just a new kindle in the mail that day. It was easy to get most of my stuff back on it, though a lot of the stuff I loaded myself wasnt there.

    I like the voice reader function. I use it fairly often in the car... Sadly, it is a little too quiet on mine to be great at that, but I think there is a headphone/speaker jack.

    Overall? Great investment for books. I read more, faster, and save space and trees. Issues? yes. Worth it? COMPLETELY! Some Amazon books are way more expensive than I'd expect an e-book to be.. but there are tons of free books, cheap collections (often with thousands of pages). <3 <3 <3 my kindle!
    posted by Jacen at 7:33 AM on October 22, 2011

    You asked for people to answer who didn't love their Kindle, so here goes. I had a Kindle -- it was an Xmas gift -- and after the first week or so, I never used it. I found it to be slow and a one trick pony. What can I do with it? Read books. Yay. And half the books I read come with illustrations which do not transfer to the Kindle. That was a major disappointment. Sure, I could store hundreds of books on the Kindle, but I can do the same on my notebook.

    Also, I don't mind reading from a backlit screen so the e-ink was kind of a "big whoop" for me. I didn't find it any easier to read than reading from my ipod touch. Actually, reading at night (even with the Kandle) sucked. I dunno, I was disappointed. I gave it to my daughter. She likes it. I now have an EEE Transformer tablet and use the Kindle application (which is free to download) as well as other ebook readers.

    So there's one voice of discontent in the crowd.
    posted by patheral at 9:51 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

    Collections are getting some negative commentary here, and it's true that they're a pain to manage if you have a large # of books and only use the buttons on the Kindle to organize them. If you're willing to take the time to set up Calibre with the Kindle Collections Manager plugin then collections get a lot more user-friendly.

    I have around 1000 books on my Kindle, with one collection for each author ("_[lastname], [firstname]") and one for each series (labeled as "~[series name]"). The series metadata is something I had to add to Calibre. I use these less than the per-author collections, but they've been nice at times.

    So, sorting everything alphabetically I see the per-author collections first (sorted by author last name), then the per-series collections, and then all the individual books sorted by title. I don't have to do anything to manage the collections other than to tell Calibre to update them from time to time.
    posted by ethand at 2:59 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

    Just a random note about the ads on the "special offers" Kindles: on the newest ones, if you get sick of the ads, you can pay the price difference later to have them removed instead of having to buy a new Kindle.
    posted by robt at 9:09 PM on October 23, 2011

    I'm just here to recommend Calibre (again) to organize and back up your books

    I also want to add the suggestion to use Instapaper to collect long form articles to read. You can set up Instapaper to send articles from your internet browser to your amazon free delivery email account. I send articles from Give me something to read and for lots of free interested reading!
    posted by Gor-ella at 10:43 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

    I have a 3G Kindle and I mostly love it. Easy to add books and PDF documents (like knitting patterns - only really small, detailed charts get hard to read, most are fine). The only think I dislike is a bug where it doesn't want to "wake up" easily or charge right away when I plug it in to charge. It will act fine for weeks and then all of a sudden I'm sliding the power button over and over, holding it and waiting for it revive itself.
    posted by Kurichina at 12:41 PM on October 24, 2011

    WallMart kindle with wi-fi but not 3G $79 as of two days ago. Download books first to your computer and use Calibre which makes life very easy and gives you a back-up. But you cannot organise on your Kindle through Calibre if you have a Mac, and organising is essential if you have lots of books, so get the Calibre GUI plugin if you're a pc user, or transfer them slowly to the Kindle, organising into authors as you do so if you're a mac user. Since I only download through my computer I have never seen an ad on my Kindle. For me 3G was a complete waste of money. But the cover with a built in light is great. Finally, like most, I love my Kindle. Best thing I've ever bought, even though - and be warned - the screen is not robust and mine just died on me from very little pressure applied accidentally. Amazon will apparently replace free if this happens, but it is a weakness.
    posted by nickji at 2:58 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

    « Older Websites of +5 gardening   |   Help me teach my 7-year old to SEE! Newer »
    This thread is closed to new comments.