virtue / vice of kindle for 8 year old
February 27, 2015 11:35 AM   Subscribe

I am considering buying my bookworm 7 year old girl a kindle for her 8th birthday. If any other mefites have done this or considered it I'd like to hear your opinions on it.

As far as I've considered it there are pluses and minuses. On the plus (kindle) side:
**she will never want for something to read
**she can self-direct in her reading
**she can bring it with her when we travel

On the minus (paper books) side:
**you can't share kindle books
**she can't pass them on to our younger kids
**kindle books do not appear on a bookshelf where curious kids and friends can access them
**it's a less tactile experience

Any other things I should consider while debating this?
posted by grubby to Education (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My 9-year-old bookworm was given a Nook for Christmas by her grandmother. It has not in any way decreased her love for and consumption of "real" books, but it is her go-to thing to take in the car.

The big concern for me is how easy it is to buy things on one of these devices - especially on a Kindle, because of the one-click buying. WAY too easy for a kid to make purchases. So, to activate her Nook, we set up her reader account using a pre-paid debit card.
posted by jbickers at 11:46 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

We got my daughter a Nook when she was 10, and I think had I known what I know now, I wouldn't have. The main thing is she doesn't use it much, even though she's still a big bookworm. I think she much prefers selecting books in bookstores and libraries to selecting them online. She seems to enjoy the tactile elements of printed books. She doesn't seem to have any trouble managing your "plus" list without the nook.
posted by ubiquity at 11:48 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

If it's a model with a backlit screen she can surreptitiously read at night more easily than I could at age 7 when I had to hold a flashlight under the covers. Not sure if that's a positive or not.

I'm assuming you're tech savvy enough to either create a separate Amazon account or enable parental controls on the device to prevent your daughter from buying hundreds of books with your credit card though Amazon's seductive one-click purchasing option. (Or maybe she's just better behaved than I would have been.)
posted by Wretch729 at 11:48 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would suggest not limiting your consideration to Kindle devices and not limiting your ebook consumption to DRM-encumbered titles. Eliminating DRM would eliminate most of the downsides you've thought of. You could set up a Calibre library for the family so that everyone would have access to the titles you've bought, complete with home Calibre server for easy wireless access.

I'd definitely go with an e-ink device of some sort; eyestrain and sleep problems are more of a problem with LCD screens. Have a look at what options your local libraries offer for ebook downloads -- purchasing books from Amazon is not your only option here.
posted by asperity at 11:50 AM on February 27, 2015 [11 favorites]

asperity - I am intrigued by the possibility of shareable e-books, and I will follow your recommendation of looking into what my local library supports.
posted by grubby at 11:59 AM on February 27, 2015

I would have *killed* to have a Kindle as a child. Literally murdered someone with my bare hands. I was an absolutely voracious reader, and one of the worst things was having to pack a bunch of books for a trip (heavy) and then have the fear of running out of books on, say, a weeklong vacation. I actually contemplate this regularly when I think about how much I love that my current Kindle has 100+ books on it that are in my purse all the time. Buy her one yesterday.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:01 PM on February 27, 2015 [29 favorites]

Another plus for the Kindle is the ease of accessing public domain books, of which there are thousands available on Project Gutenberg in various formats. When I was seven, my absolute favourite books were A Little Princess and Anne of Green Gables, which are both public domain, and I would have LOVED to have access to the many, many classic children's books available.

I'd also strongly recommend the Paperwhite over other versions. At the age of seven, you may want to impose restrictions on this version (e.g. not letting her have access to it after bedtime) but it's a really pleasurable reading experience that no other ebook reader I've used comes close to.

Also, nthing use of Calibre for ebook organization. It's very simple to use once you have a library set up (you can just click a button to transfer books to a device) and there's also a portable version that you can carry around on a USB stick.
posted by littlegreen at 12:09 PM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

You can now loan at least some books via Kindle.
posted by Jahaza at 12:10 PM on February 27, 2015

Seconding fiercecupcake. Your daughter is lucky to live in an age when Kindles exist.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:11 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I haven't looked into it much, but recently discovered there's some Kindle Family Library thing...
posted by Seboshin at 12:18 PM on February 27, 2015

Reading on an e-reader (versus paper) may be a different experience.
posted by oceano at 12:19 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think I heard someone saying that there was an ad on their child's e-device for 50 Shades of Grey, with no way to disable it. So if you get one with ads, keep in mind they may not always be age appropriate.

I really love my Nook, and use both the kindle app on it, as well as another app to read DRM free ebooks. Plus, it operates as a low powered tablet as well.
posted by needlegrrl at 12:21 PM on February 27, 2015

Another plus I haven't seen yet--having an electronic library means that as your daughter grows up, and moves into a college dorm or a tiny city studio, she can still have all her books. I drastically cull my paper library every year and its still a huge hassle to move.
posted by tinymegalo at 12:21 PM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

I bought my 9 year old a Kindle Fire with Freetime Unlimited for Christmas. Here are some things we learned (some of which may not be relevant because it doesn't sound like you're looking for a Fire, but I'll include them anyway):

-She uses the apps and video playback way more than she uses it for reading. Which is fine, I guess, because she was just using my iPad for that stuff before, and now she can bring her games back and forth between my house and her dad's (a major motivation for the purchase).

-FreeTime Unlimited is some bullshit. The books available through it (they don't show you lists of titles before you sign up) are 85% useless (and I'm a children's librarian, so I know).

-As other people mentioned, I think, your public library probably provides downloadable ebooks (and audiobooks) that you can use on a Kindle (more easily on a Kindle than on many other devices, for Reasons). I usually have to help my daughter with the checkout and download process for that, even though she's pretty tech savvy. It's a clunky process.

-She still reads about 70% paper books, I'd say, but it's really nice to be able to make sure she has some good things to read wherever she is.

Overall, I'm happy to have done it, and would do it again.
posted by missrachael at 12:22 PM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

What does your daughter think about reading on screen? It would probably be good to check in with her preference as our experience varied. My sister in law purchased a Nook for my son when he was not much older than your daughter. I loaded it up and after he finished each one on the Nook, he requested I buy the same title in paper to reread. After the first few books, I asked him if the e-book version was different than the paper version and he said they were the same but he prefered paper books because he could remember the story better. He abandoned the Nook after a few months (and this kid is a *voracious* reader, chewing through a G.R.R.Martin sized novel every few days).

If you do get her one, get an e-ink screen rather than LCD (such as the Fire) as the later may mess with her sleep patterns.
posted by jamaro at 12:25 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I learned to read when I was three and haven't stopped since. I moved up to chapter books because my local library had a 3 book limit on picture books but no limit on chapter books. My "book budget" for a vacation is a book a day. I bought the kindle when it first came out on the market to reduce my luggage weight. [painting the picture -- I love to read :)]

Amazon gets a lot of negative press for DRM, heavy handed tactics, etc... but in my opinion, with the kindle and, they have created a good ecosystem for readers, much like Apple has done for music and video with itunes/ipod/iphone.

I suggest taking a look at the features available in the current Kindle. In particular, the $2.99/month "Free time unlimited" may be a great deal for your kid. Also, the ability to look up word definitions easily may be useful.

Also, you may be able to check out a kindle from your local library -- ours has them for at least adult books. Not sure if they have them for kids books.

I find I read more/faster with the kindle than with paper books, but try to read paper books from the library as much as possible for budgetary reasons :).
posted by elmay at 12:28 PM on February 27, 2015

My daughter loved it especially when the physical book in question was some huge heavy tome. Also great for long car rides. Definitely go e-ink and no ads. You can share books on the Kindle with other devices signed in with the same Amazon ID (so for nighttime car reading she could use an iPad and the Kindle app). She still loves actual books as well.
posted by mikepop at 12:30 PM on February 27, 2015

Go e-ink, go lighted (doesn't mess with sleep like an LCD does). Amazon is easier to navigate than the other options.

I do agree that reading on them is different -- it's harder to skim to get to your favourite parts -- but it is neither better nor worse, just different.
posted by jeather at 12:35 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

We bought our daughter a Kindle when she was 10 and she loves it. It is really easy to add a password to keep your kid from buying stuff, so don't worry about that part of it. In the time since we got it for her, we've bought one for our 8-year-old, our 4-year-old, and even our 3-year-old. They can't read yet, but they play educational games on them or watch shows on Hulu or Netflix.

Because I bought them all using the same Amazon account, the books are shared across devices. So if one daughter buys a book, they can all read it. And since all the oldest asks for at birthdays and holidays is Amazon gift cards (to buy more books!) we have a large library. She is 14 now and still uses her Kindle every day, even with a cell phone.

Also, if she highlights or underlines something in a book, it shows up on my copy of the book. This gives me insight into what she is thinking or what she considers cool, which is nice.

One last note: we have yet to have a Kindle break. We've been using them for four years with no problems.
posted by tacodave at 12:38 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would definitely go e-ink, to be easier on her eyes and not screw with sleep patterns. And count me as one of the child-bookworms who would have committed a series of felonies for an e-reader when I was a young thing -- it turns out that I really do need to be able to carry several hundred books around with me at all times!
posted by kalimac at 12:38 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Some studies have shown that a lot of kids prefer paper books simply because it's a tangible thing that belongs to them in a world where almost everything belongs to adults. I'm sure some of that feeling of ownership would apply to an eReader as well, but it might be worth having both options in your daughter's life--an eReader as well as many opportunities for paper books. I suspect she'll show a preference for one or the other fairly quickly once the novelty of the eReader has worn off. I'm not sure there's a way to tell if she's an eReader or paper person until she has a Kindle in her hands.
posted by mjm101 at 12:39 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

We have a kid with an older Kindle and Kindle Unlimited because it's the easiest way to keep pace with his insatiable appetite! Going to the library is difficult to fit in (especially in this ridiculously cold weather in the Great Lakes region) and buying multiple paperback chapter books every week is obviously absolutely right out. There are a million problems with Kindle and KU but man, it's a total lifesaver for our particular family.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:54 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just seconding that the Kindle Household thing can be pretty slick and eliminate your concerns about sharing books with siblings etc. (well: if they have their own devices, anyway). I got my husband a Kindle for his birthday this week. Setting it up was more or less painless, and now he can read my books!
posted by charmedimsure at 1:49 PM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Thanks for all the great input everyone.

I should add that having a child who is now an independent reader is a great joy. I surely want to encourage and enable her in this, but I'm reminded that until now she has been fed a diet of 50% my childhood books (and I'm still amazed by the quality and content of those 70's kids' books, which have enriched the lives of my young self, my younger brother, her and her younger brother) and plenty of new ones as well. At this point we have a pretty great library for the kids, and I'd love to be able to pass that on to my grandkids.

I don't see how that's going to be possible with electronic books, but I can still see the value in a kindle for travel, and as a supplement, particularly as she develops in her reading beyond kids' books, and she would be able to take her library with her as she moves through her young life.

Perhaps that's the best mix: paper and cardboard books for small kids, portable libraries for youth, then, in maturity, a selection of beautiful hardbacks and paperbacks.
posted by grubby at 6:14 PM on February 27, 2015

I love my Nook Simple Touch e-ink reader (with the glow light for low light conditions) but wanted to mention that downloading library books needs to be done via a USB cable and a computer (and some free downloadable software, Adobe Digital Editions) so it's an extra step. Don't know if it's the same deal on a Kindle.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:55 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

My kid has had a kindle since he was 6 (he's now 10). I even wrote a blog post about it :)
He now has a kindle paperwhite, with the ability to buy stuff turned off with parental controls. It doesn't have ads. He can only use it for reading.

I have no problem sharing books with him. This is due to both calibre and just registering his kindle to my amazon account (and having the parental controls set so that he can't access books from my library without my permission). We also have a lot of books that are not from Amazon on the kindle. It is not hard.

It is brilliant for travel. This week he has been reading everything from Manga to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on his kindle. He loves having the dictionary function so he can look up the meanings for new words. He also reads quite a lot of 'real' paper books.
posted by Megami at 1:15 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

I mean, it's hard to imagine 20-50 years down the line what our technological landscape will be, but I (illicitly, admittedly) downloaded over 30 gigabytes of sci-fi and fantasy 10 years ago. I have it backed up on several computers, an external hard drive, and the cloud. It's probably my most valued digital asset. Every time I have a hankering for something, I dig through my own personal library and find what I like. Many of these books are books my parents own, or friends do, or the library so I'm not TOO morally fussed to have these older, but not quite classic, books.

Point is, data doesn't go "bad", unless it's possibly wrapped in layers and layers of DRM. Amazon isn't going to go out of business any time soon, so I'm guessing you'll have these books to pass down for years to come. You just have to be cautious of storage media, but having an account kind of nullifies that.

As a kid, I would have KILLED for an ereader. My mum also probably would have loved not having to stop at the bookstore almost every freaking day to pick up a new novel or two. Worst off was trimming the collection when I aged out of them. I would have loved to keep them, but I moved to university and we had probably several hundred pounds of books to do "something" with.
Now, I have all of my books available to me on a usb stick. I don't have to worry about ridiculous storage solutions (my parents had to move around the same time).

It would be great if we had unlimited storage or knew that we'd never have to move. I have a box or three of favourites, and more on a few bookshelves. But it got unreasonable, and getting rid of them taught me a lot about anti-hoarding. (On the flip side, my husband's mother has kept all of his books from childhood. It's causing stress in that household and half of them are crappy IP fiction or strategy guides for games that haven't existed in years.)

My strategy? Read on the Kobo (great little ereader!) and if it's truly worth a space on my full bookshelf, I have to get rid of a less worthy book and go buy a physical copy. Nthing Calibre as an awesome library curator.
posted by aggyface at 3:25 PM on March 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I mean... We use Spotify AND a turntable. The turntable has a ritual, and Spotify is great in the car. You're curating a little hardcore.
posted by lawliet at 9:10 AM on March 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

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