In the run-up to last Christmas, messages from Amazon suggesting I buy a Kindle began polluting my inbox.
I deleted every one with gritted teeth, mentally screaming “Don’t want!”, as if the Devil was trying to pester me into exchanging my print-loving soul for a literary iPod.
But, as I began to investigate electronic publishing in Indonesia, I decided it would be good to actually test one of the evil things.
Don’t knock it before you’ve tried it, and all that.
Gramedia were generous enough to lend me one for a week.
Seeing the Kindle in the “flesh” melted away quite a number of my reservations. It did look like a literary iPod… in a good way. White and sleek, with an “electronic ink” screen that was incredibly close to paper. I ran my fingertips over its smooth service, intrigued as Rio Eka Putra, head of Gramedia’s IT & Research department, gave me a demonstration.
At home, I logged onto my Amazon UK account and downloaded Charlaine Harris’ Gone and Dead, which I had been waiting to be released in paperback form in Indonesia – that would have been May this year or even later. The process was effortless, speedy and exciting.
Reading on the Kindle was initially odd, but I soon got used to it, and found “turning” the pages and finding my place intuitive, although I missed knowing what page I was on – instead the percentage read so far was displayed at the bottom of the screen. I especially liked being able to read with one hand. The battery power was impressive. I only had to charge it once in the week I had it.
However, there was definitely room for improvement. As an electronic device, it should be backlit so you can read without an external light, and have a better way of categorizing purchases.
At least the two purchases I made remain mine even after I surrendered the device to Gramedia, and I can send them to any future Kindle-compatible devices I may have in the future.
I also discovered that it wasn’t the presentation of books that mattered so much – at least in the case of image-free texts – it was the words and stories.
I had chosen Dead and Gone because it was “light reading”, but when my friend in the UK recommended via MSN messenger Daphne du Maurier’s The Breaking Point, a collection of short stories, I immediately took her advice. Within moments I had the electronic version on the Kindle, a heady dose of previously unimaginable instant gratification. Du Maurier – a more literary author than Harris – was just as magic on screen as she was on paper.
I imagine owning a Kindle would mean I’d buy less of certain kinds of books (light reading, series) and maybe invest more in limited editions I wanted to have on the shelf.
A Kindle extends the reading experience, allowing for experimentation and less waiting time. And it was great having so much choice at my fingertips. Definitely a winning travel companion.
Even though the pros arguably outweigh the cons, the price is rather steep, at US$259-489, especially with hefty import and shipping costs if you’re having it delivered outside of the US. But for avid bookworms with cash to spare, it might just be worth it.