re-Kindle-ing my Love for Old Musty Books

by Rachel Baker on October 17, 2010

Since the Kindle first came out, I’ve been on the ledge about whether to buy one or not.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel about not having a book in my hands when I read, or if I’d be able to still highlight and make notes in the margins and how doing so digitally might handicap my retention of a story.

Well, I’ve had a Kindle for two weeks now. My experience with the Kindle has been great. I wanted to try and outline some of the pros and the cons, thus far.  In the future, I will share some thoughts about the effects eReaders may have on the book selling industry, but that’s not what this post is for.  In short, I love my Kindle.

Which brings me to the Pros of the Kindle (in no particular order):

Accessibility of Old Musty Books or Accessibility of Public Domain Books: If you’ve been a follower of the site, I’m sure you’ve noticed that the name of this site should be “Future Old Musty Books” as there hasn’t been a whole lot of Old Musty Books reviewed here.  Check back…I now have easy, free access to all sorts of truly old books that if I was walking around with them, you’d think I’d pulled them out of a grave.  What’s in my digital library right now? If you plan on clicking the link below, you may want to take a Benadryl for the allergies first because I imagine just by virtue of age, some of these would smell pretty musty.

LINK:  My Digital Library (for the sake of space I’ve put this elsewhere)

Access to some really old stuff…for free…is a definite upside (in my opinion) to owning a Kindle. I love the access I now have.  I live in a small town, with a small library system and unless I’m a student, I can’t digitally access all the college and university libraries in the state.  So, I’m sort of at the whim of the used book stores (there aren’t many here) and new book stores to get some of these books.

Additionally on the topic of accessibility, my sister in law is working on getting her degree in history, with a specialty in (I think) in the Civil War era. In many of her classes, she is assigned papers that require reading and writing about the era.  If she had a kindle a great deal of supplemental reading could be done without spending money on more than the initial kindle purchase.

Multi-tasking: Because the Kindle is really just needs one hand to turn hold and turn a page, multi-tasking is much easier than with a book.  Pour coffee, make tea, cook dinner (if you use the text to speech which will turn the page on its own), and probably a whole host of things I haven’t figured out yet.

Notes and Highlighting: As an avid highlighter and margin note taker, these features are actually much more effective than writing in a book.  First, I’m able to see how many other people highlighted specific passages – what’s been important to other readers to retain.  Now I’m fully aware that some of these books are read for educational purposes, so its important to realize that some of these books are read for research purposes.  Secondly, each of my highlights and any notes I may make are then put in “my clippings.” This is a nice little area that has a link to take you back to the passage you’ve highlighted or made a note about.  Frankly, having this function is a whole lot easier to recall your notes than flipping back through a book to find that passage you remember highlighting.  Again, perfect for college students, researchers and book reviewers, in my humble opinion.

Professional Usage: I sent a multi-page training pdf document to my Kindle.  While I had to zoom in to really see the words of the document, since I wrote it and knew it pretty well by heart, having the document as an outline for guiding clients through training was a definite plus.  It was really a lot more efficient to have it on my Kindle than it was to be flipping through 20 pages of a document while in a training session.

Text to Speech: In the example of why the lack of backlight (see Cons below) could be a problem, the solution was for me to have her pick the book she wanted to “read” and turn on Text to Speech.  This allowed her to listen to a Japanese Fairy Tale while we continued on to our destination, rather than be bored out of her mind.

Further, last night, when I was cooking dinner, I was able to turn on text to speech and listen to a book I’d been reading while chopping ingredients. That was cool.  I turned a book into an audio book with the click of a button.

Economical: For $136.00, I have more books in my library than I’ll get through in a year. Sure, they aren’t newly published, but they are books I’ve thought about reading at some point, but wasn’t sure if they would be really worth the money; or like with the Home Management category, I’m fascinated how society has changed and what things were important during different generations.  And now, I have the ability to read all this stuff (for a one time only fee of $136.00).

Which brings me to the Cons.  There are very few that I’ve found so far.  I think this first con will end up being an article on its own at a later juncture.

Cost of non-public domain books: This is a two-headed sword, I think.  On the one hand, getting a new book that just came out in hardback for $9.99 is certainly a great benefit. Yet, there are paperbacks that have been out for several decades that are still between $7.99 and upwards of $10.00. So, I’m not really saving any money here when you think about the cost of production between a paperback and a digital file that has no paper, and no real ink.  Now, I understand you still have to pay royalties to publishers and authors, and you still have to pay the people who convert the book to the Kindle format, but it still seems like the cost of production should have gone down.  I’ll be interested to see how this changes (or doesn’t) over time. I still think in this case, a used book store is more economical, if you can wait a few months after a book has been published.

Backlight: There’s no backlight.  While this isn’t really that big of a deal for me on a regular basis, the lack of backlight did come up.  Obviously, a backlight is ideal for reading while your spouse is asleep, being on an airplane and wanting to be courteous to your seat mates by not putting on the ceiling reading light, and probably a whole host of other situations that probably wouldn’t apply to me.  Here’s one that may not have been thought of all:  You’re in the car with a pre-adolescent who hates any length of time spent in the car.  You think you can save the day by whipping out the Kindle and letting her either read or play a game on the Kindle. Except, you are traveling at night and there’s no backlight on the Kindle.

The lack of a backlight is mitigated by the text to speech functionality, but you best remember to bring the earbuds or there may be some agitation between siblings in the back seat.

Alright, those are the pros and cons I’ve found so far with my Kindle.  I completely recognize that not everyone loves the old books, so for some my listed benefits may not be all that exciting. I also realize that not everyone takes notes and highlights.

I’d be interested in hearing what others think about the Kindle or any eReader for that matter.  Whether its pros and/or cons or the future of books in regards to the popularity of digital reading.

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