Thursday, 15 March 2012


I've been debating whether to get an eBook reader like a Kindle for a while now.  So I was interested to read Jo Walton's blog post on this issue, as it covers some of my concerns.

The reason for wanting one is the convenience of being able to carry multiple books easily.  I had a three day trip to Greece recently (two days mostly travel, one and a bit days in Greece), and nearly ran out of reading material because I took only three books (two fiction, one non-fiction), yet those books were a significant fraction of my luggage weight.

A Kindle would help.  Even so, I was pleased to see in the comments phrases like: "I could take one fully-stocked Kindle and an emergency paperback".  This commenter is clearly sufficiently paranoid not to trust the battery life; good.  The fear of being without reading material is widespread; another commenter said: "it's a comfort to know that if I finish the book I'm reading in line at the post office I won't just have to stand in line at the post office without a book".

Being able to change (increase!) the font size is another advantage, which gets more advantageous as the years go by.

My major concern about eBooks, however, is that I absolutely positively do not want to even entertain the possibility of "losing" a book, either because the seller decides to remove it from the device (yes, something that can happen in this Brave New World, that has such vendors in't!), or because the technology becomes obsolete (hey, I've lived through the appearance and subsequent disappearance of cassette tapes, and pretty nearly by now VHS tapes).  Jo's solution is to buy the eBook when the hardback comes out, then the paperback when it comes out later (sometimes several years later: I feel aggrieved I have to wait this long, despite the fact that my reading backlog is several decades).  This is no more expensive than buying the hardback alone, so is a very reasonable approach (particularly since hardbacks are significantly larger than paperbacks, and the major cost of a book is not its cover price, but the space for storing it, which is why I prefer to buy paperbacks, despite the long publication delay).

However, my main amusement from the post was Jo's indignant reaction to Amazon's bragging about the battery life: the Kindle's battery will last for whole a month if you read for half an hour a day.  She realised she was not in the target market.  Who on earth reads for only half an hour a day?  My backlog isn't decades because of the amount I read; it's because of the amount I buy.  It reminded me of the time I saw a half height bookcase (so about 10 linear feet of bookshelf space, if that) for sale, which had a sign on it proudly proclaiming "ample for all your books".  I just fell about laughing.

1 comment:

  1. I personally thought quite long and hard about these kind of practicalities prior to buying a Kindle - my approach has been to periodically back up my ebooks to more secure persistent storage, and using Calibre to make "plaintext" (not that that exists, in a strict sense!) copies, either in actual utf-8 or HTML. That way my reading material is out of reach of Amazon and is not likely to become unreadable due to changing file formats.

    My main problem with my Kindle is the rather poor PDF support. This is only really a problem when I'm reading research papers - but then, there is no satisfactory electronic alternative for physically scribbling notes!