Dec 28, 2011

[Gadgets] The Year I Became A Kindle Advocate

Earlier this year I became the proud owner of an Amazon Kindle, the Kindle Keyboard nee Kindle 3 and I have to admit it has pretty much changed my life as a reader. I know that seems like excessively high praise, especially coming from a guy who is part of the Amazon Associates program (hello full disclosure!), but I really do believe in this product a heck of a lot. After all, I am writing a follow-up post despite already having written a full review for the device.

The main inspiration for this post has more to do with a recent string of status message updates from fellow bibliophile friends of mine about having received their own Kindles as Christmas gifts and the like and me sort of wanting to celebrate along with them. I remember how it felt like when I first had the device in my hands for the first time and started exploring what I could do with this ingenious little device.

Now one of the usual questions I get time and time again is how the Kindle stacks up against full-featured tablets like the iPad or the Samsung Galaxy tab. And my typical answer has been this - it does't. Comparing the two in that manner is just an apples and oranges kind of comparison that just doesn't make sense. People who buy iPads are after a certain degree of diversity of functions and perhaps a subscription to the Apple design philosophy. People who look for Android-powered tabs like the Galaxy want a greater amount of customization options and freedom to tinker.

What we always need to remember is that the Kindle is about reading books, first and foremost. And that sole function is what it does best.

What will always set the primary Kindle line (not counting the new Fire) from other tablets is the ease that an E-Ink display provides for the serious reader. I never fully appreciated the strain caused by a backlit LED display until I got around to spending more and more time with my Kindle. Sure, I could read ebooks just as easily on my computer with my Kindle for PC application (which was sort of my testing ground before I found the nerve to buy the device itself), but it gets tiring, as is especially the case for spending prolonged periods of time in facing a computer screen. Thus in that regard computer-based or LED-screen based reading will never fully replace the experience of reading a book.

And yes, I also acknowledge that the same technology that makes E-Ink so easy on the eyes and readable in direct sunlight is the same limitation that prevents you from reading books on a Kindle without a light source. And I'm totally fine with that since there are some great cases with built-in lights that are available for purchase and we really ought to cut down on reading in the dark anyway. There's been a lot articles published that our continued use of technology (especially computers and smart phones) has also contributed to increased insomnia for many people and a lot of advice columns recommend that one should avoid being in front of a computer screen at least 2 hours before trying to go to bed. So the Kindle sort of fits that philosophy.

And thus that's the key measure where the Kindle does so well and thus becomes instantly essential for any reader. I know it sounds like a cheesy line that belongs in some commercial, but it really does feel like reading a book! Plus since you can control the size of the text and the line spacing for the pages, you get to customize the book to a degree that works for you and thus allows you to read a lot faster versus a static text that you have no choice but to squint along with the smaller font or feel insulted by the child-friendly text. You know how that goes, right?

Plus I've become quite the fan of the single-click page turning options that were integrated in a manner that feels natural for me as a user. While my experience is primarily focused on my Kindle 3 and my mother's Kindle 2, in both cases the next page and previous page buttons at the side have been easy to use and quite convenient. While I still love owning paper books, there's something to be said about how much less effort it takes to work through a book when you just need to nudge a finger to get to the next page. So many features of the Kindle have contributed to me reading a lot faster than before and achieving my goal of reading over 100 titles for this year alone - which seems sort of insane when I think about it!

Of course buying into the Kindle mindset means buying into the Amazon marketplace and all the pros and cons that comes with. Amazon does make it devilishly easy to buy new books and things like the Kindle Daily Deal present some really tempting offers that become too hard to ignore. When books reach the point of micro-payments, it can get pretty dangerous for your credit card, to say the least.

There are other ways of supplementing your library, of course. While one can always search the web for digital copies of popular books, there are also creative online sellers who sell good quality ebooks at a fraction of the cost. Or there are Kindle sharing communities like Lendle that help connect Kindle-lovers with one another to lend books they've already purchased (provided lending is enabled for the book of course).

On a final note though, I also don't see ebooks totally replacing paper books anytime soon. If anything, there are books that I initially had solely on the Kindle that were so good that I wanted to have a physical copy. In that sense, I suppose I'm too much of a collector / pack rat which a heavy emphasis on the nostalgia factor one can associate with actually having the book in your hands, or whatever you want to call it. But beyond that it'll really expand your reading options and  it gives you the power of having pretty much having a generous library with you no matter where you go. Such an amazing device for that purpose alone, seriously.

So thank you Amazon for creating this fabulous device, which is officially the first gadget that I've ever been this excited / enamored about - enough for me to constantly recommend it to fellow readers in the hopes that they'll get to experience the same joy and fulfillment that I do.

And again congratulations to my new Kindle-enabled friends! Welcome to the Kindle club, haha!

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