Thursday, August 19, 2010

Singing the praises of the Amazon Kindle...

I'd like to take a moment and do a "plug" for the Amazon Kindle. It's been about six months since I took delivery and have found it has transformed how and how much I read. As with all things like this, you tend to discover more capabilities the more you use it - and I just discovered a couple of more this week. Amazon has now come out with a third generation that has a wi-fi only model (less expensive) and a wireless 3-G (what you use for your smartphone web connection), as well as Wi-Fi combo model. The second generation only comes with the 3-G connection - which has worked fine for me. All this connectivity is pre-paid as part of the purchase price of the unit.

There are two sizes and I have the smaller of the two. This is more than adequate and is less expensive than the larger model. With all of the traveling I've been doing this summer, I appreciate its small size for its portability - more of an asset in my opinion. I have a cover for mine to protect the screen and it appears as if it a larger, thin paper back in a leather binder. Really classy looking, in my opinion. But what is under the cover could contain up to 1,500 books! The third generation has an even larger capacity. Those of you that travel and like to read, you know how heavy books can be to tote around with you. In mine, right now, I have about 10 books and six months worth of daily New York Times and weekly Economist magazines. Imagine trying to get all that in an overhead compartment!

What a Kindle is amounts to an "e-reader." You can read books, magazines and newspapers (through subscriptions that are automatically delivered wirelessly) and blogs. Books are cheaper versus their hardcover versions - classics printed before 1928 are only $2! Speaking of blogs, last night I discovered that you can actually access this blog through a Kindle! One of the menu options includes a basic browser which allows you to access on-line websites and blogs. Sites with text are the best bets and this blog is mostly that. However, most of the graphics used in the posts do show up. Just be mindful that it is a monochrome display so you won't be seeing color, but if all you are doing is reading text, you don't miss it and enjoy other benefits - like being able to read everything in direct sunlight! You also aren't contributing to the paper waste stream since it's all digital content.

There are other cool things it can do. It automatically saves the last location that you have read in any book or magazine. You can also go to the place that you have read the farthest in any book, newspaper or magazine. You can highlight text and even take notes along with your highlights. Last week, I discovered that you can share these through your twitter and FaceBook accounts - from your Kindle! If you are reading a book which others have done the same thing, you see what they have highlighted and how many have chosen to highlight that particular section of text. It also contains a dictionary that you can browse and look up things on your own, or just move the cursor to a word you are wondering about and its definition appears at the bottom of the page. It also has a search function for any document - something analog materials don't have.

All of your highlighted passages are saved in a file called "My Clippings" and is easily accessible on the same list as your other books. One of the groovy things I found out this week is that you can save .pdf documents to your Kindle through a USB connection to your computer. You just have to drag and drop the document as you would with any mass storage device. I happened to do this with the back up material for the 8/18 City Commission material on the financing for the casino building rehabilitation. You can also send documents to a Kindle e-mail address that is created for you - if you do this there is a charge and some documents require conversion. Transferring pdf documents don't need conversion and are free if you use your own USB connection. Readability of the back-up was okay, but required a zoom in for some of the text - which is easily done by the same control that determines the font size. Yes, if you lose your reading glasses, you can adjust the font size universally so that you can comfortably read it.

Battery life is decent - if you use the wireless a lot to shop for more books, then you are going to use more power. You can turn the wireless off entirely and that saves power too. The new generation supposedly can go without a charge for a month! Mine lasts about a week.

If you read a lot, or wish that you would read more, I would highly recommend it. It makes a great gift to too. Everything is easy to set up and it comes in elegantly simple packaging. You may have to get used to not having the "feel" of a book in your hand, but with the cover, it's about the same thing. Turning the pages by pressing the next page button comes as second nature - there is also a button to go to the previous page. Readability is much like a book and after a while, you forget you a looking at a digital screen. It just looks like printing in a book or newspaper.

If you get one, have one or have any questions, let us know by commenting below. Better living through Kindles!