Santa, Please Bring Me a Kindle

The debate can heat up fast. Will electronic books (i.e., eReaders) replace ink and paper? Opinions of publishers, authors, book retailers, and readers span all camps on the mountain. And because of that, I’m not going to waste your time with my opinion, because to be honest with you, I don’t know the answer. I don’t think anybody does. But if you are considering an eReader, I’ll share my foray into these gadgets.

When eReaders were first coming to market, I was resistant. That is surprising when you understand that, one, I love technology and gadgets, always have. (I’ve spent the last twenty years working in the technology field.) And two, I’ve loved to read since slurping my first bowl of alphabet soup.

So why the resistance, not just from me but many bookophiles? I believe the following reasons explain the love affair between the diehards and the traditional script and tome. It’s okay. You can confide in me. For years I’ve sleazed my way around bookstores and paid good money for the cheap thrill.

It’s the feel of the paper. The heaviness of a hardback. The warm almond color of a well-bound page laced with beautiful typeface. The sounds as you flip through the pages. The smell of a new book fanned just inches from your nose. The energy that went into crafting and printing. The bookmark, sometimes a torn piece of paper and other times a carefully selected companion, reminding you of how far you’ve gone on the journey, and how close you are to that long-awaited moment of literary satisfaction.

And the bookshelf. Ah yes, we cannot forget the bookshelf. That part of your home that so eloquently shows how intellectual you are; your literary bragging rights. And how much time you’ve devoted to the finer things in life while all those lesser non-readers spend their days living vicariously through reality TV celebrities and video games. How can you be esteemed by telling people that you virtually have 3,000 books on your little handheld reading device? As any good writer knows, I want to show (off my bookcase), not tell.Β  πŸ˜‰

So why am I giving in? Why would I sit on Santa’s knee and ask for a Kindle when he might suggest a nice football, or a toy train, or a hardback book? (Santa’s a traditional guy, you know.) Below are five reasons why I’m jumping into the eReader game, followed by my Top 5 reasons for preferring the Amazon Kindle.

5 Reasons Why I Want an eReader

1. eReader technology has matured. I tend to watch from the sidelines when any new technology comes to market. Let others pay exorbitant prices and post reviews for your benefit, then give the manufacturer a chance to fix the problems in the next version, and usually at a lower price. Amazon is on version 3 of its Kindle and it’s much improved over previous versions. (More on its maturity below).

2. It’s handy. I don’t travel much. That fact alone played a huge role in my resistance to eReaders early on. So if I don’t leave home much, why not just read real books at home? I’d bet most of us do get around town more than we realize. We visit coffee shops, go out for lunch, spend hours at practice with our kids, go to the park, etc. I almost always carry a bag full of books and magazines wherever I go. An eReader would sure lighten my load.

3. A cheaper alternative for trying new books and unfamiliar authors. Most new hardbacks that cost $18.99-$24.99 run for $9.99 or less in electronic form. Again, I do love the real thing and do not want to witness the death of traditional print; certain titles and favorite authors will always make their way to my bookshelf. However, maybe you’re interested in a newer author whose work is unfamiliar to you, and maybe the title is not available in libraries. I’d rather spend less on a book to test the waters of a new author, and not have to leave the house. Most eReaders allow you to preview samples before buying, too.

4. Millions of FREE books, and not just for old titles. Any book that is considered public domain (pre-1923) is, for the most part, available in electronic form. I was never into the classics as a young reader, so these days I’m trying to catch up. Why spend even $3.99 on a low-end paperback classic when I can download it for free? Beyond this, many authors and publishers offer limited-time free downloads of their latest works. As a recent example, Abingdon Press offered a free Kindle download of Dr. Richard L. Mabry‘s debut novel, Code Blue, through December 13. I’m all for supporting other writers with a book purchase, but what a gift!

5. eReaders are finally affordable. Most decent eReaders are under $150. Some are even less than $99, but as of this posting date I would avoid the latter–cheap is as cheap does. If you consider all of the free titles available plus the money you’ll save on digital vs. printed books, it won’t take long to break even and your eReader will pay for itself.

Top 5 Reasons Why I’m Choosing the Amazon Kindle 3G

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1. Near book-quality readability (no eye strain). The Kindle uses a technology called “E Ink.” If you’ve never seen it, it’s unbelievable how much it resembles an actual page in a book. Many other eReaders utilize LCD screens, just like your PC flat-screen or laptop. Reading a 300-page novel on a laptop is likely to wear down your eyes from the constant light emissions, and some LCD screens suffer from glare (especially “touch” screens) and are hard to read in sunlight. E Ink technology allows you to read in bright environments, even sunlight.

2. Compact, lightweight, no heat, good battery life. The latest Kindle (version 3) holds 3,500 books, weighs 8.7 ounces, offers a 6 inch reading display (measured diagonally) and is about 1/3 of an inch thin. It’s not quite small enough to fit in your back pocket, but it’s close. The 6 inch screen is about the size of a paperback page, and the fonts can be made larger or smaller to your preference. Unlike a laptop or tablet PC, the Kindle does not get hot in your hand, and a single battery charge lasts up to one month with wireless disabled and ten days with wireless enabled on the 3G model. The non-3G model boasts a three week charge with wireless enabled. Click here to watch a video of Michael Hyatt (CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers) opening his Kindle version 3.

3. Wi-fi and FREE unlimited 3G wireless. All Kindles include built-in Wi-fi for connecting to your home wireless network or Wi-fi hotspots. The Kindle 3G model adds free unlimited access to AT&T’s 3G wireless network for downloading from just about anywhere. I like the 3G feature because although I can load up the Kindle with books before leaving home (using Wi-fi), I can access dynamic information such as leading blogs, newspapers, and magazines from anywhere. If I’m sitting in the doctor’s office, mall, coffee shop, riding shotgun on a long trip, etc., and a Wi-fi hotspot is not available, I’m still connected using the 3G network–again, at no extra charge. Other eReaders either do not offer connectivity beyond Wi-fi or they charge you a fee to use a service such as AT&T 3G.

4. Whispersync network. Amazon maintains a catalog of the Kindle books you own and allows you to read your books on multiple devices. I have Amazon’s free Kindle reader software on my laptop and my Apple iPhone. All of my eBooks are available at any time on those devices. Amazon is also planning a Book Lending option for both Kindle owners and Kindle reader application users. This will allow you to borrow eBooks from your friends and family before you decide to buy it, and vice versa.

5. The price is reasonable for what you get. Today, the low-end Kindle runs $139 (Wi-fi only), and it offers all of the same features as the 3G model minus the 3G. The Kindle 3G runs $189. The high-end Kindle DX runs $379, and the only difference I see with the DX is the larger 9.7 inch screen (measured diagonally).

(6.) Bonus reasons for the Kindle. I like to jot notes in the margins and dog-ear pages I want to remember, particularly with non-fiction. The Kindle has a full QWERTY keyboard and allows you to add notes to the page, place bookmarks, clip passages, look up words in the built-in New Oxford American Dictionary, and even connect wirelessly to Wikipedia. You can then download all of your annotations to your computer. The new Kindle also allows you to post messages to your Facebook and Twitter accounts without leaving the page (very handy for the 3G model). Yes, I know, that could become a distraction from the reading experience, but maybe you want to share a quote or a passage with your friends and followers.

So there you have it. You have seven days until Christmas, and I’m sure Santa is still ringing a bell outside of grocery stores or sitting in an oversized chair at the mall. Or if you don’t believe in Santa, you can still buy one for yourself. πŸ™‚

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Do you own an eReader? If so, which product, and do you like it? If not, are you considering an eReader? If not, why not? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear about it (and others may appreciate your advice).

20 thoughts on “Santa, Please Bring Me a Kindle

  1. … you seem to have left out the fact that some works are not published in large print…. the explanation I have most received from publishers is that some works are too bulky…. I generally look
    in the “large print” section of our local library for titles I want, but sometimes my requests for not available titles are met with “not published in large print”. eReaders allow the patron to access titles not published thus because a font size is an option…. If I can’t get it one way, I have to look for another! Great site, by the way!

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    1. Gramma Sandy, that’s an excellent point, and I’m finding as I get older, I tend to bump up the font size when reading on my Kindle. πŸ™‚ That is definitely a nice feature of going with an eReader.

      Thank you for the comment and for stopping by!

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  2. “literary bragging rights” I can’t deny a bit of guilt regarding that line. I view bookshelves when visiting to see what kind of hosts are having us over for dinner. Can be quite telling. Speaking of the feel of paper, I recently heard Brick, the ten-year-old son on TV’s The Middle, say exactly the same thing. Made me laugh. No tech-readers for me yet.

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  3. @Michelle, thanks for checking out the post. I’ve been right where you are for a while–not quite wanting to make the leap to an eReader but slowly picking out a few benefits in addition to real books. :)If you check out the Amazon Kindle Page and sort a book category from lowest price to highest, you’ll see what I mean.

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  4. I really appreciate all the research you’ve done here, Brock — you ARE a techy guy! That said, I’m not in the market for an e-reader quite yet. I just love regular, old-fashioned books too much (you know that about me already!). Plus, I’m cheap — I typically go to the library first. Then if I really love a book, and must undeline it and dog-ear pages, I purchase it. Now that I’m packing two hardcover books into my suitcase for a trip though, I am having second thoughts. That and the fact that you can indeed get so many free books — I hadn’t know about the pre-1923 clause. I can’t believe you already got $350 in free books for your Kindle — that totally rocks!

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  5. @Dan, thanks for the comment! I’ve yet to meet someone who wants to strictly go digital with books. Like you, I will always love the real thing.But check this out. I’ve already picked out 70 Kindle books that are waiting in my Amazon Whispersync queue. They are all free, and they are all well-known classics. The average price for these books in paperback is about $5. That’s $350 in books! I haven’t even received my Kindle and it’s already paid for itself! That library includes full collections from Jack London, Jules Verne, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Hawthorne, Kipling, Tolstoy…I could go on.

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  6. I love it Brock! The Kindle is pretty near the top of my wishlist right now too. In fact, if I don’t get one fro Christmas, I might just have to go buy one for myself afterwards.This is a great summary of why you’re doing it and the features of the one that you picked.As far as paper books, I still like them, and will probably still want CERTAIN books in print. But I have a lot of books cross my desk, and I’d really prefer to have them not take up the space…

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  7. I was just with a group of moms this afternoon, and we talked about eReaders. It came up because I mentioned that my first book is out of print, but that I have the rights and have been considering releasing it as an eBook. But, I said, “it’s a book for moms, and I don’t think moms read eBooks.””Not yet,” said one of the women without missing a beat.”Good point,” I said. “When they come up with a diaper-bag-friendly design that has a slobber-proof cover, it’ll sell like hotcakes.”Of course, we don’t want kids slobbering on paper books, either. But at least I can toss a book in my purse or bag (I’m way past the diaper-bag stage of parenting, but I write for younger moms) without fear of a cracked screen or lost data.So…I don’t have one and I love print books, but I’m very open to the electronic option as a way to read even more.

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  8. @Jingle, thanks, and Merry Christmas!@Marcus, thanks for the detailed feedback, particularly with the Twitter and Facebook functionality–great point about the one-way direction. I know I would get sucked in if it allowed too much interaction. And if I wanted a handheld device for all that ‘other’ stuff, I’d save up for an iPad (hey wait, I already have a laptop!). πŸ™‚

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  9. The kindle is good. Still a bit half-baked (as much as any ereader) but I’m hopeful to get into the hang of it.I confess I dislike buying every boo I read. I have been an avid library goer and book trader with friends. I forget how often I pass books along.On the other hand, I’m just a cheapskate that way.As for the social media convergence with Twitter and Facebook–I find that component the best of all. When I read, the posting goes in one direction. Which means I can post something while thinking of my FB and TW audience without getting sucked into FB and TW. Hard to explain, but my hat is off to Kindle for respecting the reading experience in that way.

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  10. @L.L., thanks for the feedback on the Kindle. I’m already adding free books to my Amazon account, and Santa hasn’t even arrived yet! πŸ™‚ And good to hear about your Kindle sales. It will be interesting to see if that ratio increases over the next few years.@Michael, thanks for the comment. Glad to hear you like your Kindle. Although I still love real books, I think the convenience and features of the Kindle will grow on me. I see it as another avenue to read, not a replacement for traditional print.

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  11. I was going to get one after Christmas, but I had a Kindle DX given to me as a gift back in October. I too read like crazy. My wife likes it because of the book shelf situation and I like it because of the portability. I like to read 2-3 books at a time so this really helps. Also the money factor. You nailed it regarding the $9.99 per new book. But I’ve also found that many new authors publish stuff in eformat any way. And are more than willing to see for less than that or even for free if you give them honest feedback. I think they are totally worth it.

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  12. I bought a Kindle for my husband last year. He’s a big traveler and train commuter, and it’s really handy for both situations.And as for book sales, I know that my current book sells about 3 Kindle copies for every 10 print copies. That’s pretty rigorous e-sales imho. πŸ™‚ I wish the publisher for my first book would take note and put that one on Kindle. πŸ™‚

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  13. @Dr. Mabry, thanks for stopping by and for the comment.I’ll say this for any commenters that follow–check out Dr. Mabry’s blog for an interesting read about negative book reviews just because a book is labeled “Christian” fiction. That’s like me saying I didn’t like Stephen King’s “The Shining” because it’s a “thriller/horror.” Forget how good the writing is. Why would I even read it, let alone post a negative review?

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  14. Brock, Thanks for using Code Blue’s time as a free Kindle download as an example. Making a book available for free has good and bad effects. The good is that it makes people aware of the author’s work, and as a result I’ve seen a lot of paid sales following. The bad, and a side effect I and other authors of Christian fiction have experienced, was a spate of negative reviews by people disappointed when they discovered they’d acquired “Christian fiction.” But then again, it takes all kinds.I don’t have a Kindle, but I’m hoping for one. Maybe if Santa realizes I’ve been a really good boy…

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