I was lucky, earlier this week, to finally get my hands on a lovely new iPhone 4. It is simply the most sophisticated gadget I’ve ever owned – not to mention the most expensive. But while I’m still in the giddy ‘new gadget’ love-in, it certainly won’t take my affections away from the best thing in my bag – the Amazon Kindle.
I bought the WiFi-only version just before Christmas. It was at the time of the massive ad campaign from Amazon – and I’d hazard a guess that there were more Kindle ads than Kindles in London at one point. It worked – curiosity of my fellow commuters meant a lot of “oh… is that a Kindle? How do you find it?” questions on my journeys around the capital. There are less now, I’m assuming that many who’d wondered about the Kindle had got one, or given one, as a holiday gift.
It’s certain that popularity is growing. Indeed, we’re hearing now that in the last three months of 2010, in the US, Amazon sold more e-books than actual paperbacks.
I guess we all have our reasons for liking the device. But here are mine. For the Kindlerati among us, please add your own…
1. It doesn’t do very much
I thought long and hard over whether to shell out the extra few quid and get the 3G version of the Kindle before deciding it wasn’t worth it. I don’t need the internet when I’m reading. If anything, it’s the internet that’s been stopping me reading all these years anyway – a constant distraction, flickery lights that take me away from good old-fashioned literature.
So when people say, “It’s not as good as the iPad, you can’t do much else with it”, I say, “GOOD! That’s the point!”.
Think of it this way: What’s the best book you’ve ever read? Remember how engrossed you were, as if the world could collapse around you and you still wouldn’t notice. Now – imagine missing out on that because you suddenly got distracted by playing a bit of Angry Birds.
Seems crazy to think – but while a device could do a million-and-one things at a time, that’s just a million reasons for you not to read. And for me, the Kindle was about reading. Nothing else.
Nobody has ever criticised a paperback’s inability to send a tweet. So why do people get hung up on a feature-lite device?
2. It’s allowed me to enjoy long-form writing again
Nobody reads anything online. We think we do, but really we read the first few bits of text, skim around, check out the hot pictures (if it’s the Daily Mail…) and move along to something else. That’s not reading.
I guess that theory means you’ve stopped reading this by now, but I’ll trudge on regardless. By using the brilliant Instapaper, I’m able to see something good, interesting and long-form and, rather than stop everything I’m doing right there, I can just click a bookmarklet and send it to my Kindle for reading later. Bliss.
I’m not the only one. LongReads.com is one of a few sites promoting the best long-form writing from around the web. I’m hooked.
3. Project Gutenburg
I can still hardly believes this exists. Project Gutenburg looks pretty naff (if I’m quite honest), but it’s a gateway to a library of some of humankind’s greatest achievements.
The site allows the free download of books in the public domain. Often, this means books which were written so long ago that their copyright has since expired. Selected personal highlights: The Time Machine, Sherlock Holmes and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
Project Gutenberg is the perfect way to – if you’re like me – catch up on all those classics that you really should have read, but never got round to.
Worth pointing out too that Gutenberg books work on all e-readers, and come in a variety of languages. Tasty.
4. I don’t have to be its mother
I’ve had the Kindle for well over a month now, and I’ve charged it, er, twice. And that includes when I first opened it up.
Now bear in mind that in that time I’ve read five books, at least 50 articles and endured two 25-hour flights to and from Australia and you’ll start to have some idea of the juice this little thing can hold.
Being able to not think about gadgets is important for me. Sometimes, with my iPhone, I feel like I’m looking after a small child.
Where a mum would do the customary “do you need a wee wee before we go shopping?”, I constantly need to mentally ask my iPhone: “Are you going to need a little chargey-charge before I go out tonight?”
The Kindle… it just is, you know? It’s in my bag. And if I fancy reading, I can.
5. It doesn’t make me want to puke on the bus
Reading in a moving vehicle makes me want to die. Seriously. I lose all the colour in my face (which, as the Palest Person on Earth, is quite scary) and want to vom.
I’ve asked a few people over time and it turns out I’m not the only one. Now this isn’t a problem if you don’t get driven to lots of places – but for anyone who has experience the No. 25 bus from Tottenham Court Road to Stratford will know, it’s a long and bumpy ride.
Imagine how delighted I was, then, to discover that by bumping up the font size a little, I can eliminate the nausea which previous cursed my boring journeys.