Friday, July 30, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
I am a reader. Mea culpa. As a teenager I found it very useful to be suddenly "somewhere else" at a moment's notice. Bored of living in a small town? Welcome to Paris. Tired of your inane neighbors? Meet my friend Quasimodo. Or maybe Rikki-tikki-tavi.
Reading freed me up that way. So it is no great news flash that reading can be a liberation. It took Amazon to turn it into a trap.
They've come out with a new Kindle Reader for $189. And a WIFI-only version for $139. If I hadn't already paid $400 for the old one, I might have bought it. But that's not the sort of trap I mean. Heck, I've paid thousands of dollars over the years for a series of sorry approximations, looking for a usable E-reader. A Hiebook, a subnotebook, a netbook, various laptops. So I am not afraid to throw money at the problem. It's just that none proved really useful. My objections were technical. Primarily to do with the wretched screens.
My current objections are to the Amazon business treatment of Ebooks. It turns out that a new Ebook generally costs as much as a paperback. And at that price the paperback is simply superior technology. It is easier on the eyes, has greater contrast, is completely portable, very durable, doesn't need batteries, and once you buy it you own it outright. You can lend it out when you finish it. Sell it. Or give it away.
And it is unlikely that any vendor will sneak into your house and steal it back from you.
That is exactly what Amazon did last year. They got into some licensing difficulties with a publisher, and as a result deleted "1984" and "Animal Farm" from the Kindle devices of people who had paid good money for them. Orwell, of all authors. Of course they refunded the money. But they didn't ask permission to take them away half read.
Apparently you don't buy ebooks from Amazon. You just pay to check them out for a time, subject to random seizure. Read fast. Big Brother is watching.
This is old news. You can read about it here:
The Kindle is not properly a reading device at all. It is merely, as one wag put it, "an Amazon Vending Machine".
There are two caveats to this conclusion. For the traveler, there is some utility in a portable book store at desperate moments and in intellectual deserts, where books are not readily available. Rural America is full of places like that. When I was in Harrison, Arkansas, last month, trapped in the motorhome by continuous rain, I went to a nearby Walgreens and asked the clerk if there was a book store in town. "We used to have a Christian book store," she said, "but they went out of business. Have you tried Walmart?"
I suppose when you are faced with questions like that, the Kindle can seem like a Real Good Thing.
But you don't need a Kindle to read Kindle books. There are a number of reading apps Amazon has made available free to suck you into their scheme, including Kindle for PC, Mac, Android, Iphone, Blackberry, etc etc. And here's the best thing of all: these programs allow you to download from the Kindle store, absolutely free, the first chapters of almost any book you might be interested in, and read them on screen.
This is an invaluable aid to figuring out what Treekiller Books you might want to actually buy. Or even obtain at your local library.
So don't waste your time with the Kindle. But check out the free Kindle apps.