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On Kindles and Ebooks

Posted by Tara in Books

I’ve been using my brand spankin’ new Kindle for a little over a week now, so I figure it’s time to share my thoughts on it.

Why I didn’t (and then did) want an ebook reader

The whole concept of ebooks made me nervous. Since before I can remember, I’ve always loved books and I was an avid reader in my youth, so the idea that physical books could go away was scary, not to mention that it was also scary to see that Amazon can remove books from users’ Kindles (although I appreciated the irony that they were erasing copies of 1984 and Animal Farm). The technology also felt too new to be proven out and I didn’t want to get stuck with the latest incarnation of the Betamax or laser disc player.

Unfortunately, my body didn’t really care about any of the issues I had with ebook readers. Reading very long books like Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell became both difficult and painful because it hurt my hands and wrists to hold the book open. Not only that, but sometimes even reading books with small type would become a chore because it would hurt my eyes to read for longer than half an hour or so. There had to be a better way or I was going to have to switch to audiobooks or give up reading for good.

Which ebook reader to get?

In November I finally came around to the idea of buying an ebook reader since I’d rather be able to read easily than wait for the technology to prove out. But with a host of options available, how’s a person to choose?

I approached one of my awesome cousins who has a Kobo to see what she thinks of it and she pointed me in the direction of this article. That narrowed it down to four choices:

1. iPad

The iPad is great for many reasons, and when it comes to ebook reading there are some great options. You can download the Kindle app to read ebooks that you can buy through Amazon.com or you can read EPUB files that you can borrow for free from the public library or buy from any number of sites that sells them. I immediately crossed the iPad off my list, however, for three reasons: it’s much more expensive than any other ebook reader, it’s backlit so it won’t help with preventing eyestrain on marathon reading sessions, and I wouldn’t want to get an iPad until at least the second generation (we all know there will be some pretty amazing bells and whistles on the next one since it’s only out in its first generation right now).

2. Sony Reader PRS-650

Redditors seemed to like this one better than the Kobo, but with its $250 pricetag, I didn’t look too much into this one (although it does look pretty and if someone were to give me one, I’d probably use it).

3. Kobo

This is the ebook reader that Chapters sells here in Canada. It also supports EPUB files and it comes in at a much more reasonably priced $149. Some people on reddit advised that it’s not the best ereader if usability matters to you, so between that and the fact that I haven’t been a library patron since I was in gradeschool, this didn’t make the cut for me. I will say, however, that it was a close second.

4. Amazon Kindle

I ultimately opted for the 6″ wifi Amazon Kindle. After doing lots of reading on reddit and elsewhere, I saw that it’s the most usable, the fastest, and the most fun to use out of the dedicted ebook readers. The big strike against it was the lack of EPUB support (motivated by Amazon’s clear interest in users buying from them, not borrowing from libraries or buying from other sellers), but because I don’t go to the library and buy around 85% of my books from Amazon anyway, it was a no-brainer for me. Despite the occasional cock-up like the Orwell issue or the recent Macmillan fiasco, I’m loyal to the Amazon brand because I’ve always had excellent customer service from them.

That said, I’ve been recommending Kobos to other people if I think it fits their needs better than the Kindle.

The verdict

I love my Kindle. It’s very easy to use and reading on it feels surprisingly natural. I’m finding myself reading for a few hours at a time, which is something I haven’t done for ages. It’s also great for reading a few minutes at a time, and because it’s small and light, it’s very easy to take anywhere with me.

The other thing I’ve seen in the time since I’ve had it is that ebook reading doesn’t need to be an all or nothing thing. Having a reader doesn’t mean I’m done with physical books. There are some books I’ll be buying twice because I’ll want a copy to loan out, and if I find a beautiful rare book that I both want and can afford, I’ll be buying that too. The Kindle just happens to be my reading device of choice at the moment, and I’m excited to see what the next step in technology will bring.

Do you have any thoughts on ebook readers? Let me know in the comments because I’m dying to discuss.

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