Readers of my blog may be interested to hear reports of my experiences with the Kindle e-reader. I purchased the device yesterday. The one I purchased was the “Wi-fi” model, on the grounds that I would not often need or want to download content while in transit.
Generally speaking, there has been one overwhelmingly pleasant surprise and some minor disappointments. The overwhelmingly pleasant surprise has to do with the amount of free content available for the Kindle through http://openlibrary.org/subjects/accessible_book
Here are some titles that I have downloaded at no charge in my first day of Kindle ownership:
Austen, Jane: Pride and Prejudice
Eliot, George: Middlemarch
Gibbon, Edward: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 4
James, William: The Varieties of Religious Experience
Knight, Frank H.: Risk, Uncertainty and Profit
Proust, Marcel: Du côté de chez Swann
Swift, Jonathan: Gulliver’s Travels
Whitehead, Alfred North: The Concept of Nature
It appears that many titles are available for Kindle download but are, in practice, barely legible. Examples are the “Essais” of Montaigne in French and Durkheim’s “Les règles de la méthode sociologique.” These downloads produced too many illegible characters. Both works are probably available in English translation Kindle editions that are legible. It does not appear that the Kindle supports reading texts in Greek. The quality of the open-source Kindle editions varies considerably, and many of the scans contain heavy underlining. Users are advised to view the prospective download in the online reader at openlibrary.org prior to download. Some books, e.g. James’s “Varieties of Religious Experience,” are available in several Kindle-formatted editions, and it looked to me as though the 6th impression of the Longmans edition provided the most readable print combined with relatively little markup of the text.
I originally purchased the Kindle primarily in order to be able to purchase trade books at reduced prices. The first book of this sort I purchased was “Freefall” by Joseph Stiglitz. It appears to me that, if I am at home, I would normally prefer to read a book formatted for Kindle on my PC – the Kindle device itself is mainly for being in transit or perhaps for reading in bed. (I believe that Nicholson Baker reported being very pleased with the Kindle for that purpose.) But I suspect that I will also be repairing from the computer at a desk to a more comfortable sofa and using the Kindle there.
The true Kindle devoté might want to wear the device around his neck, in order not to lose it.
In practice, it appears that one can accumulate a large and exceedingly rich library of works that are out of copyright on the Kindle. It may be too much to hope that Amazon would support the reading of Greek, Russian, Hebrew, etc. in future versions of the device. It would be nice to think that millions of readers will be availing themselves of the opportunity to read classic works on their Kindles.
In future posts, I may report on the ergonomic and technical features and flaws of the Kindle. My initial reaction is that this is a wonderful waystation along the road of the digitalization of human culture.