The Dim-Post

April 5, 2014

Brief thoughts on the Kindle

Filed under: books — danylmc @ 8:23 am

I bought a Kindle Paperwhite2 a couple of months ago. Not because I desperately wanted a superior technology to read books with – plain old paper books always seemed fine to me – but because I had too many of the damn things and didn’t have anywhere to put new ones.

  • I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the experience of reading on the eBook. The screen is not back-lit, so it doesn’t strain my eyes. I can read in full sunlight. It’s lighter than most books. I never lose what page I’m on, and there are fewer words on any given page so I never spend time finding my place. I think I’m a convert.
  • But the big impact has been on the way I buy books. Previously I’d find myself in a bookstore, see a couple of books I wanted and buy them, but depending on the book I only had about a 50% chance of reading them. I’d put ’em on my bedside table and finish what I was currently reading, and maybe I’d read one of those books next – but maybe something way more interesting would come along, and those two books would sit on the table for a while until they were purged in a spring-clean and relegated to a bookshelf in the spare room. I like to think I’ve read ~60% of all the books I own but that might be optimistic.
  • The Kindle changes that, because I don’t need to ‘stock up’ anymore. Buying a new book and having it delivered only takes about thirty seconds, so when I buy a new book its on the basis that I’ve finished what I was reading and I’m going to move onto the next one right now. The eBooks themselves are marginally cheaper but the real saving is that I don’t impulse buy.
  • Which – if my behavior is normal – is probably bad news for the publishing industry.



  1. This post bought to you by the year 2008!

    Comment by kalvarnsen — April 5, 2014 @ 8:28 am

  2. Echoes my experience. So yeah, my behaviour is normal as well. I’ve consciously made myself buy at least one book per quarter from Unity or Jason’s.

    Comment by Christopher — April 5, 2014 @ 8:41 am

  3. Only problem is that books always belong to Amazon. If at anytime they wish all you books will disappear.
    Oh and you can only read the books yourself whereas real books you can lend to people

    Comment by Ron — April 5, 2014 @ 9:10 am

  4. Oh and you can only read the books yourself whereas real books you can lend to people

    Or, “lend” to people and then forget about it while the moochers don’t get around to giving it back, so that in a year’s time you go looking for your copy on your bookshelf and get more and more frustrated because you can’t find it because you’re sure you own it and so you end up buying another copy, only to go around to the original lendee’s house and see your copy there and so you finally remember lending it and now you have two copies.

    At least, that’s how it works with me.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — April 5, 2014 @ 9:42 am

  5. I’ve always disliked the ebook experience.

    That’s despite having written about technology for more than 30 years. Or possibly because all that experience with technology means I’m less taken in and have become cynical about ‘buying’ books that still belong to someone else.

    Either way, my reluctance is about to change because my eyesight has deteriorated to the point where I need big print – something ebooks do well.

    For me the ideal would be a deal like you sometimes get when you buy physical CDs and the digital music is thrown in for free. If I could buy ebooks that way I’d be there in a flash.

    Comment by Bill Bennett — April 5, 2014 @ 10:43 am

  6. If your behaviour is normal, then mine is definitely not. I bought a Kobo from Whitcoulls almost 4 years ago, and the only paper books I’ve bought since then have been ‘coffee-table’ books or reference books which don’t render well on e-readers. Currently I use a Kindle Paperwhite as the main reader.

    Several things have changed my behaviour through the years.

    With both EPUB and MOBI/AZW readers it is practical to be able to convert between them. The library manager Calibre has been a big help, especially in conjunction with a set of tools maintained by Apprentice Alf (Google is your friend).

    The coupons that the Kobo shop issues, with discounts up to 90% on their standard prices, make it difficult not to build up a library of unread books. Similarly with specials from Amazon, who often offer free or heavily discounted books. Currently my library consists of about 300 books, of which just over half are currently unread.

    The forums at are of continuing interest, both for notification of specials and Kobo coupons as well as general discussions.

    The online shop is a good source for NZ e-books, including (plug) your own.

    Some books you can lend to others, provided they also have a Kindle reader. In the Product Details section of the Amazon book description you will find whether lending is enabled or not.

    Comment by artig — April 5, 2014 @ 10:47 am

  7. I actually don’t mind lent books that never return to me.. spread the love etc.. I think I’m on my 5th copy of Catch 22.

    Comment by Rob — April 5, 2014 @ 11:09 am

  8. Hey I’ve got an idea let’s use this thread to talk about how much we love books and how many books we own.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — April 5, 2014 @ 11:12 am

  9. Hate to say it (Not) but I use the Public Library a lot. 10 minutes by foot. Great range of books. Very cheap. Use ’em or loose ’em. Though recently I was invited to live in a foreign non-English speaking country which has no libraries. Disaster!
    Maybe a Kindle thing would be OK after all.

    Comment by xianmac — April 5, 2014 @ 11:29 am

  10. I’ve slowly moved to digital. Started with reading more and more material on my iphone then got given an ipad 2 which is much more comfortable. And now looking at an airpad.

    When I’m away from home it’s just so great to have a selection of things to read and then to be able to access new material just about anywhere. At the moment the bookshops closeby have a limited selection.

    Comment by NeilM — April 5, 2014 @ 11:34 am

  11. “… so that in a year’s time… …only to go around to the original lendee’s house…”

    In Auckland, no one lives in the same house for 12 months, and we use books primarily as a cheap form of insulation in our renovations.

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 5, 2014 @ 11:41 am

  12. Hate to say it (Not) but I use the Public Library a lot. 10 minutes by foot. Great range of books. Very cheap. Use ‘em or loose ‘em. Though recently I was invited to live in a foreign non-English speaking country which has no libraries. Disaster!
    Maybe a Kindle thing would be OK after all.

    Kindle deliberately doesn’t handle the epub format favoured by public libraries. It’s the Rodney Hide of ereaders. I understand that it can be legally jailbroken, but it’s apparently not for the faint of heart.

    Comment by Joe W — April 5, 2014 @ 11:49 am

  13. Now reading mostly on my iPad via kindle via Amazon. Also have used the public libraries ebook service. Brilliant.

    Comment by northshoreguynz — April 5, 2014 @ 12:17 pm

  14. I was skeptical about the e-reader at first, expected the page turning flash to be annoying, but now you’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead body.
    Not using Amazon to buy books though. Don’t like their control over the device and have WIFI turned off. I’ve bought a few books from shops like dieselbooks (now defunct), but mostly I get them from Wellington City Library’s ebook collection.
    As someone pointed out the books are in epub, which the kindle can’t display but there is conversion software available (no need to jailbreak the device). I use Calibre to convert epub to mobi. Less convenient than buying through the Amazon shop I am sure, but works fine and is totally worth it to me.

    I love real books (have a few thousand around me), but I no longer see the point in having everything in paper form, given that most books I read only once (maybe once every few years). Seems such a waste. Now I only buy paper books where the physical nature enhances the reading experience in some way.

    Comment by diessoli — April 5, 2014 @ 2:50 pm

  15. I use Calibre to convert epub to mobi. Less convenient than buying through the Amazon shop I am sure, but works fine and is totally worth it to me.

    Calibre is great for the many things it does well, though its PDF to ebook conversion is hopeless. With the easily added plugins it converts Word docs to readable ebooks for my Kobo reader, though it takes a while. While I haven’t any need for it there’s a DRM removal plugin for Kindle that looks like a handy feature for Amazon users.

    Comment by Joe W — April 5, 2014 @ 3:25 pm

  16. AGree withothers: Kindle is great for novels, but real, often glossy, books for everything else. I hardy use my kindle, though, as I have the kindle app on my phone, so always have my book with me. You can read your book on both: if you switch the wireless on, on yr kindle, they sync. And if you turn the wireless off, you can let yr wife read the same book as you: she can go back to the start and as long as you don’t turn the wireless on, it won’t sync, so you can both be on different pages, even different books. But that’s all a bit unnecessarily Scottish for most people.
    And with your phone/tablet, you can use other format ereader apps, so giving you access to all the free books that you can’t find amongst the kindle books. (The feature that allows you to simply email a mobi to your kindle account is brilliant, what an easy way to get those books that amazon don’t carry.)

    “probably bad news for the publishing industry.”
    Surely the printing, shipping and book retailing industries?

    My mum bought a Sony ereader. What a pain in the arse having to have a computer and all that adobe rights management stuff. She’s never used it…

    Comment by Clunking Fist — April 5, 2014 @ 4:59 pm

  17. I’m amazed how quickly this comment thread turned into geeky mode. On a less technology-focused note, I guess ebooks have completely done for text books, manuals and specialist non-fiction.. I purchased a number of books on journalism to read on my iPad. I’m particularly impressed with one on-line bookshop which provides regular updates of a guide to web scraping. Now that’s something you can’t easily do with paper.

    Comment by Bill Bennett — April 5, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

  18. I’ve been reading ebooks since at least 2000. On PDAs at first, then on smartphone. Sometimes on tablet, but I just have my phone with me more.

    Still yet to buy an e-book. I only installed Kindle for a textbook that couldn’t be attained in any other format, and it was just horrible to use compared to reading a PDF.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — April 5, 2014 @ 5:48 pm

  19. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the experience of reading on the eBook. The screen is not back-lit, so it doesn’t strain my eyes. I can read in full sunlight.

    That’s what sold me. While Bill Bennett may have experienced a touch of the vapours at the perceived geekery of the likes of me, I’m surprised that most comments so far are about reading on regular backlit devices.

    My mum bought a Sony ereader.

    Sony appears to have given up on ereaders. Right now it seems to be down to Kindle or Kobo for dedicated single-purpose gadgets.

    Comment by Joe W — April 5, 2014 @ 6:22 pm

  20. I think you mean bad news for the paper-based publishing industry. E-books need publishing as well.

    Comment by cphowe — April 5, 2014 @ 8:01 pm

  21. I also like my kindle for reading convenience, especially for novels and not needing to carry around a big book everywhere. That’s a big convenience and enough for me to use it, but it’s about the end of what I like about it.

    With Amazon’s licensing model, it’s also sucky not being able to throw books at people without being able to loan the entire bookshelf. Amazon makes a big deal of how you can digitally “loan” a book x number of times as long as the publisher flags it as being allowed, but I’ve yet to see a book where the publisher actually authorises this and even when they do, Amazon convolutes the process so much with its own DRM restrictions. So my next ereader almost certainly won’t be a Kindle, but I hate the idea of still being tied to Amazon’s hardware and service simply to read or re-read books I’ve already paid for. Even if I can figure out how to convert them to something nicer like epub, 99% of people won’t, which is probably what Amazon wants.

    Mostly I’m just finding it curious how the book model is finally changing from ownership to licensing, complete with aggressive DRM that never existed with dead tree books, and a small number of middle-man global mega-publishers (like Amazon, Google, Apple) now taking a slice of so many sales globally. Getting rid of the first-sale doctrine with books is something publishers have wanted to do for a hundred years or more, and once a critical mass is hit there will almost certainly be books that are never officially released beyond a DRM’d ebook format. Somehow that doesn’t seem quite right to me, but I guess it’s the way stuff’s going.

    Comment by izogi — April 6, 2014 @ 12:00 am

  22. Because I am so tight last time I dropped 10 cents it hit me in the back of the head when I bent down to pick it up it will be a while till I buy a kindle or similar. Wellington does have some awesome secondhand book fairs though, the one in Ngaio yesterday was great and theres a huge one coming up on the waterfront . Failing that Rainbow books in Pukerua bay has a amazing selection of reasonably priced books if you’re too tight to buy new-like me.

    Comment by Del Griffith — April 6, 2014 @ 7:59 am

  23. Del, there are a lot of free and near-free ebooks available. If you’ve already bought a tablet or smart phone, you”ll likely have an ereader app already installed, if not, they are usually free, incl the kindle app.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — April 6, 2014 @ 2:55 pm

  24. Clunking Fist, cheers for that.

    Comment by Del Griffith — April 6, 2014 @ 3:34 pm

  25. I bought a Sony ereader last year on the basis that I wanted one, but Amazon are evil, so it was either Sony or kobo. The whole of project Gutenberg, essentially the entire canon of precopyright literature, is available free. That’s enough to keep me going for quite a while. If you never actually paid for a book on the device (and I’ve only paid for two over the course of a year), being a convenient ereader for project Gutenberg would justify the price of the gadget.

    Comment by Dr Foster — April 6, 2014 @ 9:30 pm

  26. I mainly use a tablet running Aldiko as the ereader software which works fine for me although my reading time is reasonably limited these days.

    Comment by bart — April 7, 2014 @ 3:02 am

  27. When I first flew from NZ to the UK I had 5 paperback books in my carry-on, and when I got there I dumped them and bought 5 more for the return journey.
    Now I just use my kindle. It’s much lighter and convenient than finding places to stash all those paperbacks in the seat back in front of me. I still buy paper books, and use the library, when I’m in Wellington, but for travel, the e-book reader of choice can’t be beat.

    Comment by MarcoK — April 7, 2014 @ 8:40 am

  28. You still need one paperback if you fly as often you’re not allowed to have the e-reader on until granted permission by the crew and I’ve been on flights where they’ve taken 1/2 hour + to do this and the air waitresses enforce this even when it’s obvious we’re well underway. If flying domestically about 1/3rd of an Auckland/Wellington flight seems to be deviceless. Kobo can also remotely loan books from the library – great feature. Kindle does not appear to be supported.

    Comment by slijmbal — April 7, 2014 @ 11:51 am

  29. 20. I think you mean bad news for the paper-based publishing industry. E-books need publishing as well.

    Comment by cphowe — April 5, 2014 @ 8:01 pm

    My brother the typesetter is being kept very busy reformatting existing books and new books for e-publication.

    Comment by MeToo — April 7, 2014 @ 12:51 pm

  30. While we’re on the topic, if I’m looking for a replacement eReader some day, are there any good (legal) options for getting modern books without DRM that ties you to the seller and doesn’t give you and control except an ability to read it on their terms? Is it only Amazon which does this, or is it everyone?

    Comment by izogi — April 7, 2014 @ 2:06 pm

  31. Is it only Amazon which does this, or is it everyone?

    I think Kobo – originally a Canadian company but now Japanese owned – is the only other major ebook-seller that also markets ereaders. While the ability to easily ‘side load’ the widely used mostly DRM free epub format tipped me into buying a Kobo, in practice their bookstore is not much better than Amazon. There appears to be no way to tell for sure if an ebook from the Kobo store is DRM protected or not until you’ve downloaded it. Even Kobo don’t appear to know in some cases. Using the freeware Calibre to manage and strip books of the occasional DRM is less restrictive than using Kobo’s own software. Apart from firmware upgrades that’s mostly about trying to sell you books. I guess the same applies to Kindle if you wish to minimize your dependence on Amazon.

    The trick would seem to be to bookmark a bunch of online sellers committed to supplying only DRM free titles. None will have anything close to the range of Amazon’s catalog, but between them you should find most of what you’re after. Mebooks, for example, has a really comprehensive range of NZ titles and a very straight up & down no DRM policy.

    BTW there are already ebooks that have dropped out of publishers’ catalogs for no apparent reason. Once they were available, but no longer. Finding a paper copy can sometimes be much easier than scrounging online.

    Comment by Joe W — April 7, 2014 @ 5:26 pm

  32. If the pork barrel had lost weight, she has most certainly found it again.

    Comment by f dx — April 10, 2014 @ 9:04 am

  33. I found ebooks on the iPad to be liberating when you travel. If I am going to be away for a week or more I used to lug at least four books along with me. eBooks changed all that. I have a brother offshore and we have found a way to share libraries, which greatly expand the range of books available. Having said all that there is still nothing like the pleasure of sitting down with a good book in hand!

    Comment by Pete — April 11, 2014 @ 3:49 pm

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