I have had a Kindle now for several months and have been wanting to spit out some thoughts, helpful tips, and a general review of it. Hopefully this can help someone in a purchasing decision.
What Model to Get?
To start, the model I got was the Kindle 3G + WiFi with Special Offers. Why this one as opposed to the new Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch? First, I wanted a dedicated reader. The Kindle Fire is essentially an Android tablet and I did not want the temptation to check email and goof around with apps. While my model has some rudimentary browsing capabilities, it’s too slow and cumbersome to use as a dedicated browser. So it’s not a temptation. Second, I am looking at computer screens most of my working day and I did not want yet another backlit screen (which the Fire has) to look at. I wanted more a print feel and Kindle’s e-Ink technology does just that. I anticipated reading before bed and studies show that looking at backlit screens (computers, TV’s, smart phones, etc.) can keep your mind running, and I did not want that. Third, I anticipated taking notes and I wanted a keyboard with real keys, not an on-screen keyboard like the Kindle Touch. Fourth, I didn’t want to spend the extra $50 for the ad-free version.
As it turns out, taking notes is not something I do often with my Kindle (explained below) so I probably could have gone with the Touch in this case. The ads are unobtrusive — they act as screen savers, and do not appear in the books. All in all, I am happy with my choice of Kindles. You would want to think about how you intend to use your Kindle before deciding what model to purchase.
What I Like
There is plenty I like about my Kindle. I won’t go over the basic features like menus, connecting to Wi-Fi, searching, etc. I will say that, overall, the user interface is fairly intuitive. I found this article by Nate Bingham especially helpful in learning the capabilities of my Kindle and how to manage its settings.
So I will start with the selection. Honestly, I have not purchased many books for my Kindle — or at least paid more than a couple bucks. There are so many free or low-cost options out there that I find it quite easy to keep myself occupied with reading. Some of the sources that I have found for finding free books are these:
- Amazon free books – I subscribe to an RSS feed on Amazon that notifies me whenever free books pop up in the Christian category. Most of the free books are garbage (and I wouldn’t even call them religious, let alone Christian) but occasionally a good book will pop up. To see what I’m talking about, go here and scroll to the bottom. You will see an “RSS Feed” section; use your favorite RSS reader to subscribe to the Top Free > Christianity feed and you will see free books as they become available in your reader. Other genres have similar feeds.
- Free book collections – Amazon, Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, Open Library, and other sites make classics, public domain, and other books available for free. There are many gems out there, including some Christian classics.
- Desiring God makes PDF versions of many of their books available for free download. You can then deliver them wirelessly to your Kindle.
- I subscribe to Monergism Book‘s email newsletter and, occasionally, they will publicize a free eBook download.
- Many of of the blogs I subscribe to post deals that they have found. Tim Challies, Nate Bingham, and Joe Carter at The Gospel Coalition are some favorites.
- Some time recently (I think) Amazon made available the ability to loan and borrow Kindle books. Turns out that my local library branches integrate their digital library with Amazon. I can browse their library online, put my name in the queue to borrow it (only one “copy” can be checked out at a time), and they send me an email when it’s available. I then “check out” on Amazon. And wa-la — I can read the book on my Kindle for two weeks. When two weeks is over, it automatically removes itself from my device.
- You can also let friends borrow your Kindle books or borrow their’s. This is managed through the Amazon Kindle website. If you borrow a friend’s Kindle book, he will be unable to read it for the time that you have it, just like with a paper book.
Given all of this, I would say I have more than recouped my investment already.
Here are some miscellaneous items that I have liked:
- As I alluded to above, you can read other file types on your Kindle. You can either transfer the file wired from your computer to your Kindle, or wirelessly by sending the file as an email attachment to the Kindle email address that Amazon supplies for you. You can either deliver the raw file or have Amazon auto-convert it to Kindle’s proprietary format (a mobi file). I usually do the latter — it can mess up some of the font formats a little bit, but it makes it more readable. There are a lot of PDF-version books out there on the web. I picked up a biography of Lemuel Haynes and John Owen’s commentaries on Hebrews this way, to name a couple.
- So much easier to travel! When I travel, I am usually packing 3 or 4 books on top of my Bible. When packing light, these books can be cumbersome. Now, if it’s a quick trip, I just have my Kindle — I have two or three Bible versions on it. If it’s a longer trip, I might take my personal Bible and/or a bound book but I’m still packing lighter than I was.
- The Washington Post recently had an article (h/t Challies) stating that e-readers are helping boon a renewed interest in reading. This is certainly true in my case. I have read books I otherwise would not have or have wanted to read but didn’t want to spend the money. For instance, I have read almost all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books (love ‘em!).
- You can view a summary of your highlights and notes either on the Kindle itself or on the Kindle website. It’s a useful thing if you’re trying to find that passage you know you highlighted but can’t remember where it was.
What I’m Not Crazy About
Some of these are gripes; some of these are shortcomings I think one might experience with any e-reader.
- If you are a person who likes to take notes, you will find it cumbersome. I often take notes in the margin of print books but it’s a pain to navigate the Kindle with the directional arrows to the spot to take a note and type it in (switching modes to use alphas or numerics or symbols). In other words, you can’t quickly jot something down.
- If you are doing a group study and others are using the print edition, it’s not easy to be on the same page. Because Kindle’s reading screen is dynamic (you can adjust the print size), your “page” will not match the print “page.” Kindle does have a feature where it matches your page with the print page, but I found it very inconsistent. Someone might say, “I liked this part on page 132.” Everyone flips to page 132 in their print books while I’m pressing buttons to get to the “Go To Page” feature, typing in the page number — and it’s still several pages off. To be fair, my only test subject was one book in my men’s group. I’m not sure if this is a failure on Kindle’s part, or the publisher’s or what — but it was cumbersome in a group study.
- Somewhat related, it’s kind of hard to “track” where you are in the book. There is a progress bar, showing what percentage you’ve completed — but it doesn’t really translate well from a print book where you can “feel” where you are. This goes for the pages, too. You know when reading a print book you kind of take a mental picture where something you read was — where it was in the book, what side of the page, where on the page itself? You lose that in an e-reader. The highlight summary feature makes up for that somewhat but if you like to flip to something, you won’t find a comparable replacement.
Picking a Cover
One last thought on picking a cover. There are a lot of options. You will quickly find that out. My advice is consider how you’re going to use it. I knew that it would need a kick stand because I wanted something that stood up at an angle since I like to read while eating. I didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg. I wanted it to be on the softer side because it gives me a little more confidence that it won’t break if I drop it. I knew I wasn’t going to be storing notepads, pens, and other items with it. So I settled on the JavoEdge Flip Style Case, which I’ve been quite happy with.