I Bought a Kindle!

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point technology left me behind. I still can’t play those first-person video games without getting dizzy and confused. On those rare occasions when I want to record a television program, I use videotape. I despise cell phones, though I do begrudgingly admit they have their uses. (During my recent trip to New Orleans I sent my very first text message!) I still buy CD’s from time to time.

And ever since I started reading articles about the demise of print books, I have been doing my part to keep the industry afloat. This is partly because I love books and love to read. But it’s also because, now that I am writing books myself, I want an actual physical product at the end of the process. Something I can hold and put on my shelf and gaze at and pet and caress and show to my cat.

The problem is that I am drowning in books. Simple as that. Something had to be done.

So I finally went over to the dark side and bought a Kindle. I didn’t actually do any market research to try to decide between the Kindle and the Nook and whatever the hell else is out there. Everyone I know with a Kindle likes it and that was good enough for me. Also, at $140 they’re not terribly expensive. Given the number of books I buy I suspect it will pay for itself pretty quickly.

I will almost certainly be buying more books now that I have a Kindle. The thought of having to find shelf space for print books has been one of the main things restraining me from buying even more than I do. I suspect it promotes faster reading, too. With a print book you measure things in pages, which can be formidable if the print is small. But now I will be measuring things in screens, and you can always plow through a few more of them.

Does anyone know if there’s a way of creating folders and directories? For example, maybe I’ll want to put my fiction in one folder and my non-fiction in another. It won’t be long before I have a pretty long list of downloads, and I fear it will become annoying if I have to scroll through the whole list to find what I want. I’ve only gone through a small part of the instruction manual so far. I also have to keep reminding myself that it’s not a touch screen. I keep trying to select things by putting my finger on them.

The first book I downloaded? Take a wild guess.


  1. #1 Gerry L
    January 19, 2011

    I guessed. And I was right.

    I tried out my brother’s Kindle while visitng him during Thanksgiving to see how I felt about reading from a device. (He has the Kindle DX.) Found I could get into it. But I bought the NookColor instead. I would have preferred a Kindle because of the price and the battery life. The deal killer, though, was that the Kindle doesn’t work with ebooks from the library. Now that I have my Nook — and I’m liking it — what do you want to bet that Amazon will soon announce that their digital rights management system will now be accessible to the library ebook program.

  2. #2 That Guy Montag
    January 19, 2011

    My Kindle was an unwanted Christmas present that very quickly wormed its way into my heart. My problem for a long time was less the lack of shelf space more the whole, “I’m a student and I’m probably going to have to move again some time in the next year or so anyway” so not having to buy the physical book means I’m reading more than I have in a long time. As someone who practically grew up in second hand book shops though I am going to miss the smell.

    I will say the folder system is a bit primative. You can organise the books into collection, just press the menu button, but pretty much all of it seems to remain in the one big list. It’s pretty searchable though so that’s not too much of a problem, more about a change in culture.

  3. #3 Mark
    January 19, 2011

    For organising your groups outside the Kindle’s clunky interface try the Kindle Collection Manager.


  4. #4 NewEnglandBob
    January 19, 2011

    I just got my Kindle yesterday. As Mark says, setting up collections is as close as you can get to directories.

  5. #5 Stephen Lucas
    January 19, 2011

    You know, Jason, there are some technology choices that aren’t that automatic. I still buy CDs — much of the time the physical disk is cheaper than the download, and I get to choose what bitrate to rip it at. And there are still plenty of us who still, gasp, use stereos with CD players. Videotapes are always easier to record on than DVDs, and most of us don’t have a dedicated living room PC with a TB+ drive to store live recordings. They do get awfully big.

    The Kindle will be great for straight text, but terrible for anything else. I challenge you to read your Monty Hall book on a Kindle, it will send you back to paper. Collections will work, another option that might work is don’t store everything on your Kindle, keep the majority on your PC and only have relatively few on hand.

    An of course, Project Gutenberg has more older fiction than you can read in years. Check it out!

  6. #6 Jon D
    January 19, 2011

    My mouse pointer was hovering over the checkout button in Amazon last night; I decided to wait until payday to buy my Kindle, even though the funds are there now. It will give me a few extra days to make sure that I really want to make the transition

    I’m an avid traveller and emigrator, so my ever-growing book collection is becoming quite a problem. 5 years ago my entire life fitted into one suitcase and a carry-on bag. Now every flat surface in my house is covered with books!

    I’m actually quite looking forward to going through them all, taking out the ones I know I wont be reading or referring to again and getting them down to the second hand bookstore. I think it’ll be quite therapeutic

  7. #7 Dunc
    January 19, 2011

    I’ve been working in IT long enough to appreciate the value of non-volatile human-readable media. Data that I really care about still gets written down on paper.

    As for the moment when technology leaves you behind, I think for me it was the moment I took a new 16GB microSD card out of its packaging (~20GBP and the size of a fingernail), and remembered my first RAM upgrade – 16KB in a box the size of a pack of cigarettes, that cost about as much as my brother’s first car.

  8. #8 Meg
    January 19, 2011

    I got a Kindle about 4/5 months ago and to confirm an earlier comment, “collections” is how you organize the books. I still haunt our local library for fiction books, but a lot I read they don’t carry and so not completely buring our house in books is very handy.

  9. #9 Jake
    January 19, 2011

    I love my books and when I gave over 1,000 away so that I could fit my life into two suitcases and go abroad for an undetermined amount of time, I felt like I was betraying a friend.

    I’m living in England now in a tiny cottage that doesn’t have room to cater to my love for books. So, in November, I decided to get a Kindle. I love it. I find myself trying to turn pages and yes, I do try to touch the screen at times. My answer to organisation is to keep my library on the PC and a selection of books on my Kindle.

    While I shall always want and need books around me, I am now more selective with my hard copies. For everything else, there is Kindle.

  10. #10 Jeff Hebert
    January 19, 2011

    I’ve gone back and forth over whether to get one. In the meantime, I’ve been getting my genre fiction fixes via the Kindle for iPhone app. You’d think the screen would be WAY too small, but it’s actually not bad at all.

    Which is a long way round of saying that while I started out wanting a Kindle, I’m probably leaning more now to an iPad. You can still read Kindle-edition books on it (in color!), but also the Apple format and ePubs. There’s a rather staggering array of books out there; I’ve been able to re-read tons of sci-fi and fantasy novels I gave away years ago in various downsizing efforts and thought never to see again. And I always have a book with me, since I always have my iPhone with me.

  11. #11 Tom
    January 19, 2011

    I received a Kindle for Christmas though I had contemplated buying it for myself over the past few months. Like other commenters here, I quickly fell in love with it! I’ve bought many books that I couldn’t find room for in my ever-increasing library. I’ll echo what other have as well: directories on the Kindle are “collections” and it is relatively easy to move items into and out of them. The other great thing about it is that it has a built-in PDF reader, so now I read them on the Kindle rather than on my PC, the latter of which strains my eyes after too long.

    Two caveats: 1) A former professor of mine at Lehigh University reviewed the Kindle (generation 1 or 2, I don’t remember) and said it couldn’t format mathematical equations in books very well. Read his entire review at:


    2) If you keep your Kindle in “stand by” mode for a few days without activating it, some of the buttons may not respond to input. For example, my 5-way controller stopped functioning. I called Amazon, and, without trying to help me debug the problem over the phone, they just figured it would be easier to send me a replacement! But, if you read the online Kindle help carefully, if something like this happens, you have to reboot the device – not just turn it off, which is what I did, but reboot it completely. This entails holding the power switch in the off position for 10 to 15 seconds and keeping it off for 10 to 15 minutes. When I did that, everything worked great again. But now I have two Kindles (well, I have to send my original back after making sure my backup files are placed on the new one). Just to let you know.

  12. #12 eric
    January 19, 2011

    Does anyone know if there’s a way of creating folders and directories?

    I’ve had both the version 1 (thick, big side-buttons) and version 2 (thin, smaller buttons, 5-way controller in key pad) .

    I found with V1 the easiest way to organize my stuff was just to buy an SD card and move books into it as I read them. It was like $6.

    As others have mentioned, V2 comes with the ability to organize your stuff into collections, and huge storage space, so an SD card is irrelevant.

    You can also create collections through your account on the kindle website. And it’s worth mentioning that (and this was very hard for me to get used to, but I eventually did), probably the simplest way to keep your kindle organized is just to delete the books off it as you read them. Amazon remembers every book you buy, and will let you re-download any purchase for free any time you want. So for the vast majority of everything you load onto it (but not pdfs, etc.), you effectively have a network/remote storage drive of infinite capacity…once you are willing to trust it. 🙂

  13. #13 eric
    January 19, 2011

    P.S. if you think the saving in home storage space is convenient, wait until you take it on vacation. No more lugging 10+ paperbacks with you. This is also why I upgraded to V2: it connects to the Amazon store outside of the U.S. No more running out of books and having to borrow some leftover Clancy novel from the hotel, ever.

  14. #14 Ash
    January 19, 2011

    I’m sold on e-readers myself. Personally I went with a Sony, mostly because I like being able to shop around at multiple stores for the best deal rather than being limited mostly to Amazon (at least without doing things like stripping DRM and converting formats), not to mention Amazon’s selection outside the US isn’t that great, but fundamentally they’re pretty similar. If the Nook was readily available here I might’ve gone that route instead, since it can read pretty much anything that the Sony can plus books from Barnes & Noble (who for some reason decided to publish their e-books with DRM that can only be read by the Nook).

    After reading a few books on it, I can’t see myself buying a lot of hard copy books in the future – I actually find it easier to read than a paper book. I haven’t tried reading books with lots of equations or graphics yet though.

  15. #15 cheglabratjoe
    January 19, 2011

    The Kindle is great, especially for traveling. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve either misjudged my reading speed or missed a connection, and had to spend >$20 on something from the airport bookstore. That always hurts, because I’m sure Amazon would have a better selection at half the price.

    The organizational system leaves MUCH to be desired. You have to make collections and then manually add the books to each collection. Unless you’re anal-retentive and want to make keeping your Kindle organized a little hobby for yourself, you’re probably going to just leave your books in a big list.

  16. #16 Thanny
    January 19, 2011

    I’m waiting on a viable color e-ink option before going with a Kindle (or equivalent). Color LCD’s, like the iPad, won’t do, because they rely on backlighting (and hence look horrible in direct sunlight).

    It’s interesting that the most negative review of your book is by someone who didn’t read it and clearly needed to.

  17. #17 Jason Rosenhouse
    January 19, 2011

    There are certainly some things I would continue to buy in print. As was pointed out above, complex mathematics often doesn’t format well (in my own book the centralized equations look OK but the inline math is hard to read). I also like graphic novels and chess books, and at least for now those are not Kindle friendly. Nonfiction books with lots of diagrams I’ll have to think about. But for simple books and general fiction I think I’ll get used to the Kindle pretty quickly.

  18. #18 Lou Doench
    January 19, 2011

    As an iPad owner, I actually have a Kindle, and a Nook, and Apple’s bookstore thingie, all in one package. I haven’t looked into library e-books yet.
    @Thanny, I’ll take the backlight tradeoff because my iPad works great in dimly lit bars and coffeeshops where I do most of my reading.

  19. #19 eric
    January 19, 2011

    Lou: @Thanny, I’ll take the backlight tradeoff because my iPad works great in dimly lit bars and coffeeshops where I do most of my reading.

    Yeah, Amazon really advertised the “real ink-like text – no backlighting!” thing as a huge perk. It IS great…if you’re reading outdoors. Indoors, its probably neither better nor worse than a backlit screen in terms of image quality. It is lower power, though. I don’t know about the other readers but I’ve been very impressed with the v2 kindle battery life. Leave it on for a week, it’s still going strong.

  20. #20 Scott
    January 19, 2011

    I’m liking my Kindle even more than I thought I would. I find it easier to read than paper. I also like that I can jump between devices (Kindle, PC, iPhone, Blackberry) and start up reading where I left off the previous device. But even with using multiple devices, the Kindle is the one I prefer to use.

    The long battery life is really amazing to me. I mean, I understand why it’s so long (ie, it only uses juice when you turn the page), but I’m just used to great electronic devices with crappy battery lives. To me, not having a backlit screen is an advantage here. I can see how a backlit screen would be nice in certain circumstances, but when you’re used to reading on paper, you don’t really expect a backlit page. And for an ereader, I’d rather have a long battery life than a backlit screen. (That being said, I still want an iPad. But an iPad is really a different device than a Kindle.)

    Regarding orgaizing your collection, I agree that it is better to organize everything on your PC (or on on your Amazon account remotely) and just have a subset of your books on your Kindle at any given time. You should think of the Kindle as a reading device, not an archiving device. When I finish a book, I immediately remove it from my Kindle and go on to the next one. My Kindle usually has ~20 books on my “to read” list, so I always know what’s on deck.

  21. #21 Tara Maya
    January 20, 2011

    Do you like science fiction? I have an anthology of science fiction stories available for $2.99. It’s called Conmergence.

    My brother told me that there was a math mistake in the story which is set in the first microseconds after the Big Bang. “It’s more important to get the math right than the physics,” he said, “Because they might yet discover their theory about the physics of the Big Bang is wrong, but the math is isn’t going to change.”

    I thought that was funny, because my brother is a physicist getting his PhD at CalTech.

    Anyway, I love my kindle.

    Tara Maya
    Conmergence: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction

  22. #22 Lenoxus
    January 20, 2011

    Stephen Lucas # 5:

    The Kindle will be great for straight text, but terrible for anything else.

    This is somewhat true (in terms of visuals), but one odd exception I’ve found: The twisted black-and-white webcomic Toothpaste for Dinner looks better in the ink-screen of a Kindle than on the web, perhaps because it was originally ink-drawn and the Kindle rendering is less bright and less pixelly. Also, sometimes Wikipedia articles feel more aesthetically pleasing, but that’s more of a toss-up.

    Myself, I got the thing almost exclusively for Web browsing, as you can maybe guess. Sometimes, a book-like object makes a better browser than a laptop (you can read it in sunlight and its battery life is very nice). That said, it’s also nice to have the complete Shakespeare and Jane Austin wherever I go (each for a dollar).

    Well, it was nice until my screen broke. A bit easier for that to happen than the book equivalent, which would be something like Jason’s basement flood. (Although with Kindle you still have backups. So it’s more like an expensive shelf burning down leaving the books unharmed)

    Oh, another plus of e-books for people like me: I don’t feel guilty about annotating them (although it’s more finnicky to do so).

  23. #23 JimV
    January 22, 2011

    It’s a neat device. However, after a quick binge of a dozen books, now when I need something new to read, the good, new stuff is not available for Kindle. It looks like new books are available first only in hard cover, then in paperback, then in Kindle form – at least the ones I wanted.

    Also, the cost savings weren’t that great for the books I bought. A typical number would be $8.99 for a paperback, vs. $7.99 for the Kindle edition. Plus no separate shipping charge, but I usually order enough books at a time to get free shipping anyway. But getting the book downloaded to my Kindle within minutes of clicking “Buy” was so great I was worried about how much I was liable to spend that way. But as I said, after buying a dozen books in a week, I’ve gone for a couple weeks now without finding anything I want in a Kindle edition. I know there is a bunch of cheap and even free stuff, and downloaded a couple – and then deleted them after a couple of pages.

    So right now, its most useful feature to me is the ability to copy PDF files to it. I have some data in spreadsheets which I am using to write a program, and instead of switching back and forth between windows to check the speadhsheet then type some code, I can print the spreadsheet as a PDF, load it on the Kindle, and use the Kindle as another window, external to my laptop.

  24. #24 SamI
    January 27, 2011

    My daughter received a nook color a few months ago. My second daughter just received a kindle last week. The one thing that I really like about the nook color is that the collections of books in the nook are depicted as a thumbnail image of each books cover. It is easy to view all of the thumbnails of books instead of a written list of the book titles.

    Is there a way to organize and display the listing of the books in the Kindle library with thumbnail images??

  25. #25 Lou
    February 2, 2011

    The review of Kindle’s mathematical expressiveness, in a link above, was from 2009. Does anyone know if recent Kindles can display mathematical equations from a pdf correctly? I read tons of pdfs and it is destroying my eyes on a backlit computer monitor. I would jump at the chance to read them on a reflected-light reader.

  26. #26 stvs
    February 3, 2011

    For Christmas, my mom bought me a Kindle 3. At first I was like “WTF mom! the iPad killed the kindle!” I felt like the guy in the Onion article Non-Widescreen Version Of DVD Received As Hanukkah Gift. But my wife told me to give it a chance, so I spent 5 min on the Google, discovered that the Kindle 3 has a one month battery life, beautiful b&w display for documents, a basic web browser, all on a Linux kernel for less than $150. So I cracked the box open, and within 30 minutes I had a jailbroken Kindle that I could WiFi ssh, and downloaded the free Wizard of Oz series to read to my kid. I love the Kindle—Thanks Mom.

    You want to do three things with the K3:

    1. Download calibre and use it to manage your ebook collection. It will take care of all the folder stuff on the K3’s directory structure. You will have to put books in various categories on the K3 itself.

    2. Set up calibre to download, convert to MOBI, and email to your @kindle.com account pretty much all the newspapers, magazine, or blogs you could ever read. Newspaper or blog not in its database? Just add the RSS and it’ll probably work. You’ll have everything organized and delivered for free over WiFi to your reading device. Much better than any screen.

    3. Same for pdfs of any scholarly article, mathematics text, or just about any book — just email it to your K3 and learn how to use the K3 pdf reader. All the math is pdf, so it just works. I believe there are hacker versions of Kindle Linux that do better at pdfs—and can also display DjVu—a format that many classic math texts have been scanned. There’s a djvu2pdf capability in BSD repositories like macports. I expect that the Kindle’s pdf capability will be improved.

    Finally, if you want to ssh books onto your Kindle, you can hack it with the usbNetwork hack, but really it’s just easier to use calibre—there aren’t a lot of hacker tools available yet like there are for smart phones.

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