Amazon have very kindly got in touch with me, as a valued customer and one who tries to make a few pennies from their advertising programme on these pages, to give me a heads-up about the launch of their new version of their e-book reader, the Kindle.
Their most basic version, the Kindle Wifi, is almost, just within the sort of price range where I might be able to justify to myself buying one.
I do appreciate that it’s basically another hi-tech way of making you spend more money at Amazon than you otherwise would… but ooh, gadget, shiny shiny.
It doesn’t entirely fit too well with how I currently consume books. I don’t read much these days: my life and free time for reading is almost entirely spent on the internet looking at funny pictures of cats. When time does allow for reading, it tends to be low-rent, hi-entertainment fiction of the violent murder / comedy ‘tec variety. I’ve been reading detective fiction my whole life, so why stop now?
So, consuming books: I generally go for mass-market paperbacks that have been out some time. I buy them in volume very cheaply – sometimes the £0.01 secondhand special on Amazon, sometimes at fleamarkets. They sit on Mount Toberead for a while and eventually I will read them – often when I am on holiday, sometimes at a rate of 2 a day. Once I have read them, the books often go on a journey around family and friends, and some of them return, and some of them don’t
Ultimately I end up with huge numbers of books sitting in piles, and I’ve no final way of getting rid of them once they’ve been around the family. Some I do want to keep, but many I’d be happy to offload. But by the time I’ve finished with them they have no value, and selling them is a pain. I must find somewhere I can donate them.
But that pattern of book-buying would come to a screetching halt if I bought an e-reader. For starters, the books would cost more than the current penny plus P&P. Secondly, I would get less value out of them, as I wouldn’t be able to pass them around the friends and family. But on the plus side, I wouldn’t end up with a house full of dustgathering dustjackets. And when I do go on holiday, I wouldn’t need an extra suitcase for the books!
The other half of ideas that are going around my mind Kindle-wise are the potentials for work use of it.
On the council last year, we had a paperless committee pilot. I’ve not got around to writing about that here seriously, but there is a lighthearted look and some serious comments here.
There is scope for using a Kindle for committee papers – all the papers are available online, and all start off as Word docs or PDFs. It could be pretty easy to send them by email to your Kindle address so that they show up for use in committee. I can’t really tell in advance how easy it would be to handle the multiple documents you need (typically in committee you have the agenda front page, a briefing document, a report for each item, slides for half of them and your own notes, which is a lot to juggle electronically) and there would still be the thorny issue of page numbering, of which more later.
Sending docs to Kindle seems to be free for the Wifi version, but there is a strange cost for the 3G version (which I do not intend looking at much.) The 3G service is billed as free (read: included in the cost of the books you buy) but there is a small charge for using the 3G service to download your own documents.
A Kindle does look like it would be quite fun to cart around Lib Dem conference – all the papers for conference are available electronically as well as in print, and you could shove them all into a 250 gram gadget much more easily than cart all you need with you. But will the daily sheets be so easy to find? Will the wifi work with commercial hotel wifi that often needs you to input credit cards etc? Questions questions.
(and the thinking ahead to conference reminds me: I had promised myself I would finally buy myself a new laptop before conference to help with blogging and podcasting. I can barely afford that at the moment, still less if I buy a Kindle too. Hmmm…)