Kindle wonder

I bought a Kindle last week – why did I wait so long to get one?

In recent months I’ve been feeling that my brain is getting underused – I have lots of books on the bookshelf that need reading, but schlepping them around whilst travelling for work, or even just taking them into the office to read over lunch, is not practical.

When flying, I find it hard to do much more than watch TV or read the paper or a fictional novel. Trying to manage more than 45 minutes of ‘A History of Africa’ or some kind of sales training or management book just can’t be done. All I can manage is dipping in and out of things and that means carrying several tonnes of weighty tomes with me.

The solution – get a Kindle. It’s so obvious, I can’t believe I have taken so long to get one. I was thinking of getting an iPad, but the advice I got and the research I did lead me to the conclusion that I needed something that was brilliant for reading and OK at other things, rather than the other way around. I always have a laptop when travelling, as well as a BlackBerry (hopefully soon to be replaced with an iPhone), so an iPad just isn’t necessary right now. Plus, I do read a lot when on holiday, so the Kindle’s ‘e-ink’ screen is the only option when there’s a bit of sun in the sky.

The entire Kindle experience has been brilliant from start to finish. I was on holiday in the UK, so had it delivered to my father’s house.

Unpacking it was a pleasure, getting it charged and switched on was easy – this entire part of the experience has been honed to be a real pleasure. It’s not a ‘techie’ experience at all, it really is straightforward and easy.

Once I was up and running and marvelling at the fact that I could get books delivered over 3G, for free, wherever I had a connection, I decided to make my first purchase. This is where things started to get confusing – either the device wasn’t connecting, or Amazon had nothing in their library to sell me.

Checking on the Amazon website confused me further. It seemed there were about six titles available to me. This couldn’t be right…

At this point, despite the problems I was experiencing, the whole Amazon Kindle experience continued to be just brilliant. Their web page handles things so that Amazon call you, rather than the other way around, which makes a nice change. A pleasant lady from a call centre I guess to be in the Philipines was soon helping me out. It turned out that since I had used my UAE credit card and given a Dubai address, my Kindle was locked into the Middle East Amazon Kindle store. Amazon don’t seem to be paying any attention to this market, hence the lack of titles available. The call centre lady simply re-registered the Kindle to my UK address and everything was working perfectly.

I’ve already bought several books – and read them. It’s just fantastic having everything to hand on such a pleasant looking, simple device. I love it.

Even though I am in the IT industry, I get excited about the cool things the Kindle can do. It’s brilliant fun to be sitting on a train in the middle of nowhere, buying a book over the mobile phone network and having it appear on your Kindle seconds later. Incredible.

Calibre, a free e-book application, has helped me get even more use out of the Kindle. I use it to grab The Times (subscription required), Telegraph, BBC and Economist websites every day and convert them to Kindle format. You don’t get all the pictures, but it’s good enough. I can’t get UK daily papers in most of the countries I visit, but now I have plenty of material to read every day. I should probably start getting the Guardian too, to give me something to get angry at.

Not every book I have wanted has been available in Kindle format, but I expect that to change over time. Amazon have a link to click that lets you ‘inform the publisher you’d like a Kindle version of book X’. I think the wording should be ‘please inform the publisher you didn’t buy anything as there was no Kindle version available’. That’d be a bit more likely to spur people into action.

How the Kindle affects the publishing industry is something for a whole other speculative post. For now, from my position as a ‘simple reader on the street’, all I can say is top marks to the Kindle. I love it. It wasn’t a cheap present to myself at about 150 quid, but it’s worth every penny. I expect it to get a lot of use over the coming months.

Biscuit enjoys the latest in e-book technology…

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