Kindle

I bought a Kindle yesterday, and I’m still trying to decide whether or not I like it.

I had resisted buying a Kindle, or any sort of e-reader, for a long time. See, I am a book fetishist. Books for me are not just knowledge transmittal devices; when I’m reading a history book, I like to browse the index to see whether an expected topic or person will be discussed, and where, and how much. I like to look at the table of contents and know generally how long the chapters are. I like to be able to glance up at the running heads at the top of the page to remind myself what chapter I’m in, and I like to be able to flip ahead and see how many pages are left in the chapter I’m reading. I like to be able to flip back and refer to something I read earlier, which is not so hard to do when you remember vaguely where on a particular page it was.

But I do much of my reading on my commute to and from work, and I have to lug my laptop with me, which weighs 3.3 pounds. And many of the books I like to read — again, mostly history — are big, at 500 pages or more. A moderate-sized book along with the laptop can really weigh me down.

Last year I decided I wanted to read Vincent Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History, a humongous, 5.6-pound book about the Kennedy assassination, and because the physical book would have been impossible to take anywhere, I decided to buy the Kindle version to read on my iPhone. It was an okay experience — the screen was a little too small. But it did give me some e-book-reading experience.

My parents got a Kindle a few months ago and they think it’s great. And I had drinks with Dan the other night and he has one and seems to like it. The new Kindle that came out in August costs less than $200 — not too bad. So I decided to take a closer look. Staples, Target, and Best Buy now sell Kindles in their stores, so after a trip to Barnes & Noble yesterday afternoon, I walked a few blocks to the nearest Staples and tested out the Kindle on display, and I wound up buying one. I bought one with WiFi and 3G.

I’ve downloaded several book samples so far, and… I don’t know. The Kindle is incredibly light and I can hold it with one hand, which is great. But there’s just something missing. Because the screen is just six inches, there are fewer words on the screen than on two pages of an open book, and I feel like that matters. I always like being able to see more than one paragraph at a time when I’m reading — it gives me more spatial context. With an e-reader, I don’t really know what’s ahead of me or behind me. Something about the small six-inch screen feels cramped.

I wonder if this has to do with reading a dense, information-heavy history book as opposed to a novel?

Then there’s the fact that I won’t actually have the book on my bookshelves to look at when I’m done reading it.

I have two weeks to return it to Staples if I want, although I’m really not sure whether they’ll actually take it back, because to open the Kindle box, you have to pull a cardboard tab that rips the box open. They said they’d take it back even if I’d used it, but I don’t know if they realize that there is no way to “un-open” the box. If I decide I want to return it and they don’t accept it, I guess I can buy one from Amazon directly and return the opened one to Amazon (since their Kindle return policy is pretty liberal) and the closed one to Staples.

Those of you who own a Kindle or another e-reader: have you gotten used to it?