I've had my Kindle for two weeks now. It's great. I don't regret not owning one three weeks ago, but I definitely am glad to have one now.
Here are 10 things I've learned since I got my Kindle.
1. I am reading several books at once.
I didn't used to do this. There was the book I was reading, and a lot of books I wasn't reading. Of the books I wasn't reading, a few I might have started and even had the intention of finishing. But they weren't the book I was reading. Which meant if I wanted to read on a car trip, I had to ensure I had that specific book in my purse. With the Kindle, of course, all the books come with me, so I can pick up where I left off as I please.
2. The Kindle changes how I perceive the length of books.
For the uninitiated, I will explain that there are no page numbers in Kindle books, just a progress bar along the bottom with three bits of information: Percentage read at the left, total number of "Locations" to the right, and in the middle the specific range of "Locations" for the text on the screen. I understand why this is so: because you can make the text bigger or smaller, the concept of page numbers becomes so elastic as to be meaningless.
The result is that all Kindle books "look" to be the same length because the progress bar is always the same width and the number of Locations is pretty meaningless. Obviously a book with 3,000 Locations is shorter than a book (e.g., Outlander, which I got free the other day) with 13,000 Locations. But as I have no concept of what a Location is, I find I rely on the "percentage read" function to help me figure out how long a book is. And that brings in the concept of speed.
Clearly, if I've read 10% of a book by the end of the first chapter, it's not a long book. And if a book is a "fast read," I might look down and be dismayed to see that I'm already 65% through it. The converse is unfortunately true as well. I was reading what should have been a fast-paced thriller, but I noticed that the progress bar wasn't filling up as fast as I would have liked. Not a good sign.
Watch out, though: just as with paper books, a Kindle book can look bigger than it is, if the progress bar and number of Locations include the extra material at the end, e.g., excerpts from the next book and so forth. I've caught myself thinking I had another 10% to go when, boom, the book ends.
3. It's way too easy to buy books.
I've mentioned this before, that the 1-Click system is just way too easy. I do not want to see the credit card bill. More to the point, I don't want my husband to see the credit card bill. (Can I claim this as a business expense?)
On the other hand, I just pre-ordered Lee Smith's latest Jack Reacher novel. It's $9.99 for the Kindle, will download automatically on the release date, and it saves me the hassle (and gas, and time) of requesting it at the library and then going to get it. That's not a bad deal when it's a book I really want to read, like, NOW.
4. The economics of the "free" book are not obvious.
I had a rather misguided notion of the free Kindle book, namely that the adage, "You get what you pay for," would apply. I thought that when I was offered a "free" book, I'd figure, "Oh, why not?" click, download, and ignore.
When one of the free books was by Jennifer Ashley (Penelope & Prince Charming, alas now back to costing actual money), I thought, "Who am I kidding? I'll take one, please." I haven't read it yet, but I'm not ignoring it as much as just not reading it. (I have dozens & dozens of paper books I'm just not reading. They're my TBR collection, and they breed at night.) And when the free book on offer was Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, which I have never read, it was a no-brainer.
In other cases, the "free" book was basically the first third of one complete story; parts 2 and 3 costs modest amounts. (I bought them all -- even double a modest amount isn't a lot of money.) (See #3.) Clearly the "free" book is a teaser to get you to buy #2 and #3, and therefore a front-loaded "buy two, get one free" offer.
For more on the "free" book, see #5, below.
5. I'm (still) unconvinced about the self-publishing revolution.
Here's the theory, as I understand it. It doesn't take a lot of money/entreprenurial spirit to get YOUR book uploaded to the Kindle store. Want people to read it? Offer it free! They will love it, recommend it highly to their friends, and so forth.
Maybe this works, but here's what I experienced. Someone tweeted about 35 free Kindle books. I clicked on the link and found myself at a Kindle blog with 35 book titles, each highlighted to show I could click on them to -- presumably -- go to that book's Amazon page. No authors' names, no other information. (The posts were edited to add the size, in KB, of the download. This information, it seems to me, is even less useful than the number of Locations on the Kindle progress bar.)
In two weeks, I already have a modest TBR list on my Kindle. So why would I want to download a book about which I know nothing? If I had an hour to kill, I could have clicked each of the 35 links, but with an hour to kill, I'd rather read. So if the best independently-published ebook was among those 35, I didn't bother to learn about it.
I assume every one of those authors has a blog, a website, a Twitter feed, a Facebook page and is doing everything possible to build a social network so that people can find her (his) book. But it's hard work, and at least from my perspective, offering the book free isn't a surefire hook.
6. By contrast, a free Harlequin Blaze? Sure, why not.
This is the flip side to #5. I won't do the work associated with figuring out if independently-published books are worth the gamble, but I will snatch up a free Harlequin Blaze (Slow Hands, by Leslie Kelly) that I would otherwise not have read. Hey, 10% in, I should know if I like it.
Why won't I accord an independently-published book the same courtesy? Because of two things. First, someone at Harlequin liked the Leslie Kelly book enough to publish it (that's the "quality assurance" component to commercial publishing -- what some people call "curating" -- the idea that someone else has read a thousand manuscripts and picked the best), and second, several people at Amazon have posted reviews that say, in effect, "I got it for free and it's not bad." I don't normally go by Amazon reviews, but on a free book? Sure, why not.
7. I don't know what to do with the crummy books.
This would actually be something I haven't learned yet -- how to organize my Kindle books into something other than page after page of book titles. And is there a way to delete books? Yes, I understand I don't have to -- the Kindle will hold thousands of titles -- but maybe I want to. Or at least, maybe I want to stick the stinkers someplace where they won't clutter up my KTBR (Kindle To-Be-Read) offerings.
On the plus side, though, even a cluttered Kindle doesn't present the obstacle course my office floor does at the moment. I've got piles of paper books waiting for further disposition.
I'll keep working on challenges of organization -- electronically and in three-dimensions!
8. The Kindle is like a paper doll.
This one. And, also thanks to my cousin, my Kindle has a little sack dress coming from an Etsy store. (I don't know which one, but I'll edit this post when it arrives.) The temptation to make it multiple outfits is considerable -- I certainly have the fabric for it! (see right) -- but the time involved would definitely eat into my reading time. And while the Kindle does lend itself to multi-tasking (see #9, below), I don't actually think I can read and sew a straight line at the same time.
9. I really can read with one hand.
When I tried a first-generation Kindle a year ago, I was unimpressed. Particularly annoying to me was the ease with which the "go forward" and "go back" buttons worked. I kept getting lost in the book, and with no page numbers for guidance, I was not happy.
Well, they've fixed that -- it takes a distinct and intentional click on the go-ahead button to advance the story. And with both the go-ahead and the go-back buttons on both sides of the Kindle, I can hold it in one hand, read, and do something else with my other hand. Like play Castle Age on Facebook, or stir something on the stove. You get the idea.
10. I haven't forgotten how to read a paper book -- nor lost the desire to do so.
After a week with the Kindle, Ross teased me by suggesting -- complete with a pantomime -- that I had already forgotten how to turn the pages of a paper book. Hah. Very funny. But not true. And it's a good thing, too, given how huge my paper TBR piles are.
If there was a "1-Click" approach to turning my existing paper books into Kindle books, I'd be tempted only to do it for my Betty Neels collection and a handful of other books. The Betty Neels canon is special simply because of the rapidity with which The Uncrushable Jersey Dress blog is reviewing them. They post a new review every few days (and posts every day); with each new review I find myself thinking, "Now, if I could just pull that book up on the Kindle, I'd reread it." Why don't I just find it in paper and read that? Because somehow the paper Neels books "compete" with a lot of books I haven't already read several times. Yes, you got that right. I've read many of the Betty Neels books more than once, and some several times. Still, I'm tempted to buy them for the Kindle . . . if it weren't that Harlequin is e-publishing them one per month. With 134 books? Are they crazy?
So, as long as I can get paper books from PaperBackSwap or for a penny through Amazon's used book function, I'll own and read paper books. And continue to trip over them, more's the pity.