Monday, March 2, 2009

so, where are the books?

I named this blog "Bikes, Books, and Border Collies," but until today I haven't made a single post about books. This has been slightly on purpose, as while I enjoy writing and talking about books, I didn't want to lock myself in to writing reviews of all the books that I read. I did that for a time on livejournal, and my own psyche made me feel guilty when I fell behind, so that I finally stopped posting entirely with this as one of the reasons.

With that said, I love reading and I love books, as anyone who has spent any time with me will know. My total time reading fluctuates from month to month, depending on travel, free time at work, and time spent in Warcraft, but I typically read 80-100 new books in a year, with a few rereads of old favorites mixed in. I belong to a book club with several women from work, where we have read everything from nonfiction (The Female Brain) to juvenile fiction (Harry Potter books 6 & 7) to serious historical fiction (Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles) to trashy fiction (The Bergdorf Blondes) over the past three years or so. I spend a lot of my own allowance money on books, and usually have a stack of " books-to-read" sitting in my office to work through as time allows. I also receive books as gifts, and have several from Christmas and my birthday waiting in the current stack. However, since I ride a motorcycle to work, my cargo capacity is limited, meaning that it is difficult to take Anathem or Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles or World Without End with me to work, where I tend to have a free block of time available to read while I eat lunch. So these books have sat in The Pile, wistfully waiting for a flyball tournament, free time at home, or a trip away to be read and loved.

Now, enter the Kindle, the e-book reader that Amazon debuted a while ago. Two of my friends have the original version of the Kindle, and absolutely adore it to any who will listen. I started considering one in late January, and my interest was definitely piqued by the announcement of Kindle2 in early February. With my annual review last week including information on my bonus, I went ahead and bought one on Thursday with next-day delivery for Friday, so it was waiting for me on my doorstep when I returned home from work on Friday. Over the weekend I have played with it a good bit, and completely read our next book club book (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society), and am firmly entranced by it and thrilled to have it. My only issue now is wishing I could "trade-in" some of the hardbacks in The Pile for Kindle versions! I may just take a few of them to Half-Price Books in order to do so...

From the first opening of the box, I was impressed with the presentation of the Kindle. Amazon has definitely taken a lesson from Apple in the importance of having good packaging, and just opening the layers with pull tabs printed "Once Upon A Time..." made me smile. The e-ink display was set to a diagram asking me to plug in the Kindle, then turn it on via the power switch, making it the easiest gadget start-up I've ever seen. Within five minutes I was reading my book club book comfortably from my couch, having bought it via the built-in connection to the Kindle store. Over the weekend I read quite a bit, obviously, and I never had any eyestrain or issues with the text - in fact the adjustable text size came in handy when I took out my contacts before bed on Friday evening. Many people whine about there not being a backlight in the Kindle, but I find this to be a bonus rather than a problem, as backlit screens are more difficult to read and draining on the battery. The Kindle is reputed to last 4+ days with the wireless signal turned on and 14+ days with it turned off, and I'd much rather have that and deal with my own lighting than to have to plug it in every day. After all, it is a book replacement, and complaining that you need the same conditions to read the Kindle as you would to read a book seems a little prissy to me.

I've used the file conversion offered by Amazon to convert and send two PDF files (the two flyball rulebooks) wirelessly to my Kindle, which worked beautifully and inexpensively at just $0.10 apiece. I also downloaded quite a few books from The Gutenburg Project, which provides various digital copies of copyright-free and copyright-expired works. Of the books I downloaded, namely a copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales and nearly all of the Frank L. Baum Oz books, I was able to directly drag two to Kindle (.txt files) and have about 75% of the others converted by Amazon to Kindle format and sent back to my email account for free. There are a few books that could not be converted, for some reason, but I have not had time to fiddle with it to find out why. All of the converted files look just fine on Kindle, and although the first disclaimer bit is often oddly formatted the actual book text has been perfectly fine. Finally, I can browse the Kindle store from Firefox and buy things for download, to have them already there and waiting for me the next time I turn my Kindle on. How cool is that! And as a last interesting touch, when you put Kindle to sleep it displays a random picture that so far includes author portraits, manuscript pages, and the Kindle logo.

So far I am quite happy with my purchase. Yay for technology meeting reading!

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