Hope you enjoyed last week’s look at how to buy and use an Amazon Kindle, for books, magazines and newspaper reading.  If you missed it there’s a recap and useful links at http://costaconnected.com/ereaders

Even if you haven’t got yours yet remember that Kindle make free apps too, which you can get for your iPad, pc or many smartphones. Whether you use them alone or add your account to multiple devices, one cool thing is they are all synchronised – so your bookmarks, comments, highlights and so on are available whichever you are at.  Left your Kindle at home, and read a few chapters of your latest blockbuster download on your iPhone whilst having a coffee? Your smart Kindle will know what page you got up to later.  You can of course always share accounts if one of you has an iPad and the other a Kindle, and so on, within a family for example – not sure if Amazon would approve of that…

Because for me, the huge disadvantage of e-books over ‘tree-books’ is the lack of shareability – one of the most wonderful things about enjoying a great read is the ability not only to recommend it to others, but then to press your own shabby and much-loved paperback copy directly into their hands.  Although there are facilities in the US Kindle store to temporarily ‘loan’ books to other Kindle accounts (and you cannot access them yourself during this period), this facility is not yet available to us with European accounts.  Of course you can gift someone the download, but that’s not quite the same for me as physically passing on a much-loved book, and of course you have to pay for it twice.

I’ve often found myself comparing digital reading and e-books with the similar revolution in digital music some years back,  and there too lies another gaping chasm in the user experience – that I cannot rip my shelves full of paperbacks to my kindle and digitise my pre-existing reading collection like I could with my CDs.

For me that was when the true potential of the iTunes revolution hit me back in 2006 or whenever it was, because it gave me a new way to enjoy not only new music but all the music I already had.  Until I can do that with paper reading material, no e-reader is ever going to replace books for me, because I already have loads of books that I love but would never anticipate buying again in digital format.   And of course many books are also things of great beauty for their own sakes, especially hardbacks and special editions.  Whilst I tend now to buy paperbacks/stuff to read in digital format, I will always love to buy and receive special and beautiful books which have physical and kinaesthetic qualities an e-book cannot touch. I can’t remember the last time I bought music other than as an MP3 file, but real books will be part of my life for a long time I am sure, and for anything illustrated no e-book can compare.  One model a number of periodicals are going down is to allow free access to the online version when you buy the hard copy, and this shows that even the industry itself recognises that the two are different products, for different purposes.

Other than this major gripe about the limitations of e-readers, the actual user experience on offer is pretty good.  The Kindle screen uses a bespoke ‘e-ink’ technology that offers an amazingly easy-on-the-eye view, and means that unlike a backlit laptop screen the more ambient light there is around the better – provided you don’t get sand in your €100 device (and you can buy protective covers), it’s perfect for reading on the beach (and the beach days WILL come back, even though it’s hard to imagine that looking out of the window now).  The battery life is astonishing even in heavy use, measured in weeks not days, and you can customise the appearance, font size (make any book a large print edition), orientation, language, setting them all to suit your preference.  For students, the ability to highlight passages, add notes and annotations and jump to dictionary or Wikipedia definitions right off the page, all add value – even if the shift from flipping through analogue notes requires a mental leap too.

If you have an iPad or other tablet, the Kindle app is definitely worth downloading.  Apple’s iBooks offers a slightly more elegant interface with its flippable pages and chapter indications, but doesn’t come close on the range of titles.  The only weird thing is that you cannot make Kindle store purchases on the Amazon iPad app!  You have to go to Amazon via the browser instead, and buy them there – a minor frustration.

One big disappointment from Amazon however is that their new colour Kindle, the Kindle Fire, does not yet have a European release date.  This was supposed to be their affordable iPad killer, but sadly it won’t be gracing any Christmas stockings this side of the pond in 2011.  So far as we can work out, it appears to be due to the new bespoke browser that goes with it, Amazon’s ‘Silk’, which pushes everything through US controlled servers – creating copyright and data protection problems for European and UK data protection laws.  This is too bad because it looks from the ads like an amazing device, and with a price-point of $199 it’s way more accessible than anything from the Apple factory.  Looks like we will have to wait a bit longer for that though.

For now, the lightweight and pocket-sized ‘New Kindle’ is top of my Christmas list, along with a range of accessories and enhancements (which do not have to be branded designs and prices, incidentally).  Check out a range of links and ideas at http://costaconnected/ereaders, and save Santa some airmiles this Christmas.

What do you think, e-books or tree-books?  @casslar, or info@costaconnected.com

Published 9th December 2011

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