Writer Meets Kindle

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Author Nicholson Baker took the Kindle 2 out for a spin, and he wrote about the experience in the latest issue of The New Yorker. Will he be "pulled into a world of compulsive, demonic book consumption?" Tune in to find out! Kindle owners: What's your experience been like? Comment below!


Nicholson Baker

Comments [25]

Jinnayah from Massachusetts

@Mark (Comment 13)--Kindle does .html files very nicely. Also .doc, and even Kindle 1 (my "Guide, Mark II") is halfway reasonable with .pdf. Kindle DX has full .pdf support. And you really don't have to give *all* your money to Amazon--as Don (Comment 24) says, you can use Gutenberg, Feedbooks, Manybooks, and other free book services--many of them directly from the device through the Web. Kindle is much more flexible than people like Baker give it credit for.

Jul. 30 2009 07:55 AM
Don Druker from Washington, DC

One point that does not appear to have been raised is that there are literally thousands of books in the public domain that are available free for download in the Kindle format from sites such as and Freebooks.

I had never read any of Anthony Trollope's Barchester or Palliser novels, but have now worked my way through both series at no cost. I have also downloaded some of my favorite books (Middlemarch, Gatsby, etc.) free of charge for my Kindle.

I would guess that, of the seventy or eighty books that now reside on my Kindle, nearly half of them cost me absolutely nothing.

Jul. 29 2009 09:32 AM
Suzanne from Brooklyn

I've been an avid reader since the age of 6. Life without books would be miserable. Life without my Kindle would be nearly as much so. I can now travel for two weeks without paying overweight baggage fees because of all the books I pack. I keep and reread my books, often many times over the years. I am currently re-reading novels I bought in the 1970s; if those were online, the pages wouldn't be crumbling and the spines wouldn't be breaking. I have about 6000 books and no space for more; I can now buy a new book for about 60% of the list price, ensure that it's portable and not need to find a place for it on my bookshelves. I have actually replicated part of my existing library on Kindle to be sure that it's portable.

My gripes? It's hard to use footnotes, references etc. (There is a fabulous note-taking function, which is far better than having to find a pen and scribble in the margins; I can access all my notes & marginalia not only on the device, but online as well.) I can see that in about 5% to 10% of the cases, I may be frustrated by this, or by the lack of images (maps, illustrations, etc.) In a few cases, I've gone on to buy the physical book because it's one I want to pull off the shelf and page through at random, or use for more generalized reference.

I don't really understand the concerns about the grey ink vs. backlit computer/iPhone screens. There is zero difference to me between reading on the Kindle and reading a page, in terms of eye strain. I spend five hours daily reading. I get very bad migraines, not from using a Kindle, but from spending another 8 plus hours in front of a computer screen. I can't imagine trying to read on an iPhone -- nightmare!

NB: Kindles have also been great for people with arthritis, acc to friends.

Jul. 28 2009 01:00 PM
Lauren Bielski from Astoria, NY (Queens)

I enjoyed the segment on Kindle and agree that the user interface is limited. Yet, despite this, I love my Kindle. This was one point that wasn't mentioned on the show: certain types of books (say, thrillers or police procedurals) are naturals for electronic downloading. You tend to "wolf them down" and once you know how the plot is resolved, you wouldn't want to reread it. Other types of books: favorite authors (I adore Iris Murdoch, Antonya Nelson and scores of others); books that you want to share with friends; text books that you want to mark up with notes—-well, those you'd want to have the old-fashioned way. As far as newspapers go, I like them on paper, on my Mac or on a Kindle, depending on the situation. (I could never read a newspaper on the subway before. With a Kindle, it's no problem, even with an elbow in my side.) Just a thought...

Jul. 28 2009 11:21 AM
Lynn from Manhattan

in order to be able to try to post to this site in time to have it show up during the show, I can't read what I write.
So, I apologize for one missing post and one half post and thus some non-sequitors. But at a time when blind people launched a nationwide protest when the publishers wanted the riht to turn off text-to-speech for their books and thus render the attempt at access for us basically useless, and at a time when the two comsumer organizations of blind people are working together for what must be a record first time to sue a college for adopting use of the Kindle, where is the coverage of this civil rights issue related to a product that is being covered for asthetic appeal to those who are in the group that is not being barred from using it? Just to be clear - Large Print is *not* a medium that all "visually impaired" people can use. It is *not* universal access. And it's not just consumer choice. Its that there is *no* accessible product alternative on which to read these books.

Jul. 28 2009 11:10 AM
Rebecca from Edison, NJ

My husband has a kindle and he loves it because of its small form factor and the ease with which he can obtain more reading material no matter where he is in his long commute to work. I too was concerned about the inability to share reading material, and the potential need to purchase the same book twice should I purchase my own Kindle. It turns out that you CAN share material, at least with household memebers. Check it out:

Jul. 28 2009 11:02 AM
Marcy Arlin from Brooklyn

When I travel overseas, and can't watch foreign language TV, and can't shlepp twenty books, or afford English language books, the kindle saves my mind life. I can store lots of different kinds of books and I get a lot of reading done. Sadly, I can't leave them there for my new overseas friends, but it definitely saves on luggage costs.

Jul. 28 2009 11:00 AM
is from hicksville

There were two other readers before the kindle and sony. My first reader was a Rocketbook eBook reader which I got around seven years ago for only 99 dollars. I still have it.

Jul. 28 2009 10:58 AM
Rachael from Midtown

I'm coming in a little late to the story, but is there a library function to the Kindle or are there any equivalent products? I use the library all the time. Is it possible to e-check out books?

Jul. 28 2009 10:57 AM
Lynn from Manhattan

And then, after bowing to our frustration and building a bit of text-to-speech into one model, which is *not* full access and *not* accessible to *all* blind people, they came out with a version aimed at colleges and universities that *doesn't* have *text-to-speech. Meaning Blind students at colleges that are starting to adopt use of the thing, will have *less* access, in fact, no practical way to access these materials and be effectively locked out if those institutions

Jul. 28 2009 10:57 AM
Tony from Brooklyn

I'm a Kindle 1 owner and kindle app owner. I like it because I tend to read several books at the same time. The app allows me to have all of them whenever I have time.

An odd plus is I can slip it into a zip lock bag and read it in the bath tub. Try reading a paperback or magazine and not ruining it with your wet fingers.

For newspapers and magazines try Zinio

Jul. 28 2009 10:56 AM
a woman from inwood

Hey, at least you have to PAY for the paper on Kindle. The papers ought to be pretty pleased about that, no?

Jul. 28 2009 10:56 AM

The thing that makes me hesitate with the Kindle is proprietary format where Amazon controls what's on your device and can zap them off the device without your consent.

I think these readers are exciting tech, but I'm looking for something a little more open. Something that does html, pdf, etc just as well as proprietary stuff. Maybe the Sony or Samsung devices will be better.

Jul. 28 2009 10:55 AM
lucy from brooklyn, ny

i LOVE my kindle.
i inherited my husband's 1st gen kindle.
having a typical nyc apartment, i can't emphasize how much of a space saver it is!

since my husband got his kindle, he's read 83 books. that's 83 books that are currently not trying to find a place on a bookshelf. :)

Jul. 28 2009 10:55 AM

I'm reading a book on iPhone. I love it. I have little time, and it's always with me. I really appreciate being able to read a few graphs at a time.

(well do I remember how I read Gravity's Rainbow on my trips from the Village to the Upper West Side. Took me a year, but was lots of fun, and I could really savor each graph.)

Jul. 28 2009 10:55 AM
JT from Long Island

It seems like Mr. Baker bought the Kindle without doing any research. It's been out for a long time and I'm sure he has had opportunity to see one before buying it.

And e-ink is not a prototype, the company was founded in 1997 based on research started at the MIT Media Lab.

Personally, I would buy a Kindle if they had a subscription plan similar to Netflix, where I could pay a monthly fee and "borrow" a two or three books at a time.

Jul. 28 2009 10:54 AM
Lynn from Manhattan

They create a format that locks people into their reader but their reader, until recently, provided *no* access for some disabled people, like blind peole. SSo that in this age when we are beginning to be able to read everything we should be free to read, they locked us out

Jul. 28 2009 10:53 AM
Rob from The Bronx

I love my Kindle, of course there can be improvements, like color but it is still early in the process. It gives me choice, now I can take several books on the train, to the beach etc. and then decide, I read from it to my five year old all the time and he loves it. New content is being added daily, as for the feel of books, luddites usually get use to new technology or they go extinct.

Jul. 28 2009 10:52 AM
Jennifer Parks from LIC NY

Love my Kindle2 - it makes carrying a book everyday so easy - some of the books are so heavy to carry everyday that my shoulder hurt!
I also find I read faster on it. I recommend it to anyone who likes to read on the go.

Jul. 28 2009 10:51 AM
Susan from Morristown, NJ

Caitlin has a good point. While I love the instant gratification of using my Kindle, I miss donating my used books to friends, or the library.

Jul. 28 2009 10:51 AM
Larkin from Short Hills NJ

I love my Kindle.....I find it easy to read, very comfortable because you don't have to prop the pages that I can pack all of my books in my purse.....instant a new book in bed it the one I am reading is boring....I agree that I wouldn't read a newspaper on a Kindle

Jul. 28 2009 10:50 AM
Laurie Spiegel from Tribeca

Don't forget the 3rd alternative, which I use and like, the Kindle app for iPhone. It has a great display that has been reviewed preferably to the actual Kindle and is free.

Jul. 28 2009 10:50 AM
a woman from inwood

I don't love the greyish screen, and I'd also love a backlit option for when the lights go out in the subway, but I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT MY KINDLE 2. I have downloaded tons of books, and take it with me on the subway, and use it at the gym to keep me on the elliptical for my half hour (reading suspense thrillers helps pass the time).

That said, I've been reading books on tiny screens since the late 90's (Palm Pilots, cell phones, whatever is available -- I'd been waiting for the e-reader to exist since seeing a fictional one on the Martian Chronicles on TV in the 70's), so I have high tolerance. Kindle 2 certainly could do with some improvements. I'm looking forward to them.

Jul. 28 2009 10:50 AM
Caitlin from Jersey City

As Kindles become more popular, how will they work with public libraries? Now, if a library buys a copy of a book, only one person at a time can use it. Will they have to get licenses for ebooks, and readers will only be able to download them after the previous reader deletes it?

Will books become the new filesharing battleground?

Jul. 28 2009 10:42 AM
John from Park Slope

While as a book reviewer I'd absolutely love for a Kindle-like device to clear up some of the space on my bedroom floor (I have a To-Review Pile, a Maybe Pile, and a Will Make Me Blind Pile), I'll say what everyone else seems to be saying where I just want a physical book to hold. I also like to see what people are reading when I'm on the subway.

Jul. 28 2009 10:04 AM

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