The reading device the Kindle has become relatively inexpensive recently. You can get a WiFi version for $139 and a WiFi/Whispernet version for $189. The difference is that Whispernet uses the Sprint cell service to download your books and the WiFi-only version means you need to connect to WiFi. Because our house has WiFi, I went with the WiFi-only version, and I became a Kindle devotee quickly.
The Kindle uses eInk, which is black ink on a matte screen that's the size of a trade paperback book. In other words, it looks like ink on a printed page, and you read it in the same lighting conditions as a book--indoors under a light or outdoors wherever you like reading.
I read every night before bed, and one charge has been lasting three to four weeks. In other words, it doesn't take the kind of energy a cell phone uses.
You may be eying the iPad for book reading. It looks great in the store, I have to say. Yet the iPad is a computer screen, and for extended reading, a computer screen may tire your eyes. In other words, it's backlit, which is great for colors and surfing on the web and perhaps reading at bed at night without an extra light, but if you don't like reading off of computer screens for long, you may not like the iPad. Also, the iPad sells for $499, WiFi-only, and $629 for 3G cell service.
A Kindle with a leather cover that I got from eBay for $14
An iPad's battery works much like a cell phone's. In other words, you can go about a day with it and charging it nightly is probably best. Kindle books, by the way, can be uploaded to the iPad with the Kindle app. It's not as fancy as the iBooks app, but Amazon has something like 750,000 Kindle books compared to Apple's 80,000 iBooks.
The Kindle Store on the Kindle has a feature called The Kindle Daily Post, which is a blog with new Kindle finds. These are books you won't discover on the best seller lists. Today's post, for instance, tells of director Edward Burns, who is offering his screenplay to his new movie Nice Guy Johnny for $7.99. One day on the Kindle Daily Post, Bruce Springsteen offered a free download of two essays.
The most popular place for finding new books may a website called Kindle Nation Daily (at http://kindlehomepage.blogspot.com/) and its companion iPad Planet (at http://theireader.blogspot.com/). Both offer eBook news, a variety of best-seller lists, a number of totally free books, and off-the-track gems. I stumbled onto Kindle Nation Daily and learned I could have my novel "sponsor" a day. In other words, it's advertising, but it seemed so affordable that in August I bought a day, Saturday, October 23rd, which came last weekend.
It worked beautifully. I once advertised my novel The Brightest Moon of the Century in ForeWord Reviews, which is a printed magazine of mainly books published by small presses. It goes to libraries and independent bookstores, places I wanted my book to be. I couldn't tell if one book sold from that magazine. Probably not. Of course, advertising is meant to be cumulative because it takes an average of seven views of something for it to register on your consciousness. I couldn't afford seven ads.
Once my book cover appeared on Kindle Nation Daily, in contrast, I sold fifty books that day, and another fifty over the next few days. The ad more than paid for itself the first day, so I was impressed. Another way to show this is that my book went from an Amazon ranking of #148,843 to #624 in a single day. It's still ranked around three thousand and something, which is wonderful.
Part of the reason my book did well is the blog's author, Stephen Windwalker, read my book, loved it, and said so in an editor's note. He talked about literary fiction in general and my novel specifically, ending with, "A great read is a great read, and genre is secondary. And if you miss The Brightest Moon of the Century, you'll be missing a great read and an introduction to a master story teller."
You can read more of what he said at http://bit.ly/9L1M6q, where you'll also get a sense of what Kindle Nation Daily is.
One of the features I like most with the Kindle is you can get a large free excerpt of any Kindle book. Thus, rather than buy books instantly on a whim, I download the first few chapters free on a whim. Then when I'm in a reading mood, I carefully read the excerpts, and if I like the book, I'll buy it to read the rest. Thus when people say, "You must get this book," I'll get the excerpt and see if if it's truly for me.
For instance a friend said, "You must get Mark Haskell Smith's new novel Baked. It's about a marijuana grower who wins the Cannibus Cup in Amsterdam for his new strain, and it gets crazy from there. He writes like you do with humor and intensity and you'll love it." Somehow I doubted that, but I downloaded the excerpt, the first five chapters. Indeed I loved it. I bought the whole thing for $8.80 and read it in one weekend. In fact, I liked the book so much, I put a review up on Amazon, which you can click here to read.
With the sample downloads, I've also discovered Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life and Alice Sebold's Lucky. I'm reading both now, and I still have to finish Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, which I'll probably teach in the spring. I also found a 99-cent book mystery that's fabulous: Crack-Up by Eric Christopherson. A major publisher should grab this one.
This hasn't changed my love of the printed book. I love highlighting and writing notes in my books. While I can highlight and type notes with the Kindle, if I'm going to read something that closely, I want a printed version. One thing the Kindle can do that a printed book can't is search. If I'm looking for someone's dialogue, for instance, I type it into the Kindle, and it's there on screen. Love it!
I have a whole bookcase of books I bought and still haven't read. The Kindle will make it less expensive for me to read books, I hope. I read faster and more, which I'm loving, too.
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