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The Kindle reader from Amazon is changing the way many people read. An overlooked capability makes Kindle much more than just a reading device.

Not quite three Just over 5 years ago (has it been that long?) I received my original Kindle as a Christmas gift from my wife.

I wrote an article back then So, what do you think about Kindle? and discussed some of its more immediately striking features. I ended that article with the statement "...I think Kindle might end up changing the way I read books."

2.5+ 5 years later, I'm here to tell you that it has. And in some ways that, in retrospect, I never would have predicted.

Kindle's not about the device as much as you might think.

I now have a Kindle Fire. When I travel, it goes with me.

It's readable. It's portable. There's tons of content available for it. You can purchase almost anywhere, download almost instantly, and be reading in moments. It really is that easy.

And I haven't even touched on automatically delivered periodicals or blogs ... like the fact that Ask Leo! is available on Kindle.

The conclusion I quickly came to, and that I hold to this day is that buying a book and reading it on the Kindle is easier and more convenient than lugging around a paper equivalent.

So much so that I've even also taken to converting lengthy emails or other documents to Kindle format so that I can more comfortably read them either from my easy chair, or while I'm out and about. Conversion is free if you're willing to move the content to the device over the USB connection.

But that's not really the point I want to make here. I think there's something going on here that, honestly, transcends the Kindle device.

Last year I purchased a Kindle (second generation) for my wife. In many ways, it's the same and in many ways quite different than my own. There's no point in comparing them, since the second generation is the only one available via Amazon, but you'll note that I haven't run to upgrade my original. While some things were improved (accidental page turns), there were a few things that the original Kindle has that I would honestly miss (the external radio on/off switch, for example).

Again, the device - and the additional, larger, Kindle DX that was added to the line up - isn't the point.

Here's what is:

My wife and I share an Amazon account. Both our Kindles are registered with that same account. As a result, all the books we each buy are available on either her Kindle or mine, immediately or with a simple download request.

Now, on the surface this doesn't seem like a big deal. Most books can be shared on up to 6 devices registered to the same account. Sharing between family members seems like a good move on their part, and of course it was.

I'm now convinced that it was the just tip of the iceberg.

You see, today when I buy a book I can read it on my Kindle.

Or my wife's Kindle.

Or on my laptop.

Or on my phone.

Or on all of the above interchangeably. In fact I found myself doing that just recently, and as I was doing it, it dawned on me that the device - as good as it is - isn't the real story any more.

This is:

Kindle syncing to how far you've read on other devices

The fact that I can purchase a book, read it on my Kindle for a while, then pick up where I left off when I switch to reading it on my PC - resulting in the message above - and then pick up where I left off again when I happen to be out and about with only my phone with me, and then return to my Kindle to once again pick up where I left off, is to me, perhaps the most under-sold feature of the Kindle.

It's not about the device any more, it's the ubiquity of content.

Buy once. Read almost anywhere.

Kindle on the PC

Kindle for the PC (and presumably Kindle for Mac) works and works well. Much like your Kindle you can download specific books to be kept on the PC while still retaining access to all the books you've purchased through your account at any time. It looks and reads great. In some cases, it's a great alternative approach to viewing certain types of content. For example, Kindle books that include images or illustrations that don't render quite as nicely on the Kindle device. A nice touch: notes that you might take while on your device become available on your PC's Kindle application as well.

Kindle for Android (and presumably Kindle for iPhone, iPad and others) also works surprisingly well. The biggest limitation isn't the software at all, but the screen. With most of these newer generation large screens reading - yes, even reading a book - is amazingly comfortable.

And it's in your pocket or purse wherever you may be.

To top it all off (and perhaps an insight into Amazon's overall strategy) I don't believe you even need to own a Kindle device in order to purchase and read Kindle books on your PC, Mac, iPad or mobile device.

Like I said, it's not about the device any more.

Yes, the Kindle is a good device. But it's also a platform. A reading platform.

It's not perfect - there are certainly limitations (no search in the non-device applications, is a good example) and areas for improvement. Though, improvements do continue: if anything ever gets me to move from my first generation Kindle it'll be some of the software upgrades that include folders and native PDF support.

And of course if you're uncomfortable with digital rights management (DRM) then any system such as the Kindle where you can only read your content on devices linked to your account and authorized isn't something you'll be interested in.

But for me, it's become the best way to read a book.

Wherever I happen to be.

Yes. I recommend it.

(A couple of minor updates made November 22, 2012.)

Article C4365 - July 9, 2010 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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37 Comments
Kit Cassingham
July 10, 2010 5:59 AM

Leo, concise review of Kindle. I have loved mine for a year and a half. I'm almost annoyed when I can't buy a book on Kindle that I want to read. I take Amazon's suggestion and tell the publisher/author I want that book on Kindle.

I like the Kindle so much that I even added it to my iPad when I first got it, giving me two ways to read my books. And now I have it on my Droid and notebook. Thanks for those recommendations.

Thanks!


-Kit

1611mac
July 10, 2010 7:42 AM

Kindle for Mac is still in Beta. I use it a lot but it lacks all the features. Amazon says these features are coming "soon." Kindle for Mac does not currently allow highlighting and custom bookmarks. "Sync and check for new items" is always dimmed out on the menubar but the "Go" pulldown does have "Sync to furthest page read" and when opening Kindle on another Mac it does "sync and check for new items" upon startup. A cool feature but I get concerned when "the world" knows exactly what I'm doing and when I'm doing it.......

I don't think "the world" includes anyone but you and your amazon account. (Wanted to clarify in case people read more into your statement: I don't believe this adds any privacy issue here beyond the kinds of thing already in your Amazon account.)
Leo
10-Jul-2010

Ken B
July 13, 2010 7:58 AM

Thanks for the overview of the Kindle's multi-platform features. I haven't bitten the bullet yet, and have no eBook reader yet. Do you know if any of the other readers have any of the features you've mentioned here? (And, if not, why hasn't Amazon been pushing this as a unique feature of theirs? Just about everything I see is "ours has a bigger/clearer screen", "we have faster Wi-Fi", and so on.)

I believe the competition is heating up in this space. I haven't looked at the other readers extensively.
Leo
14-Jul-2010

TheManRetired
July 13, 2010 9:55 AM

I have a kindle for pc and love it also but somethings I can not get on the kindle so I also have the Sony ebook reader and it is really good also, I don't think I will ever get a seperate device as it seems I always have my laptop with me.

Harold Kaufman
July 13, 2010 10:10 AM

I agree with all that you said. My wife and I both have Kindle II, share an Amazon account also and share our books. We have taken them on cruises, airplanes, car trips and around the pool. They are terrific. My older sisters (ages 75 & 71) and my younger brother (age 66) al have Kindles. We all love the scalable type function making the reading much easoer. I am considering upgrading to the DX model because I fly a small airplane and I can get instrument approach plates on that model. It is very easy to read in the cockpit while in the clouds. I have not downloaded to my iPhone yet but plan to. Great device. Sort of like e-mail; I never had it before but now would feel lost without it.

Sandra
July 13, 2010 10:15 AM

Two questions: What do you think of the screen reader feature that the original Kindle had? And do you have any prognostication about when textbook publishers will finally provide their product for Kindle? I know publishers were against the screen reader, but that is a feature I would want if I were to buy a Kindle. I have a college student with a reading disability who could benefit from digital textbooks with a screen reader.

I think digital text books are inevitable, but more likely for the larger format devices like Kindle DX. It's just a matter of time. (You'd think that nuking the used textbook industry would have them flocking to this form of delivery).

The screen reader wasn't in the original Kindle, but it was in the fist iteration of the second version (I though it was still there, just disabled on a title-by-title basis). Publishers hate it because it competes with audio books, which they would prefer to sell separately.
Leo
14-Jul-2010

Vanya (Matzek)
July 13, 2010 11:11 AM

I love reading & now I love my Kindle. I still enjoy "real" books when a title is not available on Kindle, but e-book is the preferred format, and not only due to the price. I decried the lack of folders from the day I bought my Kindle, but I just recently found that Amazon has slipped them onto my Kindle without telling me! Go to the Menu & select Categories. You will like it!

Rod Taylor
July 13, 2010 11:48 AM

Project Gutenberg is the place where you can download over 33,000 free ebooks to read on your PC, iPad, Kindle, Sony Reader, iPhone, Android or other portable device.
See http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/

RetiredTex
July 13, 2010 3:44 PM

Using E-Readers: Most people seem to use e-Readers while traveling or commuting. Using an e-Reader compares best with reading paperbacks, which are also easily transported. So, the price comparison that makes sense to me is to compare paperback prices (typically $5 to $10) vs. the new e-book prices (typically $10 to $15). The choice is obvious if one reads many of the available books. Unless one likes to carry many books at all times, I don't see what the fuss is all about. I have a SONY Touch Reader and rarely use it now that the initial excitement has worn off. The glare, dim screen indoors, and total blackout in the sunshine don't help of course.

George Moravek
July 14, 2010 6:27 AM

Why not use a notebook or Ipad?

You can. Kindle software is available for both. (The Kindle itself is smaller, lighter and in my opinion has an easier to read screen - particularly in bright light.)
Leo
14-Jul-2010

Gabe
July 14, 2010 6:37 AM

I'm curious about any research reading or study reading you've done. Do you find that the Kindle is difficult for recalling where specific information is? For example, I have some tech books that help me do my job. Because I sometimes need to refresh my memory on a particular topic or even a particular definition of a term, I'll turn to the area of the book where I recall the information being. That process goes like this... I have that "feeling" that it's about a third of the way into the book, I know I'm close when I start seeing familiar graphs or images (or even paragraph structures), and sometimes I even think I know if it's on the right or the left of the binding. It would seem all of this "feeling" or gut instinct might be lost while using the Kindle. I know what you're thinking, "Yeah Gabe, but there's a search feature", but frankly, I prefer searches when I have no clue how to find something, I'd much rather flip the book open and leaf a couple of pages forward or back. I guess I'm still an old-school page recaller. This is actually one of the debates about whether or not the Kindle should be used in schools. Personally, "new-school" kids are going to be raised on Internet searches and will instinctually use searches as I instinctually find pages in a book.

Katrina
July 14, 2010 9:20 AM

To Gabe: I know what you mean, and I feel the same. I think it is a sort of "intuition" for lack of a better word.
Or maybe it's "analog thinking", in the same way that when we look at a digital clock, we imagine a clock face, even for just a split second.
I returned the e-reader I had for this reason. I still find that I am fascinated by them, though, and when the price comes down even more and they have more to choose from, I'll jump in again.

FrankOne
July 14, 2010 3:54 PM

Love your stuff, Leo. Worked in large scale legacy mainframe world since 1970 and your story sent a chill down my spine at: "The fact that I can purchase a book, read it on my Kindle for a while, then pick up where I left off when I switch to reading it on my PC... again when I happen to be out and about with only my phone with me, and then return to my Kindle to once again pick up where I left off, is to me, perhaps the most under-sold feature of the Kindle.

It's not about the device any more, it's the ubiquity of content.Buy once. Read almost anywhere."

If You haven't already read it a hundred times, please read Isaac Asimov's short story "The Last Question". A field of possibility is coming to be.

Just re-read it. I think we have a long, long, long way to go before any of that might happen. Smile (Also not quite sure how this article relates to it.)
Leo
16-Jul-2010

Gabe
July 20, 2010 9:38 AM

@Katrina: LOL, never considered referring to the old-school thinking with that term, "analog thinking" and presumably "digital thinking" would be for new-school. :-)

I do like Leo's ubiquitious selling point. I never considered that as part of the package. I always pictured myself having to tote the Kindle with me everywhere I go.

Mark J
August 30, 2011 9:30 AM

I never had a Kindle but, I got the Kindle app for my iPod a few years ago. I switched it to my Droid. I also have the account installed on my Laptop and Netbook. I'm thinking of getting a Kindle for the simple convenience. Reading on an iPhone, Droid or iPod is much easier on your eyes than you would think.

A student of mine is a device fanatic. I showed her how to install Kindle on her iPad and she said it's exactly what she needed for reading in bed at night, so as not to disturb her husband. But she still prefers the Kindle most of the time, because her native language is German and the Kindle handles the translation so well.

Michelle
August 30, 2011 9:41 AM

I haven't found the need to actually buy a Kindle as I have the Kindle App on both my iPod Touch and my iPhone and Kindle for PC on our desktop and laptops and I love that I'm actually reading more now and can pick up where I left off on any of my devices. Can't see carrying a larger Kindle along with all my other smaller devices and I'm used to the smaller screen so that doesn't bother me. I also have other reader apps (Kobo, iBooks, etc.) on my devices but must confess that Kindle is my favorite and the one I read from most. Love your articles! I learn so much from you. Thank you.

Ravi
August 30, 2011 10:29 AM

Have you used Calibre with Kindle? It opens amazing capabilities on kindle. I no longer use Kindle for PC, just calibre for managing the Kindle. I do have a kindle app for the iphone though. For sheer readability, stanza from lexcycle beats both Kindle app and iBooks. Have to say though, even with all these devices and apps, I still buy more print books than e-books.

Another problem is that pdf rendering in Kindle is not great. Especially since I need to read 2 or 3 work related journals every week. For that I still prefer the PC. Figures/tables do not translate well.

Rob
August 30, 2011 11:13 AM

I can honestly say that I have been completely uninformed about Kindle - up until now. But not anymore!! Thanks for "kindling" my interest. (Pardon the pun)..

PhilipNeri
August 30, 2011 12:32 PM

I have owned a Kindle for a long time--I started with the 6" screen. I now have the Kindle DX and it goes everywhere with me except to the grocery store. The Kindle is the best invention since grass! Until I read your article on the Kindle, I was not aware that Ask Leo! articles where availabe for it. I immediately subscribed!! Thanks, Leo, for a GREAT newsletter.

Peter Ballantyne
August 30, 2011 2:54 PM

As an avid reader all my life (my parents made sure I grew up in love with reading), I was a "buy a book every week" guy for most of my working life. After retiring on the pension I can live reasonably comfortably, but a new book a week was no longer affordable. After re-reading most of the thousands I have accumulated over the years, I used ebooks on my Palm for a while. Then I saved like mad for months to buy my first Kindle 3! I am in New Zealand and it had to come all the way from the USA as there were no resellers here then (there's one now hurray!). For me the pricing is one of the main advantages. I am now reading about a book a week once more, and head over heels in love with my Kindle and its ecosystem. My Kindle literally goes everywhere with me, even (whisper) into the toilet. Being able to carry my library around with me is something I once dreamed of - now I am living the dream!

Charlotte Araki
August 30, 2011 3:57 PM

I LOVE my Kindle. I travel a lot and am a fast reader. I used to drag tons of books with me. Not anymore with the cost of baggage. I read large text books that are a pain to carry. I also live out in the country and I still get my books in just a few minutes. To drive to a bookstore would take me an hour and a half and their selection is not good. In addition I upgraded to a new Kindle and after a few weeks it froze. I called support and had a new Kindle in my hands two days later and a month to return the other one. I have never experienced that kind of service on a return before. The best part, for someone who reads as much as I do, is that they will tell you on Kindle and regular books that you have ordered that book before. I can't say how much that has saved me. My only wish is that they could adapt some sort of solar charger built in that could recharge in areas without electricity.

Robert Barry
August 30, 2011 6:02 PM

Leo
I too own a Kindle and am very pleased with it but when I had a look at AskLeo! on the Kindle site I discovered it wasn't available in Australia. Why are we always being treated as second class citizens down here in Oz? Why can't we get your newsletter in Kindle format in Australia. I'm led to believe it is a publisher's decision. As you are the publisher, what's going on?
Robert Barry

Not my fault! I have no idea why that might be.
Leo
31-Aug-2011

Steve Loyola
August 30, 2011 8:48 PM

I don't use my Kindle nearly as much as you Leo, but for me the best use of a Kindle is reading in bed. I can read until I fall asleep and the Kindle goes to sleep shortly after I do, and (unlike a print book) it remembers the page I was on when I fell asleep!

Ken in San Jose
September 3, 2011 9:31 PM

As Captain Picard of Star Trek Next Generation would say, "there is something about the feel of a real book". I agree with him. While an E-book might be convenient for traveling, I just like the feel of a book while reading.

Joyce
October 4, 2011 8:34 AM

Here's my gripe with Kindle or ereaders. I read so many books I can't remember them all instantly. I wish for a method of assigning my own rating of the book/author when finished. A small box to assign a 1-5 star self-rating. Any suggestions from others would be nice. Thanks

Abby
October 4, 2011 8:50 AM

Another avid reader here. I tried an e-reader that's offered by our library system and at first I wasn't really sold. I've used the Kindle PC software and have now become more of a fan. While I'll always enjoy a paper book, I've noticed I'm chagrined, when reading one, that I don't have the feature that allows me to click on a word and see it's definition. I can see an e-reader in my future but currently I'm loathe to buy one that's connected to the a retailer so it may be a while. (I know about Project Gutenberg but the content there is mostly not what I'm interested in.)

remarquee
October 4, 2011 10:25 AM

Abby, the KOBO does not limit you to a specific retailer. You are able to read books from all the major retailers and, if you wish, can later even read the same purchased book on another reader.
I purchased the Pandigital Novel for the same price as the KOBO touch which is a basic tablet and gives the additional advantage of being able to surf the web and use my emails.

Rod
October 4, 2011 11:52 AM

I am not against electronic readers such as the Kindle. But... let us look down the road a bit. As more and more people read only on-line books the book publishing companies will have to down-size, and down-size, and eventually go out of business, or at least raise their prices astronomically. What are you going to read if, heaven forbid, the internet goes off line for a while? Does Kindle allow you to keep an electronic copy of all your books on your computer? If a publisher decides to 'pull' a book which has become controversial will you still have the copy for which you paid good money. How about the changes in technology? Will an electronic book of today be able to be read on the 'Kindle' of 2030?
I like to loan a book to a friend. I certainly do not want to loan my Kindle.
Think of the story "Fahrenheit 451." While it may seem far fetched, it certainly is not beyond the realm of possibility.
I am getting much enjoyment and benefit from books I purchased 30 years ago.

William in Las Vegas
October 4, 2011 12:39 PM

Kindle? I love it ! It took me about 5 minutes or less to appreciate just how cool it really is. Now when I want a book and Amazon does not have the Kindle version (the publisher must agree to having it) I'm really disappointed.

Jackie
October 4, 2011 1:38 PM

Hi Leo, Last week I purchased 2 Kindles, third generation, for 2 family members. (Without "special offers"). This week when I went to order one for myself I decided to preordered the Kindle Fire. Have you done any research on this new ebook reader that you could share? Thanks.

Nothing other than what's already publicly available in several spots. I hope to share more when I get it.
Leo
04-Oct-2011

Bob Tullar
October 5, 2011 6:41 AM

Love my Kindel.Use it just about every day.A great way to read books.

Jan
October 5, 2011 4:43 PM

I do not own a Kindle. I am an avid reader. I get my books at the public library. I am a long time fan of Ask Leo!

I just read that Stephen White, one of my favorite authors, won't be writing any more books in his series because his publisher won't print hard copy books he writes; only Kindle copies.

Stephen White wants them to publish both types or none at all. I appreciate his consideration of faithful readers like me who can't afford a Kindle.

My sister has had a Kindle for a year and loves it. I would probably love owning one too. I just wanted to share news about one publishing company's and an author's views on how Kindles are changing my access to reading good books.

My reaction is that the author is using that as an excuse for some reason. There are plenty of publishers who'll publish both print and e-versions of books, and if he really cares he can even do it himself. I did.

Leo
06-Oct-2011
Mark J
October 6, 2011 12:36 AM

For those who have a hard time getting used to the new technology of Kindles etc. here's a great YouTube clip:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQHX-SjgQvQ

Glenn P.
October 8, 2011 9:59 AM

I have long been interested in the Kindle, but until now I have resisted it, because it was not in color.

With the release of the Kindle Fire, that seems about to change! Yay!

Howsoever, I will certainly wait six months or so for all of the Bugs and Kinks to be worked out first. Let the Foolish Early Adopters deal with the frustrations of being AUGP's (i.e., "Amazon's Unwitting Guinea Pigs")! Here's hoping that their Warranty Cards are all properly filled out and promptly returned, and that their Invoices are all carefully stored in a safe place -- believe me, they're going to need  them!      :)

Apparently then I'm foolish. :-) In reality my experience with all the Kindles I've had (between my wife and myself that'd be three) is that they've been solid on delivery, even the initial devices. We replaced one due to water damage (oops), and a screen that wore out after a couple of years of heavy use.

Leo
08-Oct-2011
Glenn P.
October 11, 2011 12:35 AM

Forgive my cynicism, Leo, but you do  know what they say about preordering electronics, don't you? Uh, what  was the second letter of the Greek alphabet again...?     :(

Anyway, Good Luck, and better you than me!

Mark J
November 23, 2012 1:06 PM

I started out with the Kindle program on a PC and started getting Kindle Books for my PC and doing a lot of reading on my netbook. I finally sprung for a Kindle and am so happy for it. There are so many pluses. Lighter than most books to carry and read. I can load it with as many book as I need for a long trip. Can get a book instantly whenever I want to read it. (Gotta be careful with that one.) If I doze off reading in bed, I don't lose my page :-).

Robert S
November 25, 2012 1:56 PM

I've had my Kindle for 3 years now and I've loved it. I have also recently bought an android tablet and I enjoy reading books on it using Kindle for Android but nothing beats my original Kindle for reading at the beach or any where else where the sun is an issue with tablets and computers.
As far as the software goes I would love to be able to have some way of marking a book as having been read. It often get confusing when there are many books on the device, some with very similar names, and until you open the book you are not sure if its been read or not.

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