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Thursday, 4 November 2010

Thoughts about my new Kindle

Whilst at a conference another writer showed me her Kindle, and its lovely hot pink leather cover. Initially attracted by the aforesaid lovely cover, despite my dyed-in-the-wool technophobia, I went over for a closer look. At that point another writer (male) then whipped out his coverless Kindle, and began to outline the advantages of e-reading, its functions and features, gadgets and buttons. I let him try to explain the ins and outs of downloading, whispernet and so forth, whilst dying to ask, does the cover come in other colours?

Anyway, the upshot of the three-way conversation is that I now have my own Kindle (complete with burgundy leather cover). The first thing I noticed when shopping via Amazon was how different the top 100 books look in the US and the UK. In the US - thrillers, cook-books and erotica. In the UK, reprints of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Great Expectations, Sense and Sensibility, The Iliad by Homer, and Mrs. Beeton's Household Management. This is I'm sure more to do with what you can download free than anything else, but it painted a wonderful picture of the States as full of thrill-seeking, hedonists who enjoy a good meal, whilst the English are sensible but with great expectations, a penchant for latin, and with households that need managing in the Victorian manner. (Could there be some truth there, I wonder?)

Anyway, what the Kindle is good for from a historical novelist's viewpoint is that you can download obscure out of print historical documents and books that you might need for reference. On my Kindle I now have an etymological dictionary (downloaded free), several plays by 17th century playwrights such as Kyd and Middleton, (bought for pennies) Pepy's Diary, some obscure papers on sword fighting, and various other research PDF's downloaded from various universities. It is much nicer to do my research with them all loaded neatly onto the handy slim screen, and I can carry most of my research, including the stalwart Wikipedia, now in one volume. What I miss is being able to browse, and the fact that I can usually remember whether a line I'm looking for is on the left or right page as I am reading, thus making it eaier to find.

The Kindle is useless too for those lovely illustrated non-fiction books which show you things like how a flintlock pistol works, or pictures of costume or art and architecture. But for text, I have to say it is easy to read and has some great features like a built in dictionary so you can click on a word you are unfamiliar with and it will give you a definition.

And won't I look cool when I finally get my pebble glasses and zimmer frame and can use an e-reader instead of carrying great sackfuls of Large Print books around!

The cost of e-books is a hot potato right now. In my previous post on piracy I wrote that you can already download a pirated version of my book. In this post from the Guardian, you can see that readers want their books as cheaply as possible, and have been giving expensive e-books by well-known authors 1 star reviews in order to protest at the cost of books for the Kindle. These readers may turn to pirated books if the ebook prices remain as high as they are. But I can guarantee that none of those readers are also writers!

So far apart from out of print or classic works I have downloaded "The Wilding" by Maria McCann at almost the full price of a paperback, for the convenience of having it there whilst travelling. And I have no doubt that if I like it, it will get 5 stars and a good review from me on Amazon. I, like everyone else, want cheap books for my Kindle, but not at the expense of living writers whose work and creativity I am prepared to pay for.

As I am new to the Kindle, any tips, tricks or thoughts will be much appreciated, provided they are in plain english and not in technojargon!

1 comment:

  1. Oh Dee, this does make me covet one too. We've just ordered one for work and I can see me using it as much as the boys it's intended for!