Friday, 8 July 2011

Reasons for loving my Kindle

As someone who has always loved the feel and smell of books, and the look of them individually and lined on the shelves, I am the last person I would have thought would take to the e-reader in general and the Kindle in particular. When my wife presented me with one for my birthday last year I was openly delighted and grateful, privately sceptical.

Well, I've had nine months' experience with it now and all I can say is, I love it. Here are some of the reasons why.

1. It's easy to carry. It's light. You can pop it in a pocket or a bag and carry it anywhere without having to worry about covers getting torn, pages bent.

2. It's easy to read. You can even change the font and point size to suit. I have a light I can pull out of the cover I use with mine so I can read in dim conditons. Unlike a computer screen, you can read the Kindle outside in bright sunlight too.

3. Kindle makes it easy to read aloud, which is a particular benefit for me. I do a fair bit of public reading of my books, except that I never actually read from my books because I like to interact with my audience, and you can't do that effectively if you're staring at the relatively small point of the printed book. Before the Kindle I used to type a large print version on A4 of what I wanted to read aloud. Now I invariably read from the Kindle version, held easily in one hand, the text cranked up to large point size so that I can see it from a distance while open-faced to the audience. I don't even have to turn pages as I'm reading; just hit the Next Page button. And I can bookmark everything in advance so I can find the story or extract I'm reading from next with the press of another button.

4. It's easy to buy books (OK, maybe too easy). Not only do I not have to be near a bookshop, I don't even need to fire up my computer to buy from Amazon. Wherever I am (my version has 3G connectivity) I can search the Amazon store and buy direct from my Kindle, and it's delivered to me ready to read in seconds. I can also sample books for free, also within seconds.

5. I can get whole books for free. In fact, I download more free books than I purchase. There's a vast array of out-of-copyright books, including most of the classics, available for free from various sites. The one I generally use is the not-for-profit Project Gutenberg. Another is

6. I can carry all of my library with me, organized in collections I have made myself (like making folders for the PC) . Within one book-size package I have all the books I have downloaded, so I can switch from one book to another easily, and I don't have to break my back with a book-sack on holiday.

7. I don't have to dust my books, or suffer Paula's complaints when I don't dust my books for months and she ends up doing it for me. All right, I do love my bookshelves, but the Kindle is space-saving and low maintenance.

8. I don't have to keep my place. The Kindle does it for me, opening to the last place I read of whatever book I open. It's easy to navigate with the Go To option on the menu, and easy to find different sections or chapters provided there are hyperlinks on the Table of Contents. (When I recently published a Kindle version of my book of quotations I made sure that each subject had a hyperlink from the TOC, and thus have a better offering than my book in print. We did the same with the Kindle version of We Never Had It So Good so the reader can click to any individual story.)

9. I can search for individual words and phrases in any book I read. Every instance is listed for me with location and context, and I can go to any of them in a click; return with another click.

10. I don't have to look up definitions. There is a built-in dictionary. All I have to do is place the cursor next to the word I'm not sure of, and the definition pops up for me. If I do need further reference I can go to the reference books I have in my reference collection of the Kindle, without leaving my seat. (Amazon chucks in a couple of good dictionaries as part of the initial purchase.)

11. Using the cursor and/or the little keyboard I can make notes and highlights. As a writer and researcher, I have only very recently appreciated how useful a tool this is, because I have now discovered which has a printable version of all my notes and highlights for each book I have marked. So I can print out any extracts, quotable quotes or marginal notes I have made for reference when I'm writing - superb. If I want to clear the book of marks later I can do so with a click. (No need now to vandalise your books with marks and scrawls, or pepper them with little Post-Its as I used to do.)

12. If I choose to, I can share notes, highlights and comments on the books with others on one or more of  the various social networks.

13. I can search the Internet from my Kindle. Admittedly the small screen and the five point cursor are not ideal for navigating on-line sites, but it's nevertheless a useful function if you are away from your computer.

14. Using some free Kindle software on my PC I can convert my own documents to Kindle format and upload them to my Kindle for reading, working on, or checking in draft if I intend to publish the work in Kindle format.

There are several features that I don't tend to use personally - such as screen rotation, text-to-speech, voice-guided navigation, listening to music or audio files - that others might find beneficial, but there is certainly enough here to keep me happy.

Of course, there are downsides to the Kindle/e-book revolution. Not least there are commercial consequences for bookshops, publishers and writers that are as likely to be negative as positive, and I'll probably devote a future blog posting to considering these; but for the moment I've stuck to reasons to be happy from a reader's/working writer's point of view. The fact is, despite my initial scepticism about the Kindle, these days I would not be without it.


  1. A very good blog, David. I too was slow to embrace the Kindle and e-books in general, but now I wonder how I ever lived without it.

  2. Thanks, Nick. I do get people who look somewhat disdainfully at me when I use my Kindle, as if I've committed a crime against books.

    Thinking about using one's Kindle in public reminds me of another benefit of the Kindle - nobody knows what you're reading. No need to be ashamed to be seen on the train or tube reading Harry Potter (cringe) or an erotic novel (not me, guv). For all they know, it could be 'War and Peace'. Actually, if it is 'War and Peace' you'll find the Kindle version a lot easier to carry about.

  3. Re point 14, someone asked me what kind of software I use for conversion. You can use Mobipocket Creator, but now I think about it I don't use software at all these days. What I do is save my document to HTML format, then I send it to my account at with the word Convert in the subject line and the document attached. Hey presto, in a few minutes it appears in Kindle format on my Kindle.