Thursday, October 14, 2010

I am remiss, I know.

Yes, I am aware that it's been a month and a half since I blogged here. But here is what's gone on since August 30th.

1. I moved.
2. As a consequence of that moving, I spent two weeks without internet at home. Cue gnashing and wailing of teeth.
3. School started.
4. As a consequence of school starting, I started teaching again--two sections of ENGL 1010, and I'm teaching it in a way much differently than I taught ENG 101 at Eastern, so I'm having to kind of wade my way through a new teaching philosophy and how it works in practice.
5. Mom has gotten much worse. She goes back to the neurologist on Monday. We have given up hoping for better news and are simply hoping for not worse.
6. My baby brother turned 17.
7. My car broke down ten miles outside of Hazard, aka five hours from Murfreesboro. Fortunately, I have some awesome in-laws-to-be who took care of all of this.
8. Fall TV season started. Hello, NCIS, how I have missed you.
9. I got a Kindle.
10. I don't really have a ten, but it seemed odd to stop the list at nine.

I realize that it's not much of an excuse, but whatever. My blog.

But this is a book blog, so let's get to the bookery!

Q. What is the coolest piece of booktech out there? A. Amazon's WiFi Kindle!

My friend, our favorite Snarky Writer, has a Nook, which I gave serious consideration to. But here's a comparison of the two, which I think will explain why I prefer the Kindle.

1. The actual machine. The Kindle's outside is a dark gray, just textured enough to keep light from reflecting off it. The Nook, by comparison, has a high gloss finish that I find distracting. The Kindle is also slightly smaller and lighter than the Nook.

2. The buttons and keyboard. The Nook does have an advantage on the Kindle with the regular screen at the bottom, giving a touch screen that lets you flip through books much like you might albums on an iPod touch. However, the Kindle has a full QWERTY keyboard instead. It's not big enough to type, but you have distinct buttons, which make it easier to type notes.

Furthermore, the side buttons to flip pages are smaller on the Kindle. I think this makes it a little easier to hold than the Nook without the risk of flipping pages.

3. The screen. Both the Nook and the Kindle feature e-ink technology, and can be read in direct sunlight. I haven't been able to compare refresh rates side by side, so I can't tell which moves faster.

4. The content. Barnes and Noble has over 1 million books available for the Nook. In comparison, the Kindle has 1.8 million free out-of-copyright (pre-1929) books. When it comes to .pdfs, however, B&N has the advantage so far. Both SW and I have been attempting to download .pdf files to our respective e-readers for class. I can open .pdfs from places like JSTOR fairly easily, but .pdfs of scanned books, etc. don't show up well--if at all. The Kindle, at least, also doesn't have any magnification ability for .pdfs, so heaven help you if you have bad eyesight. The Nook also has some trouble opening these scanned .pdfs, but SW has been able to open files I haven't. Still, when it comes to doing dissertation research, I think I'll save a lot of trees this way.

5. Memory. The newest iteration of the Kindle can hold up to 3500 books. The Nook, by contrast, holds 1500. Still, both B&N and Amazon let you delete books from the device, and your purchase history is saved, letting you download the book again if you would like at a later date.

6. Power. The Nook's charge will last for 10 days with wireless turned off. The Kindle will last for three weeks with wireless on and a month with it off.

7. Price. The Kindle's WiFi version is $139, and 3G is $189. B&N's WiFi is $149 and 3G is $199. I did go ahead and invest in the two year service agreement, which I normally don't do, but I think it's worth it in this case.

For me, the Kindle was the best choice, despite the fact that I often abhor some of Amazon's business practices and the fact that I love Barnes and Noble as a store--I'm a member of B&N, and I'd much rather buy a book in the store than order it from Amazon--not to mention that if you go to the counter at a B&N and ask them to order a book for you, there's no shipping and handling, and many of those books are in within five business days, well before Amazon's free shipping would get it to you (even if you live right outside the Amazon distribution center, which I have).

All my rhapsodizing aside, there are some things that still need fixed/updated. The first is the page turning buttons, which aren't necessarily intuitive. A flip forward button and a flip backward button are on both sides, the forward button being bigger on the bottom and the backward being smaller on top. Still, I keep trying to use the left flip forward button to flip backward, and I think this might be more intuitive, at least for readers of English.

.pdfs need more support, zoom, and a scrolling ability so you can scroll down a single, zoomed in page.

The Kindle's voice features, which reads books aloud to you, still needs a little work. Don't get me wrong, it sounds more like a human voice and less like Stephen Hawking's computer than anything I've heard yet, and they've made massive improvements. This I expect to see improve as voice technology improves, not something Amazon or B&N can necessarily take care of.

Highlighting. The Kindle shows frequently highlighted passages, with the option to see how many people have highlighted that passage. Even if you select the option to hide how many people have highlighted a certain passage, you still have a little message at the bottom of the screen that tells you that you can go see how many people have highlighted the passage, and I find that both distracting and annoying. Amazon needs to add the option to turn off where other people have been highlighting - not just the message, but the highlight itself. (Fortunately, they do offer an option to share your own highlights or keep them private. While highlighting statistics seem to be anonymous, I don't really want to contribute to that.) I understand how this could be helpful to students at a lower division level, but I'm in graduate school. AND it disrupts pleasure reading more than a little.

Organizing. Trying to add books to certain categories is more than a little difficult, because when you add books, it shows every book on the Kindle, not just the ones that haven't been categorized yet. Amazon needs to add an option that would allow you to toggle between these.

So, there you go, my review of the newest booktech. For me, it's hands down the Kindle. Next time, I'll talk a little about what I've been reading on the Kindle so far (read: Ph.D. preliminary exam material--much of which is free from Amazon.)


  1. Sorry to hear about your mom. We'll keep her in our prayers.


  2. The lower screen of the Nook turns into a QWERTY when you need to type. Just thought I'd throw that out there.