Books & Reading

My very nature, is that of someone that loves books. I've always been a big reader, and my biggest, nerdy claim to fame, is that I read The Hobbit aged nine, followed by The Lord of the Rings.

Even at a young age, I was a geek. I still have that copy of the Lord of the Rings too - even if it IS falling to bits.

I have always loved books. I spent a lot of my childhood in libraries, I usually had my nose in a book, or, a book was always close to hand.

Once I started using computers, I would read things on the screen, using PgUp/PgDwn buttons instead of turning a page.

It's not the same, reading books digitally on a computer. When I got my first laptop I thought "This will be more like it" but even then, it still wasn't the same. I still had a bloody great bit of tech right in front of me.

When the various e-readers came out, like the Kindle and the Nook, I was intrigued, but none the less, didn't get one. For one, they were a lot of money, and two, I LOVE books. I am sure that at least one of you will understand when I stay, how good it feels to open a brand new book, how the pages feel... And I know at least one of you will also appreciate the smell of a new book.

So I didn't investigate the various readers much further.

Last Xmas, Kellie wanted to get me one. I told her no. I like proper books, it's a lot of money, yada yada yada. I didn't want her spending a big fat lump of money on that when we could have gotten her something pretty.

For Mollys birthday, she mentioned wanting an e-reader, and a few days later, we found one - just a basic one that reads text documents - for £25. With the assistance of a tool that converts the different book formats, we got her a load of books and put them on there for her birthday.

While setting it up, installing it and what-have-you, I was taken by the fact that it was, in fact, pretty clever. The "e-ink" stuff was clever, the battery life on these things is incredible, they're light and aside from a few buttons, it was quite like an actual book.

Minus, you know, the feeling, the texture and the smell.

I gave it to Kellie to fiddle with, and she too was impressed.

That was the beginning of the end, really. We had a think about it, and knew we couldn't afford one, let alone two.

Then it hit us. We had all our Christmas vouchers sitting in the cupboard.

Now, the thing with us is, we don't tend to buy ourselves "stuff" very often. Kellies shoes and bags notwithstanding. We had already decided to use the vouchers on some new saucepans and stuff for the kitchen.

We're like that. We will spend our money and stuff on bills, or things needed in the house. Not that we "need" pans and crockery - there's nothing wrong with what we have, but we thought we'd get new ones.

Until we realised we had enough for a Kindle each.

That was that.  We trundled into town and grabbed two Kindles from Argos, did some shopping, came home and started to play.

I love playing with new tech almost as much as I love a new book ;)

The first thing that struck me was the lightness of it, even compared to Mollys e-reader. The screen is the same size as a normal page, and it's thin too - but thick enough that it's easy to hold. You don't get an aching hand from holding it for long periods - it is just the right shape, size and weight.

Setting it up was pretty easy, linking it to our Amazon accounts and everything, simple. Connecting it to the WiFi wasn't difficult, but it was a bit infuriating. I use MAC Address filtering on our router - that is, only devices I've said can connect, are allowed to connect. You do this by putting the items MAC Address into the router configuration screen so it knows to allow it to pass. However, the Kindle doesn't tell you it's MAC Address during setup. So I had to log into the router, disable the filtering, go through the Kindle setup, go into the router, see which devices were connected, work out which was the Kindle, copy it'd MAC Address, go into the filtering system, add the address to the filter, turn it back on again.

Ideally, the Kindle should show you it's address during setup. Would make life a few minutes easier.

So, once set up and configured, it was time for books, so we went through getting a load. Some we got directly from Amazon, and literally, once you confirm the purchase, it arrived on the Kindle. Simple as that. Others, we had to download to the computer, and put on there ourselves. It's literally as difficult as plugging in a USB cable, and moving files from your computer, to the Kindle itself - which opens up on your screen like any other drive folder.


With a program called Calibre, you can convert any books you get that are in the wrong format too. The Kindle only reads a few of the different Ebook formats, but with Calibre (which is a free program, by the way!) you can convert them from whatever format you have, into the correct one for the reader. Again, it's literally as simple as clicking a few buttons and away you go.

You can arrange the books on your Kindle quite easily too. You can bundle them into collections, you can sort them by Author, or by Title, or by Date.

Once you're reading, it is honestly so close to being a page of a book. I was sat in the lounge, sunlight streaming in, and it was crystal clear. It works perfectly well in bright light, or low light. It DOESN'T have a light up screen mind you, so you need a light on to read - you can get cases with built in lights, but they seem stupidly priced. I'll stick a lamp on, thanks. If you think this is a hardship, think again - if you were reading, you would have that lamp on ANYWAY. Yes, it's the 21st Century, and everything has backlit/floodlit screens... But I am sure staring at one for long periods is going to screw your eyes up.

The buttons for turning the page are on the side, and the "Next Page" button is placed pretty much exactly where your thumb would sit when holding it normally. Right handed, or for the freaky of you, Left handed too. There are Next/Previous buttons on both sides of it.

The buttons across the bottom are simple too. Back - which works as a back page button, or mainly, back through menus, Keyboard, which opens the keyboard for typing in titles, searching documents or whatever, Menu, which opens the menu, and Home, which takes you to the first screen of your home page.

With the WiFi on, you can buy books from Amazon directly through your Kindle. You can also access the web. Granted, it's in Grey Scale, but you can do it. You can read blogs on it too via Google Reader.

The other rather nifty function, is sending books to it. You can buy online and have them delivered directly to you. You can plug in the USB and slap them on there. Or, with your Kindle Address - which is just an email address specifically for your Kindle - you can email books to it.

Case in point. I had a book on my computer that I KNEW Kellie would want. However, she was in bed upstairs (reading!). Instead of waiting till morning, I attached the book to an email and sent it to her kindle address. Two minutes later, it was delivered directly to her Kindle.

Doing this also backs it up on the Amazon servers, just in case you lose it somehow.

Once reading, you can fiddle with view settings too, change the font size to quite small, to massive - even those of you with eye problems should be able to see that! You can change the font from serif, to sans serif or condensed. You can alter the line spacing to closer or even closer together (if you want, not sure why you would - it looks weird!) and you can change the rotation of the device if you REALLY want to, and read it portrait or, strangely, upside down.

My only "gripe" if you will, is the position of the power button. It's virtually centred on the base. Exactly where my little finger sits. Many times while reading, I've accidentally caught that button and shut it down. I've password-protected it to prevent the kids sodding around with it, so every time I turn it off, I have to fiddle around with the keyboard and four-way button to type it in.

Only a little niggle I know, but still.

Actually, hold that thought... I wonder if that's why you can rotate the orientation of the page to "Upside Down"

Bear with me...

HA! OK, so that niggle... It is easily overcome by changing the screen rotation to the "Upside Down" position. And strangely, due to the size of the Next/Previous buttons, my thumb is STILL in the right place for the "Next Page" button.

Hopefully, once my case arrives for it, the position of the button won't be such an issue, but we will see...

As for cases, they too seem silly prices. If you want one - and you will, just for peace of mind - look on Ebay. We saw cases in the shop - leather, padded cases - for about £20. On Ebay, they are £7 each.

So, in short, I love my Kindle. It's reignited my love for reading, and it makes me love words all over again. It's not a replacement for books, mind you. I don't see books disappearing any time soon because there is too much to love about them... But I can see they now have some serious competition.

It's a brilliant bit of tech geekery, it's easy to use, the things you want it to do, it does, the menu system is intuitive, and looking at the words on the pages, it really is like looking at text on a page. And because it's not a lit screen, there is no glare to give you a headache.

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One Response to “Books & Reading”

Adullamite said...

You canny drop a 'kindle' in the bath however!