Some Notes on the Kindle

Rumor has it that is going to announce the Kindle 2.0 shortly, and for those of you who have been curious about this device, here are some quick notes on my experience with it.

I love my Kindle for one simple reason: All my manuscript reading fits into my purse! Last week I took multiple trips to Midtown to see a friend (about 45 minutes from Brooklyn each way), and I got a good half of a manuscript read in that time without having to juggle a huge mound of loose paper. And most agents now submit manuscripts electronically, so it works out very well. I don't plan to use it for general slush (that is, SQUIDs), but if I request a full manuscript from an unagented writer, I will probably ask that he or she e-mail it to me.

I wanted a Kindle rather than a Sony Reader because (a) it has a keyboard and (b) it has a wireless connection. With (a), I can do text searches through the various manuscripts I'm reading, or make notes within those manuscripts (though the keyboard isn't the fastest or most comfortable keyboard to use -- my note-making is limited, though I like the search option). With (b), I get the New York Times delivered to my device every day! I can download any book I want from the Kindle Store at any time. And I can download manuscripts to the device, or certain other people (only those registered with my account) can send manuscripts to the device, without my ever touching a computer -- very useful if I'm working at home on a Friday, say, and a colleague wants to send me a manuscript to read over the weekend.

(I've never tried out a Reader, so I don't know how it compares usage-wise. . . . Looking at it online, I see the new ones have a built-in reading light and a touch screen, and the Kindle 1.0 doesn't have either of those. The new Readers also have a virtual keyboard in the touch screen, so that eliminates that advantage.)

To transfer a manuscript to my Kindle (file formats accepted: .doc, .pdf, .jpeg, several others), I e-mail it to one of two special Kindle addresses, depending on how I want it delivered. One address will convert it to the Kindle format and deliver it wirelessly, but charge $.10 to my Amazon account for it; the other will convert it and deliver it to my gmail account for free, and then I can download it to my desktop and transfer it manually using a USB cord. The latter process is kind of cumbersome, so I try to do a bunch of USB downloads all at once, but for individual manuscripts, sometimes the wireless option is just TOO easy and seductive . . .

I can make the font size bigger or smaller, which is very useful. It is EXTREMELY easy to read the screen -- just like reading the printed page, with none of the vibration of long hours spent reading a computer screen. It's also extremely easy to turn a page accidentally, thanks to the huge "Next page" button on the right; and, when I'm holding it by the spine in its book cover, it's hard to hit the "Prev Page" button when necessary. I hope also that the 2.0 version will have some indicator that correlates the location marker in the digital version with the page number of the printed page. But those are small complaints.

I bought a cookbook from the Kindle Store, and while the Kindle is not very good for navigating a big browsey book of that kind, I love the fact that I can look up a recipe on my subway ride home, stop by the store and do all my shopping, then head home and cook without ever touching a piece of paper.

I've found I don't like reading the Kindle in bed at night, that it doesn't deliver the same relaxing experience of a physical book . . . probably because of the inherently electronic nature of the device, the fact that one side is thicker than the other (so it feels imbalanced when you hold it between two hands), and the fact that it's associated so strongly with work for me. And there are some literary experiences I still want to have on paper -- I tried a sample of Marilynne Robinson's Home, for instance, and I think I'm going to hold out for getting the book. But for things like the Times or manuscripts, which I'd just be reading on flimsy paper anyway, I'm delighted to have the Kindle.