So to make a long story short (but then long again) I received a Kindle for me birthday last week. As a person who has a hard time separating the physical aspect of my media from the content, I admit that I hadn’t really given the Kindle much thought prior to this. I have never liked reading off of screens as I find that the brightness of the screen, and the amount of distracting alternate tasks that would generally inhabit any device on which I was doing such reading, would be quite disruptive… If not downright unpleasant.
The Kindle though? I can hardly put it down.
While I am delighted by the Kindle it is not flawless, but those flaws are quite petty… So I will list them here anyway briefly: while graphics can look good, pictures/photographs do not. But then again, it is intended for book “reading”, so I suppose that is fine. Wifi Sucks, but I imagine that is more the fault of the crappy WiFi (free, I must admit) connection that we have at home. Also, and most obnoxious of the short-comings, a lot of books have no functional table of contents… But as the technology allows for functional TOC’s, it is more the fault of the publishers than the kindle itself. Also it has a somewhat awkward organizational scheme for what you have loaded on your kindle. .
Okay, enough of that… Because it is also crazy cheap, cool, very light and thin, has very extensive battery life and (unlike so many other gadgets out there these days) it has a physical keyboard. For reading, it is very easy on the eyes and there is a vast amount of free stuff out there on the internet… Even prominently placed at the Amazon Kindle Store (which also has an enormous number of cheap (<$1) books) itself. But let’s not forget Project Gutenberg, Feedbooks, and Internet Archive! And this is just the beginning as the list goes on and on. For a good example, check out this vast list at ireaderreview.com. Of course, not all is about free stuff. I have downloaded War of the Dwarves and Judas Priest: Heavy Metal Painkillers for $9.99 each, along with dozens of cheaper books… Plus, I’m forking over a dollar a month to subscribe to John Kenneth Muir’s great Reflections on Film/TV Blog.
But what really stands out to me as I am kindling the day away is the effect on readership of old works as they become so readily available to so many people. While some of the free or public domain material is recent, there has long been a movement to get all of the public domain writings out there in the Internet in electronic form so there are millions of things out there waiting to be discovered, browsed and read by eager and curious readers. What this means is that if you begin perusing the troves of free writings out there, you come across all sorts of old stuff: 19th century lit, pulp sci-fi, weird old reference books…
With the number of people scouring the web now for free ebooks, I just can’t hep but imagine that the readership of some of these old and long dead and long out of print authors is suddenly sky-rocketing. Yes, of course one of my first steps was to get all the Lovecraft that I could, but I’ve also found myself grabbing things I had long wanted to read, but never gotten around to it: H Beam Piper, 80 year old issues of Astounding Stories magazine, Robert E Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, E E Smith, Dickens, Dracula, Frankenstein, Edgar Rice Burroughs, the list goes on an on. All for free and at my fingertips in an instant! I feel mesmerized by it all and hardly ever stop reading (except, of course, when I am sleeping or at work).
No, this won’t end my physical book habit, as the books that I “Want” , I will still need to acquire. But things that I have just wanted to read? I will finally be getting around to reading them. Lots of them.