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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Why I love my Kindle

Coming up on my 200th day reading, I wanted to do a post on why I love my Kindle, including some pretty cool features I've only recently found.

Most people are aware of the basic benefits of ebook readers. You can buy a book anywhere you have wi-fi and have it instantly. They let you take a whole library with you in a compact form. Most of the time this is just convenient, but I've done a good amount of reading on planes. Reading some of the books that I've done (e.g. War and Peace, Infinite Jest, and Don Quixote) on a plane would have been absurd. In fact, some people cut Infinite Jest into three parts to make it portable. Additionally helpful with Infinite Jest was how it handles end notes. You can click on them and read them inline without flipping back and forth. This doesn't work on all books, Lolita's notes weren't indicated in the text, for some reason.

You can check out ebooks from libraries just like regular books. Well, I say "just like", but the process is easier than checking out a physical book in much the same way that buying an ebook is easier than going to the store. As long as you have a card with a participating library (which seems to be the vast majority of them) you can go to and search for available books, find one you want, enter your card number, and get it delivered from Amazon to your Kindle just like if you'd bought it. There's no need to return it (or fees for not doing so), you just lose access at the end of the loan and you can check it out again if you aren't finished. Some libraries also make audio books available.

Speaking of audio books, I've recently been pretty impressed by Amazon in that area. Each month, Amazon offers the Kindle version of a classic book plus its professionally narrated audio book for free, and they have tons of classics on Kindle with audio books for $1-$5. I got the Count of Monte Cristo for $4. I listened to several chapters while driving to Boston. When I got home, I could tell my Amazon Echo to read it and it picked up where I left off from the app on my phone. Even better, when I opened the book on my Kindle, it automatically went to where I stopped listening. And these devices will continue to sync with each other. I think listening to part of this book gave me a much better idea of how the words are pronounced.

A question I've heard with some frequency is "why not just read on a tablet?" You definitely can do that. One benefit of ebook readers, for reasons I am completely unaware of, looking at backlit displays is bad for your eyes. E-ink displays used by devices designed to display books don't have that problem (the most common of which are the Nook and the Kindle). Additionally, primarily because of how their screens work, ebook readers' batteries generally last much, much longer than tablets. Ebook readers do have drawbacks: they're single-purpose devices, their screens change slower than other devices, and (to the best of my knowledge) e-ink displays are still monochromatic.

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