06 April 2010

Using My Kindle Overseas

I've been using my Kindle for several weeks now and I've concluded that I like it. Yes, it's different from holding a book. Being away from its wireless features is not as convenient as it could be (although it's really not that bad). But it saves me time -- instant gratification when I want a book! -- and it's reducing the amount of stuff we have, which is quite valuable when you move every two years.

As long as the internet connection is running at a decent speed, I can go to Amazon.com and download Kindle books and magazines directly to my laptop, then use a USB cable (which the Kindle comes with) to transfer documents from my laptop to the Kindle. I can also transfer PDF and text files to read on the Kindle, which comes in handy for some of the reading I'm doing for my master's program.

I wish the screen were backlit so I can read it in lower light (like on airplanes at night without the harsh overhead light on), but in general it's very easy to read and it's easy on my eyes. After a day of staring at my computer screen I can still come home and read the Kindle screen very comfortably. You can increase the font size. There's a little tracker at the bottom that tells you how far along you are in the book, which I love. I'm always obsessed with how many more pages I have left in a book.

With Kindle-specific files, you can highlight, make notes, and look up words in the dictionary instantly. You can jump around between locations, go back to the table of contents, and skip ahead to chapters. I'm having a little trouble with the bookmarking feature, so I find myself jotting down the location number (rather than folding down the corner on a real book), when I want to jump around in a book. PDF and text files are not as easy to manipulate. If all the features of Kindle-specific files are available for them, I haven't figured them out yet. I know that with PDF files, you only have two choices for font size (small and not quite as small), whereas for Kindle files there are five or six sizes.

I love handling it. It took me a few days to get used to it, but now it's completely comfortable in my hands. I can hold it with one hand and press the button to turn pages while juggling a beverage in the other hand while the cat jumps up into my lap. I bought a case for it, to protect it while transporting it, but when I'm reading at home I generally take it out of the case so I can hold it easily with one hand.

Recently I successfully wrote my first paper for a course using source material directly from my Kindle. I highlighted portions of the text and saved them in the My Clippings file, then opened that as a text file on my laptop. From there it was easy to copy/paste the quotes I wanted directly into the paper I was writing. Going paperless like this is huge for me. Once I got the hang of it, it definitely saved time in not having to copy the notes longhand from a book, then type them into a Word document.

Some other comparisons of using it overseas as opposed to in the United States... If you don't have the wireless thing turned on, the battery lasts about two weeks rather than one week, so you don't need to charge it as often. If you're overseas in an area that does have wireless access, you'll be charged for each direct download, whereas wireless access is part of the cost of the Kindle when you're in the United States so there's no additional charge. Wherever you are, you can still download directly to your own computer for no extra charge. Not all titles are available overseas. When Amazon thought my computer was in Burundi, I had a limited selection of titles to choose from. But for some reason it now thinks I'm in the United States (I did not change the settings in any way; it just happened on its own somehow) and I have the full selection at my disposal. One last thing -- if you're in a non-wireless area, you can't subscribe to magazines and newspapers; you have to purchase each issue separately and download them to your computer, which costs more than having a subscription.

I haven't tracked if it's saving me money or not. I'm downloading a lot of free or $1 ebooks (Goodreads and Project Gutenberg are great sources for free ebooks, even if you don't have a Kindle), because I like a lot of classics and some of the public domain documents are handy for my courses. But, am I also buying more new books, at least during this initial, new-and-exciting-gadget phase? Probably. However, most new books on Amazon are $9.99 for the Kindle edition, whereas the new hardcover editions cost more. On the other hand, I rarely bought hardcover books and usually waited until cheaper or free paperback editions were available. Lots of hands and variables to consider there.

Just this week I realized something I hadn't considered before. Once I'm finished reading something on the Kindle, I can't pass it off to someone else. If it's a book I think Mike will like, he has to borrow the Kindle to read it, which means I'm not using the Kindle. I give a lot of books away to friends, my office library, or PaperbackSwap.com. Now these books are taking up digital space instead of bookshelf space. I'm not that concerned about the digital space -- the Kindle can hold thousands of books. But not being able to share those books is bothering me now. I still have plenty of real books to give away; I don't think my personal library will be diminished any time soon.

Now if you'll excuse me, a book I want to read is releasing today. I have to go refresh my Amazon page to see if it's available for download yet.

Image from Amazon.com. I was not compensated in any way for this post. Items were purchased by me for personal use.


Anonymous said...

Yay! Clicking over to Goodreads rewarded me with a closeup picture of your kitty cat!! THAT is a BEAUTIFUL kitty cat!

Fabulous post, Stephanie - just wonderful post - about the Kindle. Loved that you took the time to list out the pros and cons and even how you've used it overseas.

This is a huge, huge issue for me as I am an incredible book lover. I've never been without the library before. Even when James was in DC just for a few weeks and we followed him there for training, the day we got there (literally), all of us had library cards.

But the sheer weight of taking books with us scares the living daylights out of me. Since I love love love the classics, maybe a Kindle is in my future someday. The problems is: I never, ever pay money for books. I interlibrary loan them. And I am very, very cheap, so it will be a learning curve for me to pay for Kindle books. Dilemma: go without, ship my own (heavy!) or get a Kindle and pay for downloads.

But that's assuming we ever get overseas! LOL! For if we cannot, and we instead spend the next 30 years of my husband's career in DC, it's totally not a problem! LOL!

Anonymous said...

I have a first generation kindle and I love it. It is dual voltage so check yours because I can't imagine that yours wouldn't be since it is newer. On the charger mine says Input: 100-240 VAC 50/60Hz and I've used it with just a plug adapter without any problem. Either way, I can't imagine travelling and moving without it!

Stephanie said...

You are totally right about the charger! I don't know how I missed it the first time. (Except that the print is so damn small.)

fsowannabe said...

The Mrs. and I are considering buying Kindles/iPads for our book obsessions. We have countless boxes of books in our basement, and we really see e-books as the way to cut on the clutter. If we don't do it soon, I imagine there might be a special of Hoarders featuring us and our piles of books.

Anonymous said...

It's Friday, and that means that the Two Month Blogiversary of the Weekly State Department Blog Roundup is up - and you're on it!

Here is the link:


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