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To Kindle or Not to Kindle

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My husband Dave always seems to be ahead of the cool gadget curve, making sure we're the first kids on our block to have the latest and greatest tech toys. We've had our Wii for years, stood in line the first week for the iPhone (him not me), sold our regular laptop to upgrade to the MacBook Air (worth every penny) and are still jamming away a year later on Rock Band when most people have never even played the game. I couldn't imagine what he was going to pull out of his Christmas stocking this year. Thanks to the generosity of his boss, it was a Kindle.

For those of you who shop on Amazon -- which would be almost everyone with an Internet connection on the planet -- the Kindle is not exactly new, but it sure is hard to get your hands on, which is a bit of a surprise considering how expensive it is. I certainly wasn't going to pay $359 for this "toy." As an avid book reader who buys 30-40 books a year, I'd make my money back pretty quickly, considering the regular cost of new books. Of course, to actually read anything on it, you have to pay more, around $8-10 per download, which is about half the price of most hardcovers and over time seems like a good deal. Ultimately, my decision to not jump on this bandwagon was all about the experience. Sure, the eBooks are cheaper and kept all in one place (you can switch from book to book at the click of a button and the device even keeps your place for you, which is nice), but what about the physicality of watching the story unfold as you turn the page? Of the feel of the paper beneath your fingertips? Of getting the latest book by your favorite author right off the press?

If Dave actually read books, we would have had a Kindle long ago. I love my husband and he's a smart guy; however, while he devours tech and sports magazines, I can tell you the last book he read all the way to the end -- The Devil in the White City. About four years after it came out and four years after I read it. He loved it, but it still failed to inspire him to pick up another. Sure, he bought the book about Barry Bonds steroid use and Bush's cabinet, but I know he hasn't finished either of them. He's a peruser, not a reader. He's likes his stories delivered with speed and efficiency. He's a computer guy to the core.

So, as thrilled as we both were to receive such a cool and rare gift, I seriously couldn't see either of us using it all that much. I have a back log of at least 7 books and well, he doesn't read books. It's just not how he likes to spend his free time. Or at least until he started playing with the Kindle. Since it comes with nothing on it, he signed up for the Amazon Daily Blog, to have something to read while he learned how to use it... and now he's hooked. It took four days before he would even let me touch it. I asked him to download a book sample, so I could experience "reading" something on it other than the blog articles, which made it seem too much like a small computer to me.

I wasn't initially overly impressed, but after reading on it for awhile, I began to understand the power of the device. The screen is easy on the eyes (you can pick your font size), there are no pages to hold open or get dirty and because the display only holds the same amount of text as a paperback, I felt like a speed reader as I clicked over to the next "page" about every 15-20 seconds. I enjoyed my first lunch with the Kindle and was looking forward to using it again, but alas, it broke the next day. Apparently, there's a flaw in the screen design and it doesn't take much, or anything at all, for it to become unreadable. It looked like an Etch-a-Sketch with half the screen shaken away. The fact that Amazon has to replace so many of the devices is probably why they are so back ordered. We were quite distraught, but the replacement procedure was handled quickly and pleasantly with a new Kindle arriving within two days.

Now you'd think I'd have been able to get a second chance with the device, but my husband hasn't let it out of his sight. When I asked him to download the book I had been sampling so I'd have something to read on it, he grumbled his assent, but told me not to get too attached. My time with the Kindle is restricted to lunch during the week and long car rides. Though he's completely bogarting the device, the goods news is he's actually reading on it. He downloaded his first book and was excited to get started, which makes me very happy. Perhaps he'll finally begin to understand the joy I've found my whole life cracking open a new novel... and stop complaining about the piles and piles of books stacked up all over the house. Of course, if he let me use the Kindle, that would no longer be a problem.

From my limited time with the device, here are my conclusions:

PROS: All your reading material in one place. Light and compact. Keeps your place for you. Great battery length.

CONS: Too easy to break. Not a huge selection of material, yet. Needs a back light to read in the dark.

All I can say at this point is I'm glad we have one and that we didn't pay for it. If you travel a lot (and are tired of carrying several books with you) or have trouble reading small print, this is the device for you. For everyday reading, the jury is still out. At least for me.

-- Written by Lisa Dinsmore

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