Should I Want a Kindle? Updated

Y’all know me — I am a technophobe and always behind on the gadgetry trends; I still don’t have a smart phone and I only have an iPad because it was a gift. And now, the whole world seems to be abuzz (or, ablaze?) over the new Kindle Fire.

So, naturally, that means I am finally wondering whether it’s time for me to ask for a basic, no-frills Kindle or some sort of e-reader for Christmas?

Are they worth it? Can one get over reading actual books? I hate reading books on the iPad, but is the Kindle markedly better for it?

And why, especially, might I want an ebook, anyway? Well, as it turns out, Patheos is now publishing e-books!

Check out The Tebow Mystique: The Faith and Fans of Football’s Most Polarizing Player by Patton Dodd.

And for those less into football and more into anticipating Advent, see Mark D. Roberts’ Discovering Advent: How to Experience the Power of Waiting on God at Christmastime

They both look good, and it’s part of why I am thinking about going to an e-reader!

Btw, I did reopen comments, but — as happens every time I close them — they seem to be dodgey. Hopefully you will be able to comment!

LATEST UPDATE: Instapundit reviews the Kindle Fire and so does Popular Mechanics

Kate O’Hare
has more thoughts on e-readers

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Michael

    Why buy a Kindle when you can get a Kindle Reader for iPad for free? I have both the Kindle 3G & the Kindle Reader for PC (I detest Apple so refuse to get an iPad) & find the Kindle itself only handy when my laptop is too cumbersome. All the same titles from Amazon work on the PC Kindle program (including the Ignatius Bible). When I get off my duff I’m getting Fr. Martin SJ’s books on humor in Catholicism (especially the “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything”)

    [I've really tried reading on the iPad, and I just don't like it. Btw, you'll enjoy Martin's book "Between Heaven and Mirth" and it's going to be featured in our book club, soon! -admin]

  • Maggie

    I was surprised how much like a book the Kindle was—I found myself trying to turn the page. I struggled with the decision too until I realized that I did not have to make the choice (Kindle or books?) but I could have Kindle and books.
    Kindle–for travel, on the way to work, Ignatious study bible, magazine subscriptions and any book that I want to read that my library does not have.
    I still borrow books from the library and buy the “must own” books.

  • Dee

    I too believed E-readers were a step toward barbarism and would deprive me of the sensuous pleasures in holding a treasured volume. Then my smart daughter got me a Kindle for Christmas last year. It has truly been the best gift I ever received. I go online to my local library and obtain a book and NEVER have an overdue notice. I have bought several books -one of which was recommended by The Anchoress-but must be careful because it is dangerously simple. And it can hold a could have your Catechism,Breviary, a Bible..everything along that whole shelf in the study..right in your purse. I was also delighted by how clear the print is in daylight. Do it!

  • Mandy P.

    Just to clarify, did you try reading on the Kindle App for the iPad or did you try the iBook reader? Because I refuse to use the iBook reader. It’s total garbage. But I did get the Kindle app for the iPad and it works wonderfully. It has none of the issues that the iBook reader does. I highly recommend it.

    [I use the Kindle app. -admin]

  • Ny Mom

    Elizabeth, we’re the same age, and I, too, am a bibliophile who likes to LIVE with her books – I need that tactile relationship with them – dog-earing pages, returning again and again to my margin notes and marked-up passages. My little copy of CS Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” is a work of art for our collaboration – his words, my graffittied reactions back when I was trying to understand my faith. I hold it in my hands like a treasure!

    There are a few Jetson-type people in my lay Carmelite community who walk in, reach into their pocket for their e-gizmos for our LOTH Evening Prayer and then download the passages from whatever we’re studying. When they start doing this in monastic communities we will know the end is near. (kidding…) Since I prefer to fully engage with my reading material I find the e-readers limit how they can be used – but I think if I were away from home more often I might consider some sort of e-apparatus only for convenience’ sake. Sort of like carrying a plastic insulated car cup for my coffee instead of using my favorite mug (cuz it’s not practical for travelling) – - it’s still the same beverage, but the delivery’s different.

  • megthered

    I started with a Nook classic. We are retiring in about 3 years and will be full time RV’ers so space is a factor. I had investigated all of the ereaders and Nook was able to read any ebook available. Kindle was not. My son laughed at me when I got my Nook, but he loved the idea of instant books. This birthday I received a Nook color and he got my Nook classic. My husband also has a Nook classic. I rooted mine and now have a pretty nifty little tablet device that I can search the web, do email, watch movies and read all of my books. I won’t leave the house without it. I also have a Kindle app that lets me read Amazon books, and I have found a few that are not available anywhere else. I really love it and will be able to take all of my books with me wherever we go. I find I don’t miss the feel of the books, because I lose myself in the book.

    [You "rooted" yours? What does that mean? Scary techno lingo! -admin]

  • LindaF

    I just love my Kindle! I can’t wait until the updated Catholic Missal hits the Kindle, so I can bring my e-missal to church.

    With access to library books, and a plethora of inexpensive books at Amazon, I am never without reading material.

  • Elizabeth

    I have a Kindle and I love it. I now prefer to read most books on the Kindle; the exceptions are those where illustrations matter. Since it’s not backlit it isn’t tiring to the eyes. It’s comfortable to hold. I also like the ability to download a sample of most books before making the decision to buy. The automatic dictionary definitions can be helpful. I originally bought it for travel, but it’s become a regular part of my reading when I’m at home also.

  • Nancy Berube

    I, too, love paper & ink books–the feel, the smell, the weight, the whole sensual experience. I also love my Kindle which makes it possible for me to carry a whole library in my purse. I also love my iphone on which there is a Kindle app that syncs with the Kindle, as well as apps for Divine, iBreviary, iMissal & Magnificat–some of which have audio functions. That said, I echo Michael above in asking why get a Kindle & especially a Kindle Fire if you have an ipad? The Kindle Fire is more like an ipad than the regular Kindle, so if you don’t like the Kindle app on that you probably won’t care for the Fire.

    [Oh, I am not at all interested in the Kindle Fire. I quite agree -- one tablet is enough. I am simply interested in the no-frills Kindle b/c I do not like reading on the iPad! -admin]

  • Mick

    I decided to take the plunge and buy a Kindle before a recent trip to Rome. I LOVE it.

    A few thoughts about it:

    1) It’s easier on the eyes than a computer screen or iPad (no backlight), and you can adjust the text size to whatever makes you comfortable. I took me about 30 pages or so to get used to the interface.

    2) I was surprised at how many free books are available for the Kindle. Within 24 hours of owning the kindle, I had downloaded a pretty big library of classics.

    3) An unexpected benefit: the text-to-speech (TTS) feature. As someone who struggles with ADD, I usually find it difficult to read books (especially nonfiction) from start to finish. I tend to jump around, skipping to the end, or to chapters that I think might interest me. I also have a terrible habit of reading 4-5 pages and realizing I have not been paying attention. With the Kindle, I plug in earphones and turn on the TTS. That way, two of my senses are engaged as I read along with the robot voice. The TTS plows ahead and all but forces me to read the entire book without skipping around. I just finished Fr. Barron’s Catholicism thanks to the Kindle (that alone justified the price).

    I’m not sure if that’s relevant to you, but it’s life-changing for me.

    4) Before buying, I researched all the major eReaders, and concluded that the Kindle had the most features and was the best overall value. (I have the Kindle 3 with “special offers.”)

    BTW, I don’t find the ads distracting. They only appear as the screensaver and at the bottom of the menu screens, not in the books themselves. I wouldn’t shell out an extra $40 or whatever to buy the Kindle without the ads.

  • Karl

    I was the late adopter in my family. I bought a Kindle this spring, after my parents had bought themselves one — each — last year.
    They are both great readers, and though in their seventies they’ve earned the right to be technophobes, they have no problem with the interface. They both have their Kindles registered to the same account, so when one buys a book (even the ones that cost $0.00), both have access to the book.

    I bought mine, and unfortunately, the first one broke within three weeks. Amazon replaced it at no charge, after making it clear they didn’t have to. The second one is still going strong.
    I have found a number of free and low-cost books. Many publishers are still trying to hold on to the high price model, charging the same price or a small discount over the paper editions of the same work. Other smaller publishers are charging very low prices. There are a lot of very good 99¢ books out there.

    Kindle will read a number of formats, some more easily than others. I have a few hundred .MOBI format books and magazines, so I have plenty to read at all times. (You plug the Kindle into your computer using the power cord / USB cord, and it comes up as an external drive like a thumb drive. You can drag your document files into the Kindle’s “Documents” folder.) (It also has a folder for music, but I haven’t tried playing music over mine.)

    Every three or four weeks, I show up at the Red Cross where I spend a couple of hours with a needle stuck in one arm. (They like my platelets.) I have no trouble working the Kindle with one hand, the unit is very easy to read in the bright environment of the donor center, and since lasts for weeks on a single charge, I don’t have to worry about running out of juice while pinned to the couch.

    I looked at some of the other readers, but the color models available, including the Kindle Fire, will last for 6-8 hours on a single charge. But they display in color, and you can read them in the dark.

    Your choice.

  • Wolf Paul

    I am a great fan of ebooks both because of price and ease of purchasing (I read mostly in English but live in a German-speaking country where normal bookstores don’t carry English books, certainly not Christian or other religious ones).
    However, I also find reading books on my iPad less than optimal; I used to have a Samsung Galaxy Tab which is the same overall form factor as the classic Kindle, but of course has a backlit TFT screen. I still found it a lot more pleasant to use than the iPad. My wife inherited it when I got my iPad. I now read books mostly on my Galaxy S2, an Android phone with a 4.3″ screen. When I set the background to beige and the brightness fairly low, I can read without my eyes getting strained even in the dark without ambient lighting (i.e. in bed when my wife’s asleep).
    I am seriously thinking of getting both my wife and myself a Kindle Touch at Christmas (if I can find someone to order it for me in the States because they are not yet being sold in Europe) because of the e-paper screen (non-backlit, looks much like paper, low power consumption) and because the touch interface is more congenial to someone who has used iPhones, Android phones, and various tablets for years. The classic Kindle interface doesn’t appeal to me at all (my son has one, and I don’t like it), especially for books where one does not read linearly from beginning to end but jumps around a lot, like a Bible or reference work.

  • Wolf Paul

    Short explanation of “rooting” for the non-technical minded:

    Most e-readers including nook and kindle are based on an operating system called “Linux”, where the administrative user account (the one that is allowed to do almost everything) is called “root”. The entire Android operating system is also based on Linux, and this his what is running on a Nook Color. To “root” a device is to get access to that administrator account, so you can do things with the device the manufacturer did not intend you to do — such as run a Kindle app on a Barnes and Noble e-reader, but also to run other apps not supported by the manufacturer.

    The equivalent term in the iPhone/iPad world is to “jailbreak”, and I won’t go into the specific differences between the two terms. In effect, both rooting (on non-Apple devices) and jail breaking (on Apple devices) allow you to do things the manufacturer did not intend you to do and run applications the manufacturer did not approve. Thus, it requires great care and a degree of technical savvy.

  • Mike L

    I like to play around with technology, so I bought a Nook Color because I knew it could be rooted giving it the power of a full tablet without the cost of a telephone contract. Eventually I ended up upgrading the operating system to a more advanced version of Android. An, of course, I have both the Kindle and the Nook reader apps downloaded on it. The funny thing is that I like the app version better than the native ereader that came with the Nook, and it even looks like you are turning pages..

    Also be aware that there is a program for the PC called “Calibre” for free that will manage your ebooks. Even better, it will translate from one format to another, so if I find a Kindle book I can convert it to a Nook format.

    Generally now I try to get my books in digital format. I don’t think you ever said why you don’t like reading on the iPad, but if you don’t like reading there then unless it is just the size, I suspect you will not like the Kindle or Nook either.

  • Alifa

    Because I do editing on computer, I got used to reading online fairly early, and preferred it. I don’t have a Kindle, and do read on my iPad, which I find rather awkward when I want to read while falling off to sleep. In that case, I need a real book. My only problem with e-readers is that one is not supposed to use them on Shabbat (closing a circuit in order to turn something on isn’t allowed). So in our house there’s plenty of scope for real books — but I’ve already decided it’s time to clear a lot out of my bookshelf, save mostly for history and reference. Books are a problem in that they get dusty, and if they’re not on good quality paper, they eventually yellow or completely fall apart. They also take up a tremendous amount of storage room. Still, it’s a favorite pastime to spend hours at the used book store finding treasures not readily available in e-book form, and I can never forget viewing old Irish gospels at the De Young Museum many years ago. As much as I love e-books, there’s nothing that can totally replace the romance of the printed or handwritten volume… Did the ancients lament the passing out of history of the cuneiform-clay tablet?

  • Mark.

    I love real books but I’ve had to be separated from most of mine due to family obligations. I have to carry my phone everywhere anyway, and I won’t carry a purse, being male. I bought a smartphone and installed the Kindle app on it, and probably have spent a thousand dollars on e-books since then. I quickly got used to reading from the tiny screen, and although the money I save with electronic editions is overwhelmingly swamped by the number of impulse buys, on the whole I’m happy, especially with the portability of the books and the app instead of another gadget that will not fit in a shirt pocket.

    Main source of impulse buys is a blog. This one. A plug here must be worth a hundred Kindle sales for a book. There must be others like me. It’s too easy to go to and buy one-click and have the book in a couple minutes. Just got and read Sinner yesterday.

  • Manny

    There are positives and negatives to a Kindle. Being able to flip around with a hard copy book is still a need for me. I like to know how far to go for a chapter to end or to skip around if I feel like it. It’s not the same with a book reader. But still it’s great essentially having a library of books in your hand when you lay in bed with the Kindle or in your brief case as you travel. Adjusting the font size to my aging eyes is also a plus.

  • Ellen

    I have a Kindle and I LOVE it!!!! I like the instant gratification I get when I want to read a book and I want it now. I just buy it from Amazon, borrow from my library or download from a free site. I don’t have to get out in the rain and snow.
    I can enlarge the text (easy on my older eyes) and the e-readers are very easy on the eyes. I keep it with me all the time and can read in the doctor’s office or waiting room anywhere.

    I have my Kindle library organized into nice little folders and I take it to Mass with me so I can read and meditate before Mass. I even have the rosary on my Kindle.
    I dithered for months about getting one and now I would never part with it.

  • Marie E

    I bought a kindle because I thought it would mean I would spend less on books. I still do love the physical book experience. I have tried to love my kindle but I tolerate it and still prefer physical books. Who knows, maybe gradually I will get to love my kindle. And maybe I’ll vote for Obama.

  • Mary

    I love the Kindle. I have very bad eyes so being able to adjust fonts is a godsend to me. Also, because the screen is not backlit, my eyes do not tire reading it. I use the Kindle app on the iPhone for lunchtime reading, but use the Kindle daily for large blocks of reading. I am one of those people who always agonized over what books to take on a trip; I always had a stack for even a weekend trip. That’s not an issue any more. FYI – the Catechism was just released on November 1. I still have my favorite books in the bookshelves and still use the library a lot, but my main source of reading is now the Kindle. Suggest you go to a store which carries all the e-readers so you can compare them side-by-side and decide what is best for you.

  • Peggy Coffey

    I did not do an internal root, I rooted my Android operating system to an SD card, that way I didn’t void the warranty, and if I want to go back to the original operating system I can.
    That being said, I really think you will love your ereader, when you start using it. I use Calibre on my PC also. I keep all of my books on Calibre, back it up once a week, and hopefully will never lose my books. I keep about 50 books on my Nook. It’s not as complicated as it sounds and you will love having the ability to read any time and any where.

  • Kris, in New England

    Nook here. I too resisted this because I too LOVE my books; I love the tactile experience, cracking open a new book, the smell of the pages, the feel of them. And then I caved and got the Noook as a birthday gift from my husband. I love it so much it is never far from my hands. I can have 2-3 books going at the same time and it’s still all in a nice small package. Shopping is easy – and dangerous – and I’ve got enough books queued up to last me thru winter at least.

    iPads are wonderful gizmos – gave one to my husband for Christmas last year – and reading books on them just plain ole sucks. They were not designed for it.

    I now want to get more religious books – I am waiting for the new Missal for sure! (And thank you Ellen – I plan to get the Rosary as well).

  • jkm

    I have so far resisted moving into ereading, mostly because I work online all day and it doesn’t feel like pleasure or prayer. But I just wanted to say how eloquently these comments speak to the ways we incorporate or wrestle with technology from a faith perspective. An eMissal never even occurred to me, but here are folks waiting for the new translation and already doing Bible study, LOTH, and the rosary electronically! And then there was Alifa’s lovely reminder that closing circuits on Shabbat is forbidden work, though paging through beloved printed books presumably is not. I agree with those who believe these devices will not replace, but merely expand our appreciation for and access to (miraculously, in the case of someone like Mick), the printed word and the content it carries. In the beginning was the Word, and so it will be, world without end.

  • Christine

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my Kindle and I also can’t stand reading on the Ipad Kindle app. Reading the Kindle is much like reading a physical book, but you do lose the functionality of being able to easily scan and flip back and forth. I like that my Kindle is only and e-reader. I don’t have to be tempted while reading in bed to check my email, browse the web, etc.

    I also like the benefit of the weight of the Kindle. You never get a sore neck or arm from reading a big heavy tome.

  • Frank Gibbons

    My wife gave me a Kindle last Christmas. After experimenting with it, I had her return it. The savings are negligible and it’s not the same as holding a book. If one were swimming in money, I suppose the Kindle would be good to use on flights, etc. to augment the pleasure of reading physical books at home. The price still needs to fall more and the prices of ebooks also need to come down more.

  • Suburbanbanshee

    But in the beginning it wasn’t the printed or the written word. Any kind of spoken, written or recorded word is an image or transmission process of the word, not a word itself.

    And yes, I really like St. John Damascene’s gentle logic about how all writing involves graven images, so that goes along with how God is okay with permissible non-idol ones like the Seraphim on the Ark. (Even if now it’s pixel images.)

  • Suburbanbanshee

    So far I’ve managed to stick with the Kindle Reader on my computer. But honestly, for anybody with a small apartment and a large book need, the Kindle or other ebooks are a godsend. After the first ten thousand or so, it gets to be a bit crowded; and it’s easy to acquire several thousand books over a lifetime, especially if you frequent used bookstores with really good deals.

    However, the “normal” ebooks created by book digitization of the world’s great library have been a huge boon to researchers. What would have taken a lifetime of travel and scholarship and much negotiation to spend a few hours with, is now accessible for a few keystrokes by any person who wants to read.

  • Ellen

    Right now, I take my Kindle with me everywhere. When it’s time for me to buy a new purse, I won’t buy one unless I can fit my Kindle in it.

  • Suburbanbanshee

    I don’t actually have ten thousand books. But I would have, if I hadn’t practically stopped buying books ten years ago. (By which I mean that I only buy thirty or forty or so paper books a year, instead of mass quantities.)

  • Sheryl

    Love, love, love my Nook. I received my Nook two and half years ago after investigating what ereaders my local library supported. So Nook it is. I just downloaded 12 books this morning as I’m getting ready for vacation and will keep them for 21 days. My local library did recently start supporting Kindle, but the selection is not very broad. (Just to let you know, the library purchases a certain number of books for ereaders. So it’s lke a real library book, if it is not available, you can put your name on a wait list and they’ll notify you when it is available.) I still read and purchase “real” books, but mostly those I think I may want to keep or have a mind to pass on to someone else. My Nook is also small enough to fit in my purse so when I’m waiting in the pick up line at school, I can steal a few minutes to read. It also has a really long battery life. I don’t know enough about the new Nook, but I may look into it. I have an IPad as well, but I mostly check email, youtube and let the kids play games on it. Good luck with your decision. Find out what your library supports.

  • MikeP

    I’ve been reading 30-40 books a year for the last 30 years or so. I’m well versed in the joys of paper books, but soft and hard cover. My wife bought be a Kindle a little over a year ago and I now have no desire to pick up another paper-book. I had a half-dozen paper books waiting to be read prior to the Kindle and I now find it a chore to pick them up. Here is why:
    The Kindle is far easier to hold then a real book. Significantly lighter than a hardback and unlike a paperback you obvious don’t need to apply force to hold it open against the binding. Ever have your hands get tired/sore after a few hours of reading? I haven’t with the Kindle.
    I’m in my 40s with fairly good eyes…no glasses yet. However I find the Kindle easier to read and gentler on the eyes then paper books. The lettering is high contrast and very crisp…like the best printed hardcovers out there. Far better then paperbacks. It is always ‘flat’, never do you have to deal with the curve of a page due to the binding. Might seem like a little thing, but have your eyes ever gotten tired or developed slight headaches after a few hours of reading? Mine used to, but not with the Kindle. This is an enormous difference over the Nook and iPad. Backlit screens are for casual readers, simply stated. The E-ink technology is functionally comparable to printed ink. Touchscreens have glossy surfaces, the Kindle does not. Have you even tried to read an iPad on a sunny beach with the reflection and glare? No issue whatsoever with the Kindle.
    And the Kindle-covers with the integrated book lights that run off the Kindle battery are simply outstanding. You can read anywhere with perfect clarity.
    Battery life is so long with the Kindle as to almost be a non-issue. I barely notice when I need to charge. I don’t believe this is true of the other readers.
    Availability of books isn’t an issue. I was concerned about that prior to having a Kindle, but I have not found it to be an issue.
    Many free or low-cost classics are available in e-book format. I’ve read many books I otherwise would not have chosen to.

    I strongly recommend the Kindle to anyone serious readers (20+ books a year) You’ll break even in expense and the physical/accessibility benefits are significant.

    For a light reader, don’t bother unless you like to spend money on toys. And if you just want a toy, then go with the iPad. It is perfectly fine for casual reading and it has far broader utility in other areas.
    The Nook is the worst of both worlds. It’s technology is simply not suited for serious readers and it has limited non-reader capabilities.
    I’m talking about the normal Kindle here, not the Fire. My understanding is that the Fire is designed more for a multi-media experience and not for the serious reader.

  • Deborah

    I have a Kindle. I have about 800 books on it. Most are free, but some are not. Project Gutenberg has free classics, like Chesterton, and all the books you were supposed to read in high school, I have the RSV-CE. I haven’t loaded the Catechism, but I will. I love the search function–you can search all your books, or the web. I read at night with a lighted cover. I also love the dictionary. Just put the cursor next the the word you are interested in and the definition pops up on the screen.

    I can read five or ten books at a time, and the kindle keeps my place for me. I can select text and make notes in the book. We also use the Every Word game and Jigsaw words at dinner while we are waiting in the restaurant.

    I ordered a Kindle Fire because I want to be able to surf the internet, which the Kindle 3 does not do very well.

    Good luck on your choice.

  • Phoebe

    MikeP. — I’m confused about your remarks about the Nook being backlit and the worst of both words. There are three versions of the Nook and only one, the Nook Color, is backlit. My Nook First Edition has a wonderful E-Ink display that I can read for hours without any hint of eyestrain.

    Also, I consider myself a serious reader and I love my Nook! With an SD chip installed it can hold up to 17,000 books, and I can read and sync books on up to 6 devices (right now I only use two devices — the Nook and an iPod Touch). My sister-in-law has a classic Kindle and there are only three areas in which I feel it might have an edge:

    Text-to-Speech: Nook doesn’t have this feature, but since I don’t need it, I haven’t felt the lack.

    Web browser: The Kindle Web browsers appears to be more user friendly than the Nook browser.

    Games: The Kindle has a slightly better selection of games. I don’t play games on my Nook, so it hasn’t been an issue for me.

    In terms of pluses for the Nook, I like being able to change my own battery, if necessary, and I really like being able to swipe to turn pages.

    But I agree with a previous poster — I would recommend going to a store and actually using the devices so you can find the one that suits you best.

  • sjay

    I got my Fire today — it’s comparable to my iPad but a little easier to hold. I prefer the both to my regular Kindle as I prefer the virtual buttons to the physical ones and like the increased screen size. The Kindle family is great for instant research — in Bible study last night the priest mentioned something that reminded me of something I thought Cdl. Newman had written so within a couple of minutes I had bought Newman’s complete works on line for a few dollars and downloaded them to find the quote I was looking for.

  • Kris, in New England

    MikeP: I have to agree with Phoebe about the Nook. I’m on my 2nd one (upgraded) and I love it. It’s all about personal preference as each one has it’s pros and cons. Slamming one – and by extention the people using it – really isn’t very kind.

  • Sheryl

    I noticed at Barnes & Noble the simple Nook (black and white) is only $89. Just saying, you could try it out without a lot of money involved.