Well readhead: Take a look at my bookshelf
Take a look at my bookshelf:
Judging from the available space, any books purchased after 2013 will need to be stored in the fridge.
You can see why an electronic book reader might appeal. I’m a serious book lover so have had some resistance to the idea of an e-reader. But I bought an Amazon Kindle late last year and have now been using it – alongside regular books – for about three months. I know the world needs another kindle review like it needs another Britney Spears crotch shot, but I feel obliged because I promised on twitter that I’d share my thoughts after I’d given the kindle a decent workout.
Here’s the short version: I love it, it’s far cheaper than buying actual books but the range is too limited in Australia.
In a tip-o-the-hat to Choose Your Own Adventure, I’m giving readers two options here: If you couldn’t give two hoots about my thoughts on the kindle, skip to the end of the article for your ten interesting things to read, watch or listen to. Or if too much kindle critique is barely enough, read on …
THE PROS: It’s very straightforward to use. You can alter the font size and style if you wish and the screen is very easy on the eyes. I didn’t find it any harder to read than a regular book. It is extremely convenient for travel – you can read a dozen books on holidays without weighing down your suitcase. One of the best features allows you to download a sample of a book to try before you buy.
Once you fork out the $300 or so for the device, the cost savings are extraordinary, particularly if you buy a lot of books. The first book I downloaded was Nick Hornby’s ‘Juliet, Naked’ for $11.99. I checked at my local bookstore last week and it was $32.95. Here’s a price comparison on some other well known titles (all in Australian dollars):
‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ by Stieg Larsson - $7.50 vs $24.95 in store.
‘Eat, Pray, Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert - $10.98 vs $24.95.
‘Stripping Bare the Body’ by Mark Danner - $17.92 vs $39.95.
‘No Country for Old Men’ by Cormac McCarthy - $11.99 vs $22.95.
THE CONS: As a book lover, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I missed the feel of a regular book. And browsing electronically is not as good as browsing in a bookstore. The kindle is great if you know what you want (and it’s available).
For me, by far the biggest drawback is the lack of range in Australia compared to the US. This is because electronic rights are still being negotiated in the Australian market. In my line of work, two books have attracted enormous attention in recent months: ‘Going Rogue’ by Sarah Palin and ‘Race of a Lifetime’ by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. Neither is on the kindle here. The available fiction range in Australia seems fairly populist. If you’re after Stephanie Meyer, Stieg Larsson, Barbara Kingsolver or J.K. Rowling, you’ll be fine. If you’re chasing Philip Roth, Ian McEwan, Jonathan Franzen or Alice Munro, you’ll be frustrated. And forget about Helen Garner, J.M. Coetzee or Tim Winton.
I put this issue via email to Simon Fitzgerald, who is Amazon’s spokesman in Australia, and he replied:
“It really depends on the publisher and the rights they’ve negotiated with the author to sell the books. Amazon has books available in Australia that aren’t available to US customers and vice versa. There are now 323,756 books available to Australian customers, at the time of launch this number was around 280,000, so in effect thousands of books are being added on a weekly basis.”
As for the kindle’s most significant con: read it in the bath at your own risk.
1. Charlie Brooker disagrees that the generic experience of the kindle versus a book is one of its drawbacks – at least nobody can judge you for reading a pot boiler.
2. I’ve thought long and hard about linking to this article because it is possibly the most gut-churning, heart-wrenching thing I’ve ever read and it was so difficult to get through that I don’t know if I want to recommend the experience to others. It’s not gory or graphic but it is deeply emotionally stressful. I decided eventually to include it because it’s such a phenomenal piece of journalism. The article is called ‘Fatal Distraction’ and the sub-heading is ‘Forgetting a child in the back seat of a hot, parked car is a horrifying, inexcusable mistake. But is it a crime?’
3. Until I read the article above, I only knew Gene Weingarten as a humour writer (he writes a column for The Washington Post called ‘Below the Beltway’). But he’s far more versatile than that. Check out his article on what happens when one of the greatest musicians in the world busks at a railway station.
4. I think Leonard Nimoy is going for an Australian accent here, but who can tell? (via @scrivenersfancy)
5. Will Rupert Murdoch be able to slay The New York Times with his overhaul of The Wall Street Journal? A New York magazine profile of Rupert Murdoch looks at this issue along with his battles with Google and his possible succession to his son, James Murdoch.
6. The famous author Jonathan Safran Foer was caught in a classroom explosion at summer camp when he was a child. “I can’t think of anything I’m more ashamed of than having asked Stewart to describe my face to me, or anything I am more grateful for than our having been together for those minutes.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/28/jonathan-safran-foer-the-explosion
8. Recently the Australian Literary Review published a survey in which Australian politicians nominated their favourite books. It prompted the author John Birmingham to ponder which books we really read as to those we pretend to read when asked.
9. If you watch ‘Scrubs’, you’ll know the terrifically manic performance of actor John C. McGinley. He recently wrote an article about his twelve year old son with Down Syndrome and why he objects to the word ‘retard’.
10. Is it difficult to find untainted jurors in the age of the internet?
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