You’d think I’d have bigger things to worry about with breast cancer and chemo than ranting about Amazon Kindle stuff. Well, I do. Y’know how they say it’s the little things in life? Yeah. This stuff is part of the little things, and it’s on the list of little things that are, and have been, making me crazy for a long time now. Having cancer just ups the ante of how annoying the annoying things are. The difference is that I now have an online platform to bitch about it and hope that someone in a position to fix it notices.
The Kindle is a great invention. I love my Paperwhite. Unfortunately, there is sometimes as much not to love about having hundreds of books at your fingertips as there is *to* love, and very little of it has to do with the device itself. Most of it has to do with just how little effort Amazon has put into anything to do with their own apps and devices.
First – Don’t Ever Lose Your Kindle
You’d think that once you registered a Kindle it would be yours and trackable. Right? Wrong! You don’t necessarily need a GPS to be able to figure out where a device is when it’s turned on. My Kindle logs the Wi-Fi SSID it’s joined to. It gets an IP address from that network to communicate with Amazon home base. So, like E.T., it regularly phones home. Amazon, however, doesn’t care about that. In fact, Amazon doesn’t give a single shit about your device if it gets lost or stolen. Not one. Really.
All you can do if your Kindle disappears is get on the website, log out and deregister it so that whoever has it can’t buy anything with it. On a Kindle, as opposed to one of the newer tablets, that would be limited to books. Kindle books aren’t always cheap, and they can cost you a pretty penny, too, if someone’s feeling particularly vindictive. Here’s the best part… once you go onto the Amazon website, get the serial number of the device and deregister it, they want you to call Customer Service so they can mark it Lost/Stolen. Allegedly, it can’t be connected to another Amazon account. So, in theory, some tweaker’s gonna sell it to some unsuspecting schmuck who doesn’t know that they’ve just bought what should be a bricked device. Oh, and don’t worry. Even IF someone were to return it to Amazon or your local police department, you’ll never see it again.
A good deal of this not giving a shit has to do with the cost of the device. All of the Kindle devices are under $500 paying full price. They go on sale every few months for 20-30% off that price. So even at full price, your insurance deductible is probably a lot higher than that, which is why the police department also gives no shits about your missing Kindle. Another is that your content is safe in the cloud. Once you buy a new Kindle device, your content is once again available to you at your fingertips within minutes. Is this a great scenario? No. It’s the only one available, though, so you have no choice but to suck it up.
The Kindle Device
As I said, I love my Paperwhite. The thing that *is* hard to love about the Kindle, regardless of which version of the device you own (classic, Paperwhite, Voyage or Oasis) is that it is kind of slow at scrolling through all of the books stored on your Amazon Cloud. When you open the Kindle app on a phone, tablet or computer, you get a nice big long page of thumbnails. Not so on the Kindle. I’m sure it could be worse.
Kindle Books Bought Elsewhere
This one is a big issue for me. I am in IT. I buy books from O’Reilly, InformIT, Apress and Microsoft Press because they offer big discounts on featured books of the month, or focuses on certain technologies or certifications. Right now, for example, they are offering 40% off of their newest releases. Last month, there was a focus on certifications and the more books you bought, the bigger the discount got. These are great deals you’ll never see on Amazon. Certainly, Amazon offers some great deals sometimes, too, but not usually on these kinds of books. Normally, I read these books on the tablet because I can have the book next to me while I’m working through exercises on my laptop. The trick is getting them onto the device and into the Amazon Cloud. Let me tell ya, it ain’t easy.
Send to Kindle
Kindle devices come with an email account so that you can mail content to your device. Some Kindle book files (.mobi) are small enough to mail or use the Send to Kindle app. The problem with this is that most mail providers, including Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo!, Outlook.com, etc., and most corporate mail systems, won’t allow you to mail anything bigger than 10-20 MB, and a lot of the technical books I buy outside of Amazon are from 20 MB to over 100 MB. Here’s another interesting tidbit – they aren’t stored in the same place as the rest of the books on your cloud. They get stored as documents instead of books. Oh, and if you upload them directly to the cloud, they still don’t get recognized as content for your Kindle. Exciting, right? No, this qualifies as another PITA.
Good Things About Kindle
There are some good things about owning a Kindle device. A few of the items below also apply to the (Android) Kindle app, but most only to the Amazon devices.
- It’s way easier on your eyes than reading on a phone or tablet. The e-ink technology really reduces eyestrain when reading, even more than the newer tablets with the blue screen filters. I find it more similar to reading a physical book than an electronic device.
- Books are searchable. This is the main reason I buy books for work in Kindle format. A lot of the books I buy for work end up being reference books. The print versions don’t always have what you’re looking for in the index or appendix. Or… when you’re looking for that one reference on server settings, using the search function is a lot faster than digging through the index or appendix of a print book.
- Vocabulary Builder. If you don’t know the meaning of a word, there’s a dictionary that loads with the book. All you have to do is select the word and it gives you the definition automatically.
- Amazon offers a Kindle Daily Deals just for books. Sometimes they’re free, sometimes not.
- There are a lot of books available for free on Amazon. Enter ‘Free Kindle Books’ in the search bar. If you like, you can add sub-categories from there, such as Mysteries, Non-Fiction, Classics, Recipes, etc. The results you get will show a Kindle price of $0.00.
- Monthly Amazon First Reads. They used to call this Kindle First. There is a list each month of new books each month where you can choose one to read for free. This is a nice feature if you’re someone who’s always looking for the newest books to read. It looks like there are also some books called Kindle Singles available to read for free to Prime members.
- Free books. There are a few resources for finding free Kindle books out there, too. I’ll list them out in a footnote below.
- You can loan books with friends and they’re readable on an app as well as a Kindle device. This is huge if you are someone who loans books out to other people and never get them back.
- Reading in the dark. I was that kid that sat in my room under the covers reading with a flashlight. Now, I don’t have to hide under the covers anymore. I can sit in my bed and read because starting with the Paperwhite, the devices are backlit. I tend to prefer white text on a black background if I’m reading in the dark. It’s cool to have that option, no?
- Highlights and Notes. It is great to be able to highlight parts of books that you want to remember later. Especially true for the books I buy for work. I don’t often highlight or make notes on fiction books, but it’s nice to have the capability. These notes aren’t the easiest to find – they’re stored on a separate web page from the Amazon site for Your Notes and Highlights. I see Amazon has finally fixed the format of the notes file online. It used to be one long barely formatted web page. You had to scroll down pages and pages to find a book you’d read before. They’ve now split it into separate books that you can now click on from a menu on the left side of the page. Yay! One issue down. Lots to go.
- Matchbook. For books you’ve purchased on Amazon, you can now buy the ebook version for $2.99 or less. I have a whopping 4 books that qualify for this offer.
- Wordwise. This feature lets you see the definition or synonyms of more difficult words in your book.
- Word Runner. I was hesitant to put this in the “pros” category. What this feature does is sort of like closed captioning for books. It gives you one word at a time at a speed between 50 and 900 words per minute. In theory, this helps you read faster. What’s bad about this, at least in my opinion, is that reading fiction requires you to get into the head and personality of each character. Fictional characters don’t usually speak with the rigidness of a computer. With a running ticker of words, inflections and interjections get downplayed or completely missed.
- Dictionary, Wikipedia and Translate. These are awesome features. The dictionary feature lets you press and hold a word so that you can see the definition. When you’re’ on Wi-fi, you’ll also get a box for Wikipedia articles or translations of the text you’ve selected. Unfortunately, the translations do not include Klingon. Sorry.
- You can’t buy ‘used’ ebooks from anywhere. When you ‘buy’ an ebook, it’s not anything like buying a physical book. You’re only buying the rights to read the ebook. This is supposedly going to change starting at Amazon, but it’s been more than a year in the works and still hasn’t happened.
- On the flip side of #1, you can’t sell your ‘used’ ebooks anywhere, either. Audible says you can return a book for any reason within 365 days of purchase. Not so with Kindle books. They will consider refunding an ebook only if you return it within 7 days, and it’s an “eligible” book. Whatever that means.
- On the Wi-Fi only version, it can be easy to forget to download a bunch of books to the device before you head out on travel. It sucks to get somewhere without Wi-Fi and discover that you have nothing to read.
- Notes and Highlights
- When you highlight text, it goes to a Your Notes and Highlights file in the Amazon cloud. If that file gets corrupted, your notes are history.
- Book updates – If you apply an update to a book you’ve already read and made notes on, they will be deleted.
- When you delete a book from your library, you also lose any highlights and notes. I think this one is ridiculous. In the “old” days, I kept a notebook of all notes I took on books or lectures. When I was done with the class, I still had my notes even though I sold those textbooks back at the end of the semester. I kept those notes so that I’d have the reference for the next level of that class. Now, if I sell the e-textbook back, I don’t get to keep my notes by default. There is an option when you have that book open in your Kindle, to send those notes to your email, which doesn’t exist in the Android app, but that only sends you a link to the file that gets deleted if you get rid of the book. Nice.
*email list sources for free books
- Ereader News Today
- Bargain Booksy
- Your local library
- Project Gutenberg
- 26 Sources for Free Books
- Amazon – search for “Free Kindle Books”