Monday, January 24, 2011

I'm a "Kindler"! :D

OK, not just yet. Well, theoretically I am, but the truth is the device is just getting shipped to me. But I'm so excited! In a strange, reasonable way. =)

Normally, when I'm buying some gadget, I'm excited to start "playing" with it (customizing it and generally having fun exploring its features, should it be a cellphone or a toaster). But this time I'm more excited about... well, reading. All those hundreds of thousands of books that are available for a small fee -- or even free.

So this post is about why I decided to buy a Kindle and how ordering one from Europe actually goes.

Thank you for tuning in and keep reading if you're interested.

Why buy a Kindle?
Out of all the gadgets that can handle e-books and PDFs, why choose one which can hardly do anything more than that? It's an often mentioned counterargument that by investing a little more money in a smartphone or a tablet device, you can get so much more. In a way, yes. But you know what distinguishes a gourmet and a gourmand. While foodwise I'm a total gourmet and I love tasting little bits of everything, when it comes to functions, I'm a big time gourmand.

All of the multitasking devices I've seen or owned have had their points forts, those functions that they have performed at best. To give you a very simple example, our sandwich maker/toaster makes the most delicious and super easy to prepare sandwiches, but an average toaster would beat it any time when it comes to toasts. Of course it's a huge space saver in our tiny kitchen, but every time I have to wait around 3 minutes for a toast and scramble it out of the thing, I'm wishing I loved those sandwiches a bit less. But they make up for the mess it is to get a toast out of the beast, so I'll live with it. Well, if the balance was a bit different, say my cellphone has amazing features like a huge display and tons of games and whatnot but didn't offer a seamless and comfortable phoning and texting experience, I'd part with it in a second. I have to love the peripheral options to put up with the weaknesses of the main function. So in a nutshell, when a device does everything OK but does not excel at anything, it's not really for me. And the tricky part is that when I buy a gadget, I normally already have a function in mind that it has to excel at.

I've been sorely missing a reading device for years now. As a university student and language teacher, I've always been hard pressed to have tons of documents handy (literally, my bags usually contain at least 3 books, 2 notebooks and like a hundred sheets of various documents!). I needed most of them (schedules, course plans and resource books) to be able to glance at them or quote them in class. But of course, as an avid readaholic, There was always one (or two or three ...) book in the pile that I was carrying around for the pleasure they might give when I have a couple of minutes to plunge into them.

But I've been dismayed by the display and handling of the documents offered by even the smartest phone. Yes, you can glance at them, but not very comfortably, and if you want a big enough screen (so that you don't have to strain your eyes or read two lines at a time), you can easily end up holding a brick to your ear when talking on your cellphone. Other than that, my phones are usually exposed to many dangers... I want them handy, so I hold them when running to catch a bus (one has flown spinning out of my hand during such an adventure) or holding 3 shopping bags, and I often take them with me when I'm having a bath. Well, normally their designated place is the bathroom counter but who knows how long they can remain there, tempted by the scented soak I'm having... ;)

So I went for the Kindle for two reasons. First, because I primarily wanted to be able to read a variety of documents, books being the most important. And after some research I found that all other devices (save for a couple of other e-readers) do a very mediocre job at that. I'm not a gamer and if I was, I'd prefer a hard core gaming computer, a play station or maybe a PSP on the go, because those will give you the desired experience. None of the smartphones will match a good computer at that. But of course, you can sacrifice that for the multitasking ability of those and save space in your bag. So, because I wanted to read above all else, I needed something with a strong reader and eye friendly display. The Kindle won the race because of Amazon's huge selection of books and because of the good reviews it had got. Not that it's faultless, and you might actually prefer another reader, but as I always define love by appreciating another's strengths and not being bothered by their weaknesses, I think I might say that I've fallen in love with this sleek little reader. =) I'm really not bothered by having to convert some file types or not having the possibility to customize the menu and other functions. I'm really looking forward to reading on it, which is said to be an amazing experience!

Second, I want my reader well protected. I don't even want to imagine what would happen to me if I dropped it during one of my bus chasings and were to teach a class without notes or sit through a 2 hour train trip without it. Well, I would have to play Snake on my phone. But I couldn't, because my reader was my phone, oh, I forgot that! So you see? People like me need separate devices for phoning and whatnot.

A third reason, this one of the more conventional type, was that I wanted to be able to read more and on a larger scale. There is just no way I could get my hands on all the books I want to read. First of all, they're really expensive in Switzerland, and most of them would be outrageously priced even if I picked them up in Hungary having ordered them there. And when I'm done with them, I'd have to give them away or ask people to store them for me, because we don't have the capacity to stock up so many books. So for the past year I've been reading much less than I would like to.

Ordering a Kindle from Switzerland

Ahhh... I'm no sure I want to talk about it. Amazon has a loooooooooong way to go before this becomes seamless for Europe customers. OK, what really (really) bugs me is that you can only get the grafit version in Europe. I just loved the white one so much better, I can't explain how sad it made me. But I'm not a child anymore (well, most of the time, anyway) so I got over it. I might pick up a skin later on, when I feel I'm wearing out the current one.

OK, so getting ample information took me some time. First off the website doesn't cover a handful of issues concerning the international version. For instance, it took me a couple of hours to find out whether the 3G was working properly in Switzerland and whether you could access your email etc. free when you buy an international device and have it shipped to CH. The answer to both is yes, according to Amazon customer service. Just a hint from me: if you have a general question (like this one), tell them you're not yet subscribed and proceed with your questions. Otherwise you lose precious minutes (no toll free number for us!) talking over your account info and what problems Amazon might detect. For me it was useful as it turned out I had 4 accounts under my name, but I got so annoyed by the end that it really made me consider giving Amazon (and thus the Kindle experience) a minus. Add to it the fact that the while shopping, the website (you can only buy the international device from the .com site, doesn't ship to CH) keeps jumping back and forth between the international and US facilities, and you understand why I say they have a long way to go yet.

And you might check out all the information on transferring and converting files because for international customers there are a number of small extra charges. But there are many ways to use all these services for free as well.

Just to let you know, with all the customs and shipping, etc. the 3G device cost around CHF 220 and will take 3-5 days to get here. If you happen to have any other question, please don't hesitate to ask me, I'll try to answer as quickly as I can.

Useful links:

Amazon's page on sending and transferring files
A nice full review + awesome video

Have a nice week! ;)
I'll soon be posting about my first impressions -- hopefully! =)


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