Meet Yosemite Sam

Yosemite Sam, my Kindle. Yes, that's really what I call it. You have to name it something, so why not something interesting rather than the pedestrian "John's Kindle"?

I know the iPad is supposed to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but since I got a Kindle for my birthday this year it’s clear that the Kindle is a better fit for me.  I wanted a device for doing precisely one thing:  reading books.  No games, no videos, no surfing the web; just reading.  For that activity, the Kindle is a half-pound of literary awesomeness.

Why do I say that?  Well, there are lots of reviews of the Kindle on-line, so I won’t repeat those here. Instead, here’s what I like about the Kindle.

It’s small.  Really small.  Even with a case, I can throw it in my computer bag and hardly know it’s there.  I can tuck it under my are when I go out to eat, and still be able to pick up my burrito and drink at Qdoba.

The battery lasts for freakin’ ever.  I’ve left it off the charger for over a week without getting below 75% of a full charge, and long reading sessions (6-8 hours) hardly cause the battery meter to move.  You could go on a trip for a week and forget your charger and as long as you left the radio off most of the time, you’d be fine.

E-ink makes a display that is perfect for reading.  It really does look like a printed page, and it works fine in full sunlight.  Admittedly, on the Kindle 2 it looks a bit like a dirty page, but it’s still quite readable.  The Kindle 3 is supposed to be better, but it’s perfectly acceptable.  Laying by the pool in Monterrey reading Cannery Row?  Oh yeah, perfect!

You can store a ton of books on it.  Want to carry the ESV Study Bible (a brick of a book if ever there was one) with you without getting a hernia?  No problem with the Kindle.  You can load up on books so that you always have something available to read.  And with a 3G connection to Amazon, you can always buy something new.

There is an amazing amount of free reading material available on-line from places like Feedbooks.  I’ve just barely scratched the surface of what’s available, but already I’ve been able to find some real jewels.

Finally, after you’ve used it for a few hours, you forget that you’re reading on an electronic device.  It really does disappear and allow you to connect with the author just like you were reading a physical book.

Except that it’s better than a book.  It always lays flat, so you can set it down to read it without it flopping closed and losing your place.  You can lay down and read without it being awkward and heavy to hold.  Want to mark a paragraph to remember later?  Use the joystick to mark the text then slurp it up on your computer later.

Then there’s this:  you’re reading a book on your Kindle at home, but then you get stuck at the doctor’s office because they’re running late and you’re really not into reading the August 2002 issue of Field and Stream.  No problem, just get out your Android phone , fire up the Kindle app, and pick up reading where you left off on the Kindle.  When you get home that evening, your Kindle has synced up with your phone and you can pick up where you left off at the doctor’s office.

See?  It’s better than a book!

OK, now for the negatives.  While it’s great, it’s not perfect.

My biggest complaint is that some authors (or publishers) just don’t get it.  Some books aren’t available on the Kindle, which complete mystifies me.  These day’s, it’s not like publishers are printing books by arranging individual letters by hand on a composing stick; the data exists on a computer somewhere so it’s not that hard to provide a Kindle version.

Of course, even if you do provide a Kindle version, you can still do it badly.  I’ve read a couple of books where either the formatting was terrible, or the footnotes weren’t hyperlinked into the text.  I’ve played around with formatting books for the Kindle, and this isn’t exactly rocket surgery, so these guys should get better software people.

Finally, my biggest pet peeve is that in some cases I’d actually like to buy the physical book to add to my library.  If I do that, why not throw in the Kindle version for a few extra bucks?  That way I can leave the physical book at home and read on the Kindle, and I still have the physical book to read after the zombie apocalypse.

But still, it’s a great way to read.  Having a Kindle has given me more opportunity to read (since there’s so much available, and it’s so easy to take with me), plus more encouragement to read (part of that is because it’s a gadget to play with).

So, it’s time to grab Yosemite Sam and go read!

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