With the release of better and less-expensive Kindles I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people who know I love mine and are wondering if they should be getting one.
So here, I present my answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions I hear about eReaders like Kindle. If you have any other questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll add answers.
Do I Have To Connect It To My Computer To Buy Book?
No, the Kindle has a built in wireless connection to the web that uses the cellular network to allow you to connect anywhere and slurp books from the Amazon Kindle store into your Kindle.
(The new, cheaper wi-fi only version will only do this in areas that have a wireless network connection to the web. If you can browse the web using your laptop, you’ll be able to connect using this wi-fi only Kindle)
Can I Get Any Book I Want?
No. You can get lots of books. But it’s up to the publishers if they want to allow their books to be available on the Kindle. Sometimes they do sometimes they don’t. But there are hundreds of thousands of books available, including most new releases and publishers are working to get their back catalogues into ereader formats, pretty well. There are also thousands of books from small and independent publishers and self-publishing authors as well as free books: everything from classic literature to business books.
I Hate Reading On Screens. Why Won’t I Hate This?
Reading on an eInk screen is nothing like reading on a backlit computer screen, or phone screen. It looks like paper, the text isn’t pixelly, the contrast doesn’t strain your eyes. It is no more taxing on the eyes than paper. I swear. There is no glare and you don’t have to dog-ear the pages to keep your place.
Will I Be Able To Read Outdoors?
Yes. In fact, the display is more crisp in sunlight than artificial light. Forget your digital camera’s LCD screen or your phone’s screen, even your iPad’s or laptop screen. This is like paper. The brighter the light, the better it likes it. No glare, either.
I haven’t taken my Kindle to a beach, it’s true, but reading in the garden, in parks, and, I dare say, beer gardens, are all very much on the menu.
What Is The Difference Between 3G and Wi-Fi?
Wi-fi is a way to connect to the internet via a wireless internet router. If you can walk around your house and use your laptop or tablet anywhere without plugging it in, you have wi-fi. If you connect to the internet in coffee shops, that’s over wi-fi.
3G is the cellular data network that your smart phone uses. Kindles with 3G connectivity allow you to shop, download and sync book wherever you are (as long as there’s a cell-phone network in range).
Is There A Monthly Fee, Contract or Plan?
Nope. Amazon takes care of the charges for connecting to their “Whispernet” network to download books, even if you’re using the 3G connection.
Can I Lend Books
No. The BN Nook has a lending feature: you can lend Nook editions to other Nook owners IF, and this is a big ‘if’, the publishers approve the feature. Kindle does not currently have this feature and frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if the big publishers block this on their titles.
[Updated 9/2011]: YES. You can lend books to other Kindle users (in the same country/licence region) for 2 weeks. ALSO you can borrow books from your local library.
(There are some caveats: the borrower must be in the same country/licencing region as you; the publisher must have enabled lending and not all have; you must do the lending from the Amazon.com web interface; you cannot access the books you lend while they are away)
You can also share your notes and highlights and see what other people have been highlighting in the same books your reading. It can be amusing or annoying, depending on how you prefer to read (I mostly keep this feature turned off but sometimes use it. I have been known to send quotes directly from my Kindle to Twitter or Facebook, which is kinda cool).
How Much Do Books Cost?
There was a bit of a war going on between publishers and Amazon and readers earlier this year. Publishers wanted nothing to be below $14.99 and readers wanted nothing to be more than $9.99. As things stand now you can pay anything from $0.00 and up for books, but most newer titles are around the $9.99 mark. Things you could pick up in mass-market paperback are usually between $5.99 and $9.99 and some new releases come out around that $14.99 point.
Amazon is manoeuvering behind the scenes to find ways to pressure publishers to keep the prices down, so we’ll see.
How Many Books Does It Hold?
Enough. Seriously, the earlier Kindles hold over 2000 titles (of average size) and the newer ones say they can hold over 5000 titles. That’s plenty for me and probably you. But if you run out of space, you can simply archive titles at Amazon and download them again (no extra charge) whenever you want to access or re-read them).
What Is The Keyboard For?
The keyboard is there so you can type in titles, words, search terms, and even make notes directly on your Kindle.
Say you are reading some giant Russian tome and can’t remember the first time Ilya turned up or who he’s related to. Simply type ‘Ilya” and the Kindle will find all instances of his name, starting with the first. You can jump to that section, then press the ‘back’ button to return to where you were reading, secure in the knowledge that Ilya is, in fact, the farmer from Chapter 3.
If you like to make notes in your books, highlight a passage with the cursor then use the keyboard to make our comments in a little file. Next time you come back to this passage you’ll see the highlight and be able to bring up your note. Also, you can view all your notes and highlights on one screen and back them up at Amazon’s site so you never lose them.
[Updated 9/2011] The new ‘virtual keyboards’ on the newer Kindle models work in one of two ways: the lowest-end model does not have a touch screen. Instead, you use the five-way controller to highlight and select the letter you want, must like on a TV interface with your remote control. The touchscreen Kindles allow you to type directly onto a virtual, on-screen keyboard.
Does it have a dictionary/thesaurus?
Oh yes. As you’re reading, if you get stuck on a work, just move the cursor to the start of the word and a definition pops up, unobtrusively, at the bottom of the screen.
[Updated 9/2011]: The Kindle Touch models include X-Ray: relevant Wikipedia entries downloaded with each title and accessible from inside the book. For example, if your book mentions the Boer War, you will be able to highlight the term and have a Wikipedia explanation pop up on-screen.
Will It Read To Me
Yes, the Kindle can read to you. It’s no substitute for a great audio book recording (see my analysis here) but it’s nice if you’re in a pinch. Also, you can turn the volume down and let it just turn the pages for you while you read (great for knitters, crafters and moms with babies). It’s not available on all titles, again because the traditional publishing industry is scared by all this progress.
All models — except the $79 model — support audio content, so you can load your own mp3s or Audible content on to your Kindle and listen to it through built-in speakers or through headphones.
But I Love Real Books….
I do too. I love the feel, the smell, the heft of real books.
But what I love even more is reading them.
With my Kindle I can read them anywhere. There are smart-phone apps that sync with your Kindle account so you can read a few pages on your phone if you’re out and about and forgot to bring your Kindle. It starts up right where you left off, even on a different device.
I love never having to remember where I put my book down. never having to find scraps of paper for bookmarks, or cursing when I lose my place.
I love being able to hear an interview on the radio and buy the book while the author is still talking, all without leaving my house.
I love that I’m reducing my carbon footprint by not driving to a bookstore and buying a dead-tree book that has been processed and printed and shipped half way around the world (an awful lot of books are printed in Asia, you know)
What is WhisperSync?
Their ‘WhisperSync’ technology means that you can read your book on different devices and, as long as they are connected to the Internet, each device will remember what page you were on and automatically ‘open the book at the right point.
Should I Buy A Kindle Or A Nook?
I’m sentimental. I love the fact that Amazon did this because they believed it in. B&N did it because it made business sense so I’ll stick with Kindle as long as they make it and support it.
(the very savvy Chris Brogan has a compelling argument here for sticking with Amazon and Kindle.)
[NB This section compares only the original e-ink Nook and the e-ink Kindles] The Nook has a couple of features that aren’t part of Kindle. One is the color screen at the bottom that lets you browse by cover art. As a Kindle-lover, I see this as unecessary frippery that’ll probably drain the battery and cause the end of world civilization. But you might like it better than browsing the text-only list of titles on the Kindle.
That Nook Lend-To-A-Friend feature is appealing too. I’m just not convinced that a, the publishers will go along with it and b, that Kindle won’t implement it too. Kindle and Nook now allow for lending to a friend (as long as the publisher allows it). Kindle has partnered with libraries to allow you to borrow from your local library’s collection.
The selection of books is pretty much the same (why would publishers go with one device and not the other, and reduce their sales?).
Kindle does not support the ePub format, the open-source format that allows you to transfer books between different ereader platforms.
Kindle or Nook? I guess it comes down to whether you want to buy your books from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
What If I Still Don’t Want An eReader?
You can still read ebooks – on your computer or smart phone. Amazon has created ‘apps’ (applications or programs) that allow you to access Kindle content on other devices.
If I Can Read On My Computer, Phone Or Tablet, Why Would I Buy A Kindle?
[Updated 9/2011]: Amazon now offers a Click here to buy through my affiliate link (I get a kickback) or here to buy with no links: http://amazon.com/kindle
Want To Know More?
Read my other articles:
Kindle Touch Screen eReaders and the Kindle Fire Tablet
Nook and Kindle Comparison, from when the Nook was released last year
How To Publish Your Book On Kindle
Kindle 3 – Should I Buy One Now?
Using the iPad as an eReader and how it stacks up to Kindle