(Pop)culture in real life, Smart Spender

4.5 years with a Kindle – review

*Just to make things clear – this review is in no way endorsed by Amazon, I have never been asked by them to do it, and although I did receive my Kindle for free, it was from my parents, not a multibillion dollar corporation. So my opinion is honest and biased only by my love for Kindle.*

At first there was a Kindle Keyboard, which is no longer being made (I still feel slightly sentimental when I see someone with a Keyboard on the tube).

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My Kindle Keyboard, and some really badly done nails

I got it from my parents for my 18th birthday, and it was love at first sight. I read a fair amount, and being able to take 10 books on holiday with me and them weighing less than one paperback was a true godsend. I also liked the fact that it had a physical keyboard (after a rather unhappy relationship with an early touchscreen phone I was strongly against them at that time), and you could kind of check your email on it if you were really desperate. The only downside was the fact that I was in Poland back then, meaning the only Amazon I could use was the US one. I didn’t have any account in dollars and the books were quite expensive to me in general, so the only ones I had were freebies and public domain ones. But hey, that wasn’t too bad, there was still always something to read and it was great for reading books for school. Then I moved to the UK, and problem solved itself, because I had access to the UK Amazon, with it’s plethora of cheap books.

And then, just over 2 years after I got it, my Kindle Keyboard decided to stop turning on. I have to admit, it was painful. You know, we formed a bond, my Kindle and I, and I felt it was too soon for us to part our ways. Thankfully, Amazon handled it very well, offering me a brand new Paperwhite half price, which I gladly accepted (well, my mom did, because she was paying). I had to pack my Keyboard in a box and wave it goodbye as it went back to Amazon. May it rest in peace (my Kindle, not Amazon). Since then, Kindle Paperwhite has been my good friend, travelled with me to a few places, entertained me on numerous flights to Poland and back, has taken countless journeys on the tube and, to be honest, has been one of my dearest companions during long evenings spent alone.

Now that you know how I came to own a Kindle, you can find out why I can’t imagine my life without it. This will be as much about the Kindle Paperwhite as about a whole Kindle or, even more widely, e-reading experience.

Just to clarify certain things from the get go. If you think e-reading is not for you because you hate reading pdfs on your computer, then let me just tell you – I super duper hate reading pdfs on a computer screen. But reading on an e-reader is a whole different experience, as they don’t have glaring screens – they have e-paper with e-ink. Which, in simple words, means that the screen looks like a page of a book, and feels like that to your eyes. So it means they won’t be supper tired, and you won’t feel blinded. If you want to read on your tablet/iPad, it’s fine, you can do it, but that’s nothing like reading on a dedicated e-reader.

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One of the main reasons I have chosen the Kindle over other ebook readers was the fact it is linked to Amazon, making buying new books almost too easy (I could probably not buy any new books for a whole year and I’d still be left with some unread ones in my library. Oops). You can either buy them through the website, and they will be delivered straight to your Kindle, or on the Kindle itself. My thinking was also that Amazon is a reliable company that’s not going to go bust anytime soon, and heard great things about their customer service. The way they handled the situation when my Keyboard broke down post-warranty only reinforced that view. I know that if my Paperwhite breaks down, I will be replacing it with another Kindle.

It being linked to Amazon means you’ve easy access to literally millions of books (currently over 4 million available in the Kindle store, with new ones added every day), meaning you’ll always be able to find something to read. Most of the time, they’ll have a few hundred books on offer for around 99p-£2.99, which will save you a tonne of money if you’re currently buying loads of paperbacks. And even if you aren’t, a book for 99p… come on, that’s cheaper than this latte you pick up from Starbucks. Amazon has also introduced Kindle Unlimited a little while back – you can pay £7.99 a month (first month free) and get unlimited access to over a million books. They’re not the most current ones, but I’m sure you can choose something from over a million books. If you read 2-3 books a month, Kindle Unlimited might be the right choice for you.

As I’ve said last week, I’m the victim of carrying too much stuff around. But there’s absolutely no way I’m braving a half an hour journey on the tube to work without something to read. That’s just not gonna happen, and there are only so many sudoku you can do in a day. The fact that the Kindle, even in a solid cover, is still lighter and thinner than most paperbacks (not to mention hardbacks) means it’s easy for me to carry around everywhere. It even fits in my favourite cross-body travelling bag, which is an achievement because this bag is tiny.

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It actually fits in this tiny thing!

Now that I’ve mentioned my sturdy (and absolutely stunning) cover, it’s worth pointing out it’s really easy to buy covers for the Kindle. I got my first 2 on eBay, and the current one on Amazon. It took me ages to choose which one I wanted, and with which design on it. Way too much choice. #firstworldproblems

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Kindle Paperwhite is one of the first models to have an in-built light, and currently all but the most basic Kindle have them. If you’re reading in a dark place, or if your train suddenly drives through a long tunnel while you’re at the crucial moment of your book, it does come in handy. However, 99% of the time I have it on a super low setting, meaning that there’s hardly any difference between light and no light. But if you’re worried about the page being too dark for you, Kindle gives you the option of remedying that. Beaut. (Or you could just get a little clip-on light – I used to do that with my Keyboard and it worked pretty well.)

Left to right: setting I usually read at, light completely off, light at the highest setting. You can seen I barely need the light. 

To put it shortly, Kindle is a light and thin alternative to paperbacks, one that holds hundreds of books, the battery lasts for over 2 weeks (or even longer, I can’t remember when I last charged mine), and allows you to buy tons of great reads for 99p. If you constantly find yourself not reading enough, Kindle is quite likely to help you read more. You can buy the most basic model for £59.99 on Amazon.

However, as any piece of electronics in the world, Kindle isn’t without faults. What is the biggest advantage to me (the connection to Amazon), might prove quite annoying when you want to buy a book from another store. You need to then either buy it in the correct format and email it to your Kindle or transfer via a USB cable, or need to convert it, if the book is not available in .mobi format. This can sometimes cause the book to go haywire, with words in random places on the page, or gaps within paragraphs. If, however, you try to put a book bought on Amazon on a different device, it’s likely not to be easy either (however, I’ve never tried that, so correct me if I’m mistaken). It’s basically a question of where you’ll be buying your books.

The Kindle, or e-readers in general, will also not be the best choice if you want to read reference books on them. I mean ones where you don’t want to read the whole thing, but rather bits and pieces based on the index. Trust me, it’s going to annoy the hell out of you, because Kindle was designed for back to back reading.

If you’re a crazy techie, then you might be slightly disappointed with the responsiveness of the touchscreen (just keep in mind my Paperwhite is 2.5 years old, so it might have improved in newer/more recent models). It’s perfectly fine when you’re reading, all it takes to turn a page is a light tap, but when you’re trying to play with the settings, it takes a bit of time for the Kindle to process your request. On the other hand, keep in mind it’s just a reading device.

On the topic of that – it really is just a reading device. It’s not going to do anything else for you. Unlike your tablet or phone, it can’t text or play videos. It’s literally just an electronic paperback. If you already carry your laptop, tablet, lunch, big headphones etc around, and don’t want to add another piece of electronics to your bag, you might be better off putting a free Kindle reading app on your tablet, and reading on that when you’re on the move. This will deprive you from the e-paper experience, but might be a more viable option.

The last point is an accusation I hear quite a bit from my friends – Kindle doesn’t have the feel or a smell of a real book. This is true, and you can’t really do much about it – it’s a plastic reading device, no way is it going to smell like paper. Sorry, tough luck. The only thing to remedy the ‘feel’ part is to get a book shaped cover for your Kindle. You can quite easily find them on etsy – like this one.

To me, the benefits of the Kindle far outweigh its downsides. It makes reading on the go easier, and means I never have to worry about not having anything to read. If you’re a massive bookworm, and half of your pay check ends up in Waterstones, then your wallet with sigh with relief when you get a Kindle. More money left for burgers and eye shadow pallets. And, ummm, healthy salads, of course.

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