Minimalism and eBook Readers

One of my most popular blogs is the one about the Amazon Kindle. People are definitely looking at minimalism and how an eReader can assist them in such endeavors. So in my endless quiest to become a useful resource to those who wanted to do the same but aren't sure what the end result can be, here's some more updated notes about how eReaders and the Kindle in specific change the way you read.

I'm not trying to sell you on an eReader. I'm trying to make sure everyone knows what it's like so they don't waste time on something that won't work for them, because the experience isn't perfect.

What eReaders don't do well

-Ergonomics. Some eReaders seem to be ignoring them entirely. I strongly recommend that all users find store displays of every model and test them out with the shape and size of their hands. Take these results into heavy consideration.

-While the devices themselves are pretty inexpensive, the pricing structure of certain types of books is a joke. I strongly recommend researching the prices of books available for the eReaders and understanding what type of reading the reasonably-priced content is useful for. For people like myself, it might be capable of replacing paper books; for others, it's an unnecessary supplement.

-While I'm not concerned about my Kindle dying anytime soon, I do wonder about the sustainability of the platform and the device. How long will this last? The battery is pretty strong and powerful, but it's not user replaceable. I also fear major market turbulence.

-Portability between eReaders is not impossible (the DRM limitations on the file formats are easy to break if you nose around), but it's a hurdle that should be addressed. In addition, if you want to manage a library any larger than a few hundred books, you'll need Calibre, which while legitimately useful and feature filled is also headache inducing, inefficient and very confusing.

-The ads on the Kindle aren't terrible, but they're mainly geared toward thirty to forty year old women. I am not in this demographic, unfortunately. The good things about these ads is that they bring your attention to book sales, some of them Kindle-ad-exclusive. But overall, I would just recommend paying the extra or jumping to a Nook to avoid them.

What eReaders do well

-Space. One device, your entire library. You may have to be creative if you want to replace your old dead tree books, because finding the various ebook files may take you a while, but once you do, it's hard to go back. I may never move an entire box of books again.

-The battery life is magical, and eBooks take up no digital space at all. This is the number one reason why I use the Kindle so much: I don't have to maintain it. It's the gadget I use the most as opposed to keeping charged and updated with new books. I just stuff it full of random books and I'm good for the next month or even year.

-While the portability of ebooks between devices is sub-par, the devices individually are all effortlessly cross-platform when it comes to syncing with the computer. Depending on how you use it, a computer may not even be necessary.

-They get you to read. And not in an advertisement sort of way. I say this because the eReader makes reading more pleasant, easier to access, and offers so many new book options in an immediacy that's initially breathtaking. It's the good kind of choice.

-They make reading better. The contrast is better than smaller paperbacks, while the lightness of the device is far better than any hardcover. The ability to change font size helps me focus on each word, and the variability allows me to change the size based on content and battery life left. (Smaller font = less page turns = less battery used)

-eReaders are excellent at shutting everything else off and concentrating on just the text. Some new eReaders seem to be trying their hardest to integrate Internet content and distractions into the text, but it's optional. The one great thing is being able to look up words in the text through a dictionary - you miss that when it's gone.

-eInk is one of the few modern pieces of technology that actually feels like a revelation as opposed to pure marketing spin. It looks incredible. I say this even years after I bought my Kindle.

-They present web content beyond anything that Readability can do. By using any number of "Send to Kindle" services or Instapaper for batch jobs, you can read long-form internet material using the eInk screen, which is so incredibly lovely. In addition, you can get RSS feeds and news reports by setting up a few services or doing it yourself in Calibre.

-While eInk isn't designed for Internet browsing, you'll be surprised what it can do in a pinch. The 3G services are awesome as well, if you can still find an eReader that hasn't limited what you can access. Also on the topic: some small games are pretty fun. Every Word for Kindle is amazingly simple and addictive.

What I wish eReaders did

-Standardize more. Stabilize and update the software more often. Charge money for OS updates if you have to. Tying these updates to specific hardware is a quick way to get people to shrug off legitimate eReader progress because only the most dedicated users will upgrade their hardware unless it breaks. There's so much more to be explored here and it's all getting ignored.

-Integrate a better MP3 player if you're going to have sound. I realize this kills battery life, but the Kindle offers a shuffle playlist anyway, so you might as well include something more substantial. At this point, all I have on my Kindle is Music for Airports to help me focus.

-Kindle supports the Audible service, which is good in theory but burdened by DRM. It works pretty well. This shows me that a podcast service would work wonders on the eReader system. Integrating them into the library and saving progress is not a difficult task.

-I want Interactive Fiction. I want to play/read Photopia and Zork on my Kindle.

-Solar powered. SOLAR POWERED. LET'S DO THIS.

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