Friday, October 25, 2013

RIP Kindle

As of Oct 24, I declare my Amazon Kindle 3 to be dead.
This is a sad, mournful day for all involved.

My Kindle froze up the evening of the 23rd and while I was able to do a hard restart, it froze up again upon loading. Letting it charge overnight, doing a factory reset, and even removing the battery had no effect. It is completely unresponsive. A look online shows that others have had this problem with no solution other than to send it to Amazon and get it refurbished. Given this is way past warranty and I live a continent away, there's no point in me doing this right now.

I've had this Kindle for about 3 years. It was a Christmas gift for 2010 and the very first book I purchased was The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, despite already having the hard cover version. During my time in Los Angeles, I was able to attend several author signings and managed to score 5 signatures on the back cover.
From top to bottom, these are: John Scalzi, Patrick Rothfuss, Kevin J. Anderson, Brian Herbert, and George R.R. Martin. I would have wanted to add Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks, China Mieville, and more to the list, but I wasn't around if/when they visited and, as you can tell from the picture, I don't really have that much extra space to spare.

The Kindle has changed my reading experience. I was certainly a healthy reader before, going through a handful of books per year (more so when I was heavily engaged in a series). However, the Kindle had the advantage of easily acquiring and storing books so I kept buying books, especially when they were on discount. The website eReaderIQ is great to find Kindle books when they are at their cheapest.

However, more than having lots of books, the things I like best about e-readers in general are the easy access anywhere in the world and their portability. While I was living in LA, I remember having to take a trip to Chile for an observing run. I just had to bring a book for the long flights, but had no e-reader so I brought what I was reading at the time: the aforementioned The Way of Kings, a 1000+ page hardcover book. It was heavy, bulky, but so good. I forced myself to read slowly, since it was the only book I had with me. Since having the Kindle, I have never had this experience as I always have another book or two (or three or four) ready at hand without carrying heavy volumes with me.

The main benefit of ebook accessibility is apparent when you move to another country. I'm now in Chile, but since my Kindle is from the US I still have access to the US Amazon store. This has become utterly invaluable to me. Most bookstores here don't carry the books I want (ie, science fiction and fantasy), and the very small section they devote to those genres tends to be a handful of books in Spanish. New releases in the US and elsewhere simply do not come here.
Not that I would buy books here even if they were in English: Chile has one of the highest taxes on books in the world. The 19% tax is leftover from the Pinochet era, but has yet to be changed. A book I got for ~8 dollars through my Kindle, I've seen, in soft-cover and Spanish, at ~40 dollars in the store.

E-books are great, but they are not without their problems. It is much harder to lend an ebook than a physical book, though progress is being made in some cases and clever users can find backdoors to this.
Another problem is what drove me to write this up. Most real books are impervious to electronic damage. The have no batteries to run on and they don't have software glitches. No one ever complains their book won't turn on! So score one for books at that end.

In the end, ebooks are here to stay. I embrace modern technology with all it's features and limitations. Even though my Kindle may be gone, all is not lost. All my books are backed up in the Cloud and synced to where I'm currently at. So while I'm sad my Kindle no longer works, I still intend to continue reading my ebooks!

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