Thursday, 20 January 2011

Kindle me books

I got me a new Kindle in the mail yesterday from Amazon, one of the first of a slowly growing selection of ebook readers. They use E Ink screens, which don't use any battery power until the screen has to change, and are easier on the eyes as they are not backlit like the LCD screens we know and use all the time.

I got one because of the amount of screen time I have at the moment, especially with many of my readings for University being in PDF format to save paper (which is fair enough, especially given some of my courses). I'm also a bit of a techno geek.

So, what's the deal with the Kindle? Well, it's not ideal in many ways, and not necessarily A1 with the Green Party's Information Technology Policy (pictured on my Kindle). That's because Amazon has made every effort to sell their Kindle's to make money of selling ebooks off their website, where you can choose from over half a million digitised books, along with some magazine and newspaper subscriptions. They make it clear they own the software on your Kindle in the terms and conditions, and have programmed the Kindle not to accept the widely used, open source format ePub. This is the format of Google's free books, many of which are free because they are no longer under copyright. As far as I can tell, most of these types of books on Amazon, when available, cost US$0.99, though some are free.

The Green Party's IT policy is all about promoting open source software as a collaborative and sharing alternative to the relatively monopoly of Microsoft's software, which you have to buy a license to use. (For the record I use Ubuntu).

Then there is the infamous (in the US at least) time that Amazon ironically removed copies of 1984 from everyone's Kindle who bought one when it became clear that it shouldn't have been sold by Amazon in the first place. This made many question what owning a Kindle and an ebook really meant when it came to Amazon.

The good news is, that there are converters you can download online, to convert ePub and other formats to Kindle-friendly formats, and upload them to you device from your computer.

So why did I go with the Kindle, when all other main ebook readers available, including the ones for retail sale in NZ (from Whitcoulls), are open source friendly? Cause it's a good deal, one of the best, and has a browser (and I wanted to be able to read the news online for free. I'm a poor student, OK?). It cost me NZ$250, including shipping and an NZ adapter plug for the basic, Wifi model.

And there are always ways around their software trickery...