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Sunday, July 21, 2013
Early observations on an experimental family e-library and e-bookclub using Kindles
Instapundit Glenn Reynolds writes today that his Kindle Paperwhite has "replaced [his] iPad as [his] favorite device for reading Kindle books":
The backlighting is the key. It’s light, battery lasts a long time (longer than the iPad), it charges quickly (faster than the iPad), and it’s very clear and easy to read in all kinds of light, from bright sunshine to a dark room. And of course, it’s much, much cheaper [than an iPad].
To all of which, I say: Ditto. I bought one of the first Paperwhites last fall, and I like mine so much that I made this product the basis for a family e-book club.
Specifically, I've given four Kindle Paperwhites, plus two older Kindle models I'd purchased in 2010 and 2011, to my four college-age kids and two of their best friends. All these devices are associated with my Amazon Prime account, and as the group's sponsor I encourage the members to make responsible e-book purchases through Amazon using their devices. Those purchases are of course billed to my Amazon account — like many parents, I've never regretted buying books for my kids! — and each purchase generates an emailed invoice to me, which helps me keep track of new additions to our collective e-library and its ongoing costs.
Here's how the Kindle system multiplies the already formidable convenience and economics of e-books for a family e-library, though:
Most of Amazon's Kindle books include licensing rights for multiple copies of e-books to be downloaded simultaneously to six different devices. (The precise number is set by the publisher of each book, I gather — I wonder if that was another one of Apple's ideas or something the publishers insisted upon on their own?) Not everyone in our group can simultaneously be reading the same book, then. But then again, six copies at any one time is quite a few: What home library has as many as six copies of on-dead-trees books available for simultaneous checkout? When you remove a copy from one Kindle or other e-reader device, it automatically frees up the license rights for another free and nearly-instant download on any of my account's devices, so even the six-copy limitation turns out to have a trivial and rare effect on us.
And although we have a total of seven Kindle devices among us, there are actually more e-readers than that associated with my account. With the Kindles' autosync via WiFi capability, I also use my smartphone and a free Amazon Kindle app as an additional e-reader — which lets me pick up with the same book I'm reading on my Paperwhite on my smartphone, in exactly the same spot, whenever I happen to find myself standing in line or eating out alone.
(I opted to forgo the more expensive Paperwhite models with the built-in 3G wireless capability to augment the built-in WiFi. However, my smartphone can sync using either 4G or WiFi, and my Paperwhite back home will sync to where I leave off reading on my phone too. We don't think our group members need, or would much use, wireless on our Paperwhites, but YMMV and for some of you the additional cost may be justified.)
As I'd hoped, many of the books that one of us buys are ending up being read by more than one of us — and sometimes (e.g., the Game of Thrones series) by all or almost all of us. And as I'd also hoped, we're trading book recommendations and discussing books more frequently. Our "family book club" doesn't have meetings or circulate memos; instead these shared books become evolving, continual topics of occasional conversation whenever any two or more of us happen to feel like chatting (in person, on Facebook, or wherever) about something we've just read.
For those who worry that this might be "cheating" or that they'll get sued under the DMCA: I haven't studied the fine print in Amazon's sales and licensing agreements, but I emailed Amazon's customer support folks about my family book club plan before buying the additional Paperwhites last December. They replied that Amazon is perfectly happy to sell on those terms, which include the understanding that I'm maintaining financial responsibility for the purchases made by the responsible young adults to whom I've entrusted what are, legally, still "my Kindles" and "my [licensing rights to Amazon-purchased] e-books."
Finally: my older daughter just returned from a month's volunteer work in Nepal, where her internet access was limited and infrequent. She reports that she got more use and more satisfaction out of her Kindle than from any other gadget she had with her.
So far, then, I've been very happy with this ongoing plan and the return I'm getting on my investment. These Kindles don't suck at all. If you decide to buy one, I recommend doing it through either Instapundit's site or your other favorite blogger who's an Amazon Associates participant. (I'm not any longer; Beldarblog is nonprofit for the additional freedom that buys me with respect to "fair use" copyright issues.)
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(1) Boyd made the following comment | Jul 21, 2013 6:37:54 PM | Permalink
I understand you can now get refurbished Kindles, making a WIFI Paperwhite (with "Special Offers" on the sleep screen) a mere $104.00 (plus TX sales tax, thankyouverymuchAmazon). It's almost like stealing!
Well, not really. But...man!
(2) boyd made the following comment | Jul 21, 2013 6:52:52 PM | Permalink
Okay, so it's only $15 off a brand new one, I see. I suppose the refurb has the advantage of having been checked by a technician and confirmed to work according to whatever checklist they use. (Hey, I'm trying to save a little face here, don't dis me!)
(3) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Jul 22, 2013 2:28:23 AM | Permalink
Dear Mr. Dyer: I've been doing some genealogical research of late, and find that I am your long lost son. Cynics may scoff at this claim, as you are less than a year older than I, but anyone who can get an undergraduate degree by age 19 is bound to be precocious in other areas. Send me a PaperWhite at your convenience...
A little more seriously, nice work on the informal book club. Here is something that may expand it yet more:
Houston Public Library's e-book collection. They, like my library in Washington state, have a sizable collection of e-books. This may help circumvent any copy restrictions on your account, besides introducing you to a lot of swell books you might not otherwise know about. One of the frustrating things about working for a public library is that every day you see a book/DVD/Music item you'd love to read/listen to---but there's no time.
Your book club is a wave of the future. The present model of the public library is in for Detroit-size changes in the next ten years, though with better results I hope.
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