My Reading Life: Kindles and Ipads and Paper Books, Oh My!

Dear Reader:

*****WARNING: Long blog entry ahead!***********

Ahhhhh, the life of a book fiend in the early 21st Century!  So many choices, so many options, so many ways to get more books than an entire city of people could read in their lifetimes….

Have you been thinking about getting an ereader, but feeling unsure about whether to get a tablet or a dedicated ereader, like the kindle or nook.

I’m going to take a stab at anticipating and answering your questions…

Before I start, let me say that there are many fantastic blogs out there that have done a far, far better job of this than I’m going to do here.

Let me recommend two:

I Love My Kindle by Bufo Calvin (I link to this in my blogs link section) and A Kindle World by Andrys Basten.

I read Bufo’s blog everyday, sometimes multiple times a day (I subscribe on my kindle).  They (gender unknown) were a bookstore manager, now teach professionally, and have been writing this blog for a couple years.  Bufo is extremely responsive to comments on the blog – I love the writing and Bufo has some kindle-related books in the Amazon store.

OK, so now that you know that these great resources are out there, let’s start!

I have had a kindle for a couple years – I started with a Kindle DX (the BIG one) and then got a Kindle 3 when they came out – they are smaller and lighter and I love reading on them.  I read books and blogs and newspapers and magazines on my kindle daily.

I have had an ipad since last fall.  I have all the major book reader apps.  I read websites, blogs, newspapers, and magazines on it regularly.  I rarely read books on it.

Ipad versus kindle versus paper book

This is a picture of a paper book, my kindle and my ipad.  You can click on all these images to enlarge.

I’m showing you a same page from a free public domain Jane Austen book (Lady Susan) on both the kindle and on the ipad in the kindle app.  There is an overhead light on in this shot.  You can see that reading on the ipad is OK, but the contrast between the letters and background is not particularly sharp.  The ipad is also a lot heavier than the book or Kindle 3 (hereafter K3).  The K3 only shows grey scale (black and white).  The ipad can show any color.

You can see in this picture that the K3 and book are fairly similar in terms of contrast.  The background on the K3 is greyer than the book.   I find the K3 as seamless and easy to read on as a book.  I’ll go through the ins and outs of the K3 later in this post, but suffice to say one of the downsides of reading a book on a K3 is that you can’t flip through it like you can with a book in your hand – you can’t get that overall feel or jump around in quite the same way.

Back to the ipad, K3, book comparison – this is a picture of all three outside on a sunny day.  I think you can see that the K3 and book are easily readable and the ipad is…. basically a black hole or…….

a mirror.  Nice screen door, don’t you think? Yes, my house has grey shingles on it.  Yup, that’s my iphone taking the picture.  Mind you, this is an ipad “on” – it is showing the same picture I showed you above but inside under much less bright light.

Here you see the K3 versus the ipad.

Book versus K3 (the picture is dim for some reason…).

If you’ve tried to figure out K3 versus book versus computer/ipad before, this is what people are talking about with backlit versus reflective screen.  The ipad is backlit and does poorly in intense light (it also shines light in your eyes as you read under good conditions – some find this tiring for their eyes).  The book and the K3 are reflective screens.  They are not lit (  🙂  ).  You don’t have light shining in your eyes and they are readable outside in bright light.  Although a bright white paper can be hard on your eyes under a lot of light.

As mentioned, I don’t read books on my ipad unless I have to (if I can’t get a book I want as an ebook in a file that will work on a K3).  I don’t like the reading experience, although it isn’t horrible (nice compliment, right?).  I don’t like the way it looks.  I don’t like having my email, games, fast and easy web browsing, etc just a couple clicks away….  It is distracting.

My Kindle 3 (K3) in-depth

OK, so now you have a sense of kindle versus ipad.  Now, let’s take a look at the kindle and this is especially aimed at those of you who haven’t seen one.  And please note that people (like Bufo) have written great books about all this.  Amazon gives you a free guide book when you buy a kindle.  So, this is quick and dirty…

Many of us find it strange that all the discussion of kindles focuses on reading books on them.  You can do so much more than that on them – first, it is important to know that most kindles are capable of getting online using cell phone towers for free…. Yes, free.

These are kindle 3Gs.  You can also get kindles that have both wireless (they access your wireless network or whatever one you can get on) AND the cell towers (3G).  Some old kindles (like the DX’s) only go off cell towers (3g) although you CAN plug them into your computer and “sideload” (add files – books, pdfs, whatever) onto your kindle to read.  My K3 gets 3G and wifi.

Nowadays, you can also get kindles with just wireless that don’t have the ability to use cell towers – they are cheaper, but less flexible (you must always use wifi or sideload from a computer).  I could go on and on – but let me note that, for about $5 a week I can fully use my kindle on cell towers in foreign countries – thus allowing me to read my email or download subscriptions and books overseas too out of wifi range.  (I can’t remember, but I think I just need the $ if I wanted to get my subscriptions, I’m not sure if I would have needed it for other forms of web access…)

So, you open up your kindle and turn “wireless” on and you are automatically going to be sent to cell phone towers – in Amazon parlance, this is “whispernet” – basically, they pay one of the companies – Verizon or ATT (not sure which) for the right to have us download our books and surf the web (yup) for free using our kindles.

This is my K3 in its Amazon lighted cover – you have to buy this – it cost extra, maybe around $60.  If you buy a kindle, PLEASE buy a cover for it.  They’re fairly durable, but like any gadget, dropping, wetting, sitting on them without a cover can kill them.  (yes, I like hot colors!)

Here’s the same cover with the front folded back (behind the K3) with the light on.  The light runs off the K3’s battery.  Turn off the K3 or put it to sleep and the light goes off.  Also, as you see in the next picture, the light folds away into the cover when not in use (pull it out all the way and it turns on automatically).  I like this cover, but it does cover the back vents and when it was really hot recently, my K3 acted up.

This is my K3 with one of the preloaded screen savers (there are about 10 or so).

This is the keyboard – not something you want to compose novels on.  I type fast on a computer using standard typing class configurations.  On my K3 I hunt and peck with my index finger.

So, you flip a switch and it comes on.  This is the “front page” of my K3.  You can see that my “collections” (folders) of books come first.  I’ve chosen titles for them and pulled in various books.  Having collections is great – imagine 500 books without them!

Page 2.  More folders and then some free amazon blogs (the “new” designates unread stuff).  You are also starting to see some free samples I downloaded of books I want to get a sense of before considering buying.

More samples, some other subscriptions.

Some blogs and books that I haven’t put into collections because I want to remind myself I have them because I plan to read them soon.

Last main page – here, you see my “back” periodical issues (the K3 only keeps the most recent issue on these front pages).  I have 100s of newspapers and magazines here.  You can choose to save an issue or, if you don’t, it only retains 6 issues and starts deleting any older than that.  You also see a folder called “archived items.”  In general, this contains books I deleted off my K3 but retain a right to access off the Amazon server, so I can redownload them any time I want.  Note that my K3 is “online” right now – you see a wifi indicator at the top right corner – it is accessing my home wifi.  I turn this off when not downloading books or subscriptions to save battery life (if you read a couple hours a day without wireless on the K3 can go a month or so with no battery recharge).

OK – here you see the same Austen book from above.  This is the font size I normally use.

But if I want to enlarge it (and sometimes some publications use a particularly small font, so I do change it) I can – you can see the font size and type options here.

And now you see the font in one size bigger.  Nice if you have aging eyes that don’t do as well with small print anymore or if you are sight impaired.

Just a few more things:

This is the “kindle store” on my K3.  They make it VERY easy to get to it and buy more books, blogs, magazines, and newspapers.  It is Amazon after all, they do know how to sell stuff.  Of course, you must have “wireless” turned on to do this.

Remember, one of the wonderful things about kindles is being able to get many, many, many free public domain books (many classics) on them.  You can also upload any file that is a pdf and read it on your kindle – great for work reading on planes.

You can get free and paid games to play on the kindle.

and then there’s a bunch of cool features under “experimental.”  You can load music and books “on tape” and listen to them.  You can turn on text to speech and let your book be read to you (if the publisher hasn’t blocked this feature for a book) – the voice is a bit robotic, but it is fine for me (the speaker on the K3 is too soft to play in my car though and I haven’t try to rig it to run through my car speakers).  Great for sight impaired people.  And you also have a basic web browser.

Here are some preloaded sites.  Running off the cell towers, web browsing works but it is quite slow.  Off of wifi, it is faster, but still not a preferred web browser unless I don’t have anything else with me.

Here’s a wikipedia page open.

K3 versus paper book

OK – so, if you’ve been reading my blog and “about” me, you know I’m a huge book fiend and I have been since I was little.  I have – I don’t know… probably between 2000 and 3000 books, about 500 of those on my kindle.  I’ve bought and sold, donated, or given away perhaps another 1000…

I LOVE independent bookstores.  They are my absolute favorite places to visit when I travel.  Many of my happiest moments have been in storefront independents.  I plan a blog entry for later about my (many) fave bookstores.

I hate the fact that the independents have to struggle so much and that more of them go under every week, every year.

It is NOT true that you can only buy books for your kindle through Amazon.  However, the reality is that this is the easiest place to buy them and that it is more work to get books from other places onto your kindle and even if you do, they generally are not going to be bought from an independent bookstore, much less one with a storefront.

To my knowledge, no independent bookstore is selling books in Kindle-accessible format – tell me if you know about them.  I have bought ebooks from Powell’s, but these were only in Adobe Digital Reader format that is unusable on both my K3 and my ipad.  Thus, I very, very rarely buy ebooks from anybody else Amazon.  Amazon says that, within the year, it will allow you to borrow ebooks from your library and read them on your kindle.

Amazon has done a lot of things right and I’ve certainly benefited from them being around in many ways (including having this great K3 gadget).  However, if I never gave them another penny and all my future pennies went to independents, I’d be happier.

But you know what?  Kindles are absolutely great, they really are, ESPECIALLY for us book fiends.  So, I have this absolutely marvelous device upon which I have 100s of books and if I want to add to them, I’m drawn into buying from Amazon…  that’s my current tradeoff.  I bet within the next few years, this is going to get “aaaallll shook up” and things may be very different soon.

Wrapping up…

Whew!!!!  Hope that helps – one of you asked me to talk about my kindle, so I though an entry might be helpful to some readers.  Please, if I made an error in describing the kindle, let me know in comments – I can edit this entry.  Please also add stuff I missed in your comments…  And this ebook versus paper book can get passionate – let’s keep things civil, please.  Also, I have not used other “dedicated” (meaning they aren’t a computer or tablet, just mainly an ereader) ereaders much, feel free to talk about your experience using other ereaders or ereader software on tablets or computers…

If you have an ereader, how do you like it?  If you have questions, I’ll try my best to answer them.

Back to reading something…

Happy Reading, Ruby



  1. Carol E.

    Hi. My sister owns an independent bookstore and looked into selling e-books, but she’d have to pay a ridiculous fee PER book that she sells, so it would make it not even worth going to all the trouble. Too bad.. I really wanted her to get a part of the e-book dollars. I have a Kindle and love it but wish I could get library books on it!! I hope you are right that they will add that soon. I try to buy most of my books from my sister, but sometimes that Kindle makes it so easy and tempting to just click on the button! And I live in a different town from where my sister’s store is…… if you ever get to Alexandria, Minnesota be sure to visit Cherry Street Books! It’s a FABULOUS store!

    • Hi Carol: Thanks for coming by. That’s interesting to hear why ebooks don’t currently work for independents, what a shame. I hope this will change as publishers realize that they need independents.

      Amazon has a good record of adding the features that they say they will so I’m optimistic we’ll be able to read library ebooks this year… time will tell!

      I have not been through Alexandria, Minnesota in awhile, but next time I do, I’ll check out Cherry Street Books She has a great website and that is so cool that she does a story hour for kids. I’ve never heard of a bookstore doing that – what a great idea for the kids and the store (not to mention the parents). Happy reading, Ruby

  2. I thought your Kindle round-up was very thorough 🙂

    Another benefit to the Kindle, Amazon offers the most free books, and new ones get added almost daily. I post about the freebies on my blog, and it’s only B&N that can kind of compete, but still many more books are offered free by Amazon

    • Hi Randomize Me: Thanks! It was a labor of love… Thanks for the link to your blog – I checked it out, cool site, nice to know you are out there. I don’t know if you read I Love my Kindle, but Bufo frequently mentions the book stats and how Amazon is head and shoulders above in terms of sheer numbers… and growing every day, just passed a million – I think that is not in public domain books…. Happy reading, Ruby

  3. Great illustration of how the tablet is not an e-reader! I think iPads and their ilk are for the more casual reader – as are computers. To sit down and read a book or books every, you want the comfort of e-ink.

    I am extremely near-sighted and recently had cataract surgery with an upgraded lens implant in my right eye. I now have distance vision, but can’t read with that eye. However, I am supposed to read with it to help get the brain trained to work with the new lens. I am using the scaling type feature all the time. If I read with my right eye, I need the largest print. Then if I use my left eye, I scale it back down. Later this month I will get the left eye done, so I am very appreciative of this feature as well as for the restful background.

    • Hi Marilyn: Thanks! And thanks for reading and writing.

      That is so interesting how you are using the kindle to recover your eyes. The kindle has a lot of benefits for people with eye sight issues, as I age, it is nice to know that it can give me the tools to keep reading even if I develop problems, happy reading, Ruby


  1. Ebooks, Independent Presses, and Independent Bookstores « A Year of Actually Reading My Own Books

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