Mr NYGeek's Kindle - a year later

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote about the new Kindle that a dear friend had given me and the affect that it had had on me. I wrote that item only a few days after receiving it, so it is interesting now to look back at the Kindle after a full year. Let's look at some of the significant events of the last year involving the Kindle and the entire electronic book space.

Not long after I had received the Kindle I chatted with a colleague, Teddy Kowalski, who had been involved with the Nook development at Barnes & Noble. Soon I ran over to a nearby Barnes & Noble shop, one destined to close in a few days, as it happens, and acquired a Nook. Now I had two different ebook readers.

I found the Nook to be quite comparable to the Kindle. The basic reading UI (forward and back buttons, primarily) is superior on the Nook, but the Kindle is a bit better on the less common functions like zooming around from chapter to chapter or searching.

The Kindle has a clever annotation facility that allows me to select text from whatever I am currently reading and post it to my Facebook wall with my comments. The first time I did this I was delighted to receive a bunch of interesting feedback from my circle of Facebook "friends" with replies and comments on my selection. I am not always interested in sharing my thoughts and notes socially, so the annotation feature is, at this point, cool but not quite as useful as I might like. It comes close to being a way to take notes on what I am writing.

My 2010 Books

NookSnow CrashNeal StephensonYes
NookChildren of JihadJared Cohen
NookThe Shape of WaterAndrea Camilleri
NookDeath of a Red HeroineQiu XiaolongYes
NookCyber WarRichard Clarke
NookDraculaBram Stoker
NookThe Girl with the Dragon TattooStieg LarssonYes
NookPride and PrejudiceJane Austen
NookThe Girl Who Played with FireStieg LarssonYes
NookThe Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's NestStieg LarssonYes
KindleThe Girl with the Dragon TattooStieg LarssonYes
KindleThe Girl Who Played with FireStieg LarssonYes
KindleThe Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's NestStieg LarssonYes
KindleThe Lord of the Rings (Trilogy)J. R. R. Tolkien
KindleThe Hobbit J. R. R. TolkienSome
KindleThe Adventures of Tom SawyerMark Twain
KindleThe Adventures of Huckleberry FinnMark Twain
KindleThe Adventures of Tom SawyerMark Twain
KindleThe Adventures of Huckleberry FinnMark Twain
KindleThe Korean War: A HistoryBruce CumingsSome
KindleAutobiography of Mark TwainMark TwainSome
KindleThe Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information EmpiresTim Wu
KindleZero HistoryWilliam GibsonYes
KindleI Remember NothingNora EphronYes
KindleThe Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of The WorldMichael PollanYes
KindleEssence of DecisionPhilip ZelikowSome
KindleSpook CountryWilliam GibsonYes
KindleTatja Grimm's WorldVernor Vinge
KindleThe Red Mandarin DressQiu XiaolongYes
KindleWhen Red is BlackQiu XiaolongYes
KindleBlind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine EspionageSherry Sontag and Christopher DrewSome
KindleA Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do AgainDavid Foster Wallace
KindleVictory in TripoliJoshua LondonYes
KindleThe Pirate CoastRichard ZacksYes
KindleThe BedwetterSarah Silverman
KindleThe Fuller MemorandumCharles StrossYes
KindleThe Greatest Trade EverGregory ZuckermanSome
KindleThe God EnginesJohn Scalzi and Vincent ChongYes
KindlePostwarTony JudtSome
KindleThe Great GatsbyF. Scott FitzgeraldYes
KindleWhat Women Want: The Global Market Turns Female FriendlyPaco Underhill
KindleCase Histories: A NovelKate AtkinsonYes
KindleReflections on The Decline of Science In EnglandCharles Babbage
KindleThe Two CulturesC. P. Snow
KindleLeaves of GrassWalt WhitmanSome

In 2010 I acquired 47 electronic books, including several duplicates. I bought most of them, though several were free. I read 18 of them completely and substantial parts of another nine. While this is nothing like the amount I read back in the days when I was single, when I would read one or two books each week, it feels like a very significant uptick compared to the pace of the last several years.


In practical terms the Kindle/Nook devices have made my commuting time available for reading. I travel from home to work by subway and I generally have somewhere between ten and twenty minutes between time on the platform waiting for a train and the actual travel time. In the past that time was wasted or spent playing simple games on my smartphone, but now this is some of my prime reading time. The device fits in my jacket pocket when the weather is cold enough to require that I wear one or in my hand otherwise. Opening the device and getting to the place to resume reading is much quicker now than ever it was with paper books.

Nook Gym!

Beyond the commuting time that I have reclaimed, I find that these devices have enabled me to significantly enhance my exercise. I have historically tried to spend some time regularly, three or more times per week, on the exercise machines in the basement gym in my apartment building. The limiting factor for me has been how long I could tolerate the boredom. I can not stand to watch TV, a long standing deficiency of mine, and I have never been able to read paper books while working out - between the challenges of keeping the book open to the right page, turning the page when I've finished it, and the difficulty of keeping the small fonts in focus while I'm moving vigorously on the machine, I have never been able to combat gym boredom with books.

With these electronic devices, however, everything is different. I make the font bigger so that I can keep my eye on it while working out, and the device sits flat on the console of most of the machines. Turning the page is a simple button press. So now, when I go down to the gym to work out on the treadmill or the elliptical I now take along a Nook or Kindle and I have no trouble staying on the machine for an hour at a time, enabling me to return from the gym drenched in sweat and feeling very satisfied that I have both spent an hour reading and have contributed to my fitness. I have been tracking my exercise in Google Health since the new goals and diaries features were released this past summer and I find that in the last four months I have worked out over 77 times, almost 2/3 of the days.

Broken Books

Not all of the electronic versions of books are completely readable. Thanks to a recommendation from Chacho I started reading the wonderful police procedurals by Qiu Xiaolong set in 1990s Shanghai. When I got to "A Loyal Character Dancer" however, I discovered a problem with the book, which I communicated to Barnes & Noble by email:
I bought a copy of "A Loyal Character Dancer" for my Nook. I was reading it on my Nook today and I found that there is what appears to be a significant section of text missing at location 94 of 296.

In particular, the sentence begins"

'... she paused to take a sip of her '

and continues

'Zhu upstairs, something could have been done to the steps.'

It is clear that a significant quantity of text is missing from the book.

They responded promptly and courteously:
We apologize for the difficulties you are experiencing.

We have reviewed your order and downloaded the same eBook to our nook. On page 94 of 296, we see the same exact text as you do. Because this file is provided by the publisher, we are forwarding your feedback to them for review.

Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconveniences this may have caused.

We conducted a dialog over the course of a month or more afterwards, but they were unable to get the book corrected and ultimately refunded my money and removed the book from my Nook.

Of course they may have fixed the book by now, but they may not have done. The only way I can tell, I suppose, is to repurchase the book and look to see if it is defective. The process of getting this resolved was so protracted and unsatisfactory that I'm unwilling to start again. I could buy the book in paper, but I so much prefer to read on the Nook and Kindle that I'm loath to do that. So I have paused in my reading of the Inspector Chen Cao books for now.

This highlights a problem with electronic books that do not exist with paper books. In the past when I had the misfortune to purchase a paper book that turned out to be defective I could inspect the replacement copy and verify that it did not suffer from the defect. With electronic books, however, the only way to inspect it is to buy it. Of course, if one copy is defective, every copy will be, so there's no point in trying to buy another one and see if it is any better.

Devices as far as the eye can see ...

I have an iPod Touch and a Nexus 1 smart phone. Nook and Kindle applications are freely available for both, which permits me to read my Kindle and Nook libraries when I don't have one of my ereaders otherwise available. Now we have an iPad and a Samsung Galaxy Tab and both of them have Kindle and Nook applications, so my wife and I can now read from our ebook library whenever and wherever convenient. This is quite nice, since the iPad and Galaxy Tab reading experiences are quite pleasant, though I'm not sure I have a strong preference for them over the Nook and Kindle eInk.

I recently stopped in to a Barnes & Noble store and played with the new color Nook. It has gorgeous full-screen color and has a full-screen touch pad. This machine is about half the price of an iPad or Galaxy Tab, so I can't believe that we won't see competition from B&N in the tablet market, though they will have to reposition the device in the marketplace.


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