i sold my soul to the devil cloud

on

so. i bought a kindle fire yesterday.

i never thought i would ever buy any kind of ereader or tablet computer! i have a really nice (& expensive) laptop computer that suits all my computing needs. & until ramona was born, i had a pretty good thing going with regular old paper books. i kept a list of all the new books i heard about & wanted to read, & i checked them out of the library. the list was always so long that if i had to wait a few weeks for one popular new title, i had plenty of other books to keep me busy. plus i read a few magazines, including “the new yorker”. reading every issue of “the new yorker” in a year automatically means that i read like ten times more than the average person, even if i didn’t read a single book.

i almost never purchased new books. i read so voraciously, the likelihood of me ever reading a book more than once is pretty slim (though i do reread the harry potter series once or twice a year). a couple of years ago, i culled my book collection & sold a stack of books to the dusty bookshelf, a used bookstore around the corner from our house. they gave me $60 in credit, & i was thinking, you know, awesome, $60 worth of used books! i’ll use this in no time! guess what? i haven’t used it at all. not because the dusty bookshelf doesn’t have any good books. they have lots of good books. but they don’t have much i can’t get from the library for free.

similarly, jared & i always go to the library book sale together when it happens. jared usually walks away with a huge bag full of old books about history or birds or whatever. & i usually walk away empty-handed. even though the books are only a buck or two each (if that), there’s rarely anything that motivates me to lay down cash, since i can just get it for free from the library!

but once we got ramona home, i suddenly had no time for reading anything. if she happens to be sleeping peacefully in her bouncy chair or with jared or something, i am racing around, doing other stuff that i can’t do while i’m holding her (writing in my journal, pumping, washing dishes, showering, hitting the pool). i pretty much need both hands to feed her, which is one downside the bottlefeeding. with breastfeeding, you can pop the baby on the breast & have a hand free for holding a book or magazine. with bottlefeeding, one hand holds the baby & the other holds the bottle. by the time we get to the burping/cuddling stage, i am usually too locked into the baby care mindset to pick up a book.

for a while, i was managing to read a bit while i held her. but then charlotte died & i just couldn’t focus on anything for a few weeks. i started watching episodes of “parks & recreation” while i took care of ramona, because otherwise my mind would wander & i’d start thinking about how sick charlotte got & how awful her last few hours were & how much i miss her & then i’d start crying. “parks & recreation” was a pleasant, amusing distraction, & usually we could get through a whole bottle, get burped, & settled down to sleep in the course of one episode.

anyway, i started thinking the other day about how much easier it would be to read if there was some way i could do it mostly no-handed. i was obsessing over how much i missed reading (which is pretty much my #1 favorite way to spend time) & all the awesome-looking books i wanted to check out & i was feeling really jealous of all the breastfeeding mommies who say they read more when their babies were tiny than they ever did before or after in their lives. i started wondering if an ereader might be the solution to my problem.

so i bought one. i don’t know. i feel weird about it. i got a samsung galaxy at first, because i totally didn’t want to buy some proprietary operating system that would lock me into the whole amazon/barnes & noble/apple universe. but the problem with a galaxy or a nexus or any of those other cool tablets that runs on android is that there’s a steep learning curve for someone like me, who has only even touched an smartphone once in her life, & ultimately, i am not really interested in tricking my tablet out to be all…i don’t know. technological. so i returned it & got a kindle fire instead, which still enables me to go online & use apps (whatever an app is–it’s probably worth figuring it out because i bet ramona will know everything about apps by the time she’s like six), but the interface is a lot more intuitive to me.

& there is an unfortunate reason why people use devices with those proprietary operating systems/built-in bookstores. a lot of media producers have partnered with amazon or barnes & noble or apple to make their content available exclusively through them. i can download the “new yorker” app on to a kindle & read it digitally, but it wouldn’t work on the galaxy. or at least, i couldn’t figure out how to make it work, because it seemed like there were all these extra steps to take to make it work with android. last night while i was caring for ramona, i read like half an issue of “the new yorker” on the kindle, when the paper version had been languishing untouched on the coffee table for two weeks.

but another BIG problem with ereaders is that there is so little free content out there for people to access. kindle has yet to make an arrangement with the ebook cloud service that the lawrence public library uses. & even if it did, the selection is pretty sparse. kindle touts its kindle users library, available exclusively to amazon prime subscribers, but the selection is meager indeed. it sucks you in with a few bestsellers, like the harry potter series, but the rest is crappy genre fiction & self-published nonsense. & at the risk of being all “this restaurant sucks! the food is terrible & the portions are too small!” about it, prime subscribers are only permitted to check out one kindle library book per month. they also offer free streaming video to subscribers, but if you already have memberships with hulu & netflix (which i do), what’s the point?

i guess the point is to have an ereader that will hopefully enable me to read more, & it doubles as an internet-ready device that i can take with me when i’m out & about or traveling so i don’t have to lug along my laptop. which is funny–i remember when i bought my first laptop a few years ago, i was so excited about having a device i could take out to a coffeeshop. it was such a radical change from being stuck at home with a desktop computer. fast forward six years & i feel that my laptop is excessively cumbersome. this is how we all end up on the slippery slope to being cool with having tiny pentel processors implanted into our brains so that we can always be on facebook or whatever.

anyway, the dearth of free ebooks out there–especially free ebooks i’d actually want to read–means that i guess i’m going to be buying more books, right? maybe that’s a good thing? for the authors & the publishers, i mean. & if i make a budget & stick to it, hopefully it won’t decimate my bank account. i bought a few ebooks today, including two written by zine friends. now to find out if this format actually enables me to read them in a timely fashion.

so, ereaders? who has one? who’s whole-heartedly against them? what do you think? how long until it becomes standard for people to release their zines in an ereader format, & for someone to capitalize on that by starting an ezine distro?

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Zel says:

    I recently took the plunge and bought a Kobo. I commute via subway, and it is perfect for that, because instead of carrying a bulky hardcover, I can carry an ereader full of titles. I chose it because it works with my local library and I bought it from a local indie bookstore, so they make a portion of the proceeds from the books I buy.

    But damn do I miss the smell of books. And I miss marking up books with post-its and notes. It is just no substitute. I really wish there was a solution where you purchased a book and received a free digital download. I know record publishers do that, but I guess it is not yet feasible for books.

    1. ciara says:

      i considered the kobo, but the only place in lawrence that sells it is walmart, which kind of defeats the purpose, right? it looks like they partnered with independent bookstores, christian bookstores, & walmart. weird, but it makes a problematic kind of sense. in order to purchase from an independent shop, i would have had to drive to another town, which is tough to arrange when you have a little baby.

      i like the idea of the digital download with hard copy purchase. maybe someday…i’m sure there will be all kinds of advances in the way ebooks are sold in the coming years. i wonder how many of them will be patently designed to get more money from us. i forgot to mention that i had to buy a wall charger for my kindle separately, for an extra $25. it came with a charger i could plug into my laptop…which is ridiculous.

  2. Hope says:

    I have a first gen iPad and I read quite a bit on it. Well, I read quite a bit on it before I had a baby. :p

    I mostly read Kindle books, because I’ve found that they’re the cheapest. I bought a few iBooks with the store credit that I got from buying my laptop. I like having the iPad so I can read in whatever format is most convenient/cheapest. I also have the New Yorker app, but I mostly still read the paper version. I like to read the New Yorker in bed before I go to sleep, and the iPad keeps me up too long because of the lighted screen.

    I’m *not* one of those moms who read more when she had a tiny baby. Partly because my brain was all mushy and partly because I was in the middle of The Art of Fielding when I went into labor and I found it to be emotionally taxing and I was already emotionally taxed. I still haven’t finished it, but I’m not letting myself read for fun until my thesis is all done. I did the NYTimes crossword puzzle on my iPad instead of reading. And that was pretty awesome. Just enough brain engagement that I didn’t feel like I was steadily getting stupider, but I didn’t have to remember any character names or plot points.

    After LJ started having a real bedtime, I started reading again. In my case, it was mostly just more thesis work, but I did start reading the New Yorker a bit. She goes to sleep between 8 and 8:30, and then I have an hour or two to do my thesis. I think a lot of people use that time for TV, but I’m planning on using it for reading when I’m all done.

    I had to really limit my kindle book buying. It’s just five bucks here, five bucks there… but I read so fast that it was really adding up. I was like “why do I never have any money?” and I realized it was because I spent it all on books. I started looking for more of the free kindle books. Most of them are crappy self-published books, but they also have a ton of books that are in the public domain. I re-read all of the Sherlock Holmes books and stories. Luckily for me, I like old, gothic novels. If you know someone else who has a kindle account, you can lend books to them. Although, to be honest, I just checked the books in my account and I couldn’t find any that were lendable. http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200549320

    I think that’s what I miss the most from “real” books. Being able to finish a book, turn to my sister, and then say “this book is awesome, here you should read it.”

    1. ciara says:

      i have a macbook pro & i like using that OS, so i looked into getting an ipad or an ipad mini. i just couldn’t justify the expense. i don’t really leave the house often enough to require a super-lightweight faux-laptop, you know?

      ramona doesn’t have a bedtime yet, which means i don’t “read in bed”. i am up & around with her all day & when i finally have the chance to lay down, i just fall asleep. i read a fair amount when i’m feeding her though. part of the reason i wanted an ereader was so i could hold something in one hand & turn pages with one hand. obviously you can read “the new yorker” with one hand because it’s really light, but turning the pages is a struggle. the ereader makes it SO MUCH easier. i like it a lot. sometimes when ramona is in a fussy mood & just wants to be held, the ereader is also really handy.

      i do miss reading in bed though. i’m looking forward to her sleeping for longer stretches so we can go back to having something like regular evenings where we both sleep more or less at the same time for a decent chunk of time. we’ve been splitting the night into shifts & i’ve just been staying up on my shift so i can be alert when ramona decides she needs me. but she is taking progressively larger feeds & sleeping for longer between them, so i think she might be almost ready to transition back into the bedroom.

      1. Hope says:

        I never would have bought an iPad for myself, but my husband bought it for my birthday a few years ago. I’ve always used it a lot, but it sees a lot of extra use now that I’m breastfeeding. I should read the New Yorker more while I’m feeding LJ, but my brain is often so toasted that I end up wasting stupid amounts of time on facebook.

        If you want to read in the tub you can put your e-reader in a ziploc bag to protect it. That technique won’t work with an iPad, because of the way the touch screen works (you have to touch it with your bare finger). Not sure if that works with a Kindle Fire, because I’m not sure how the screen works on it. An iPad is capacitive, it works from your finger conducting electricity. The ziploc bag works with readers that rely on physically pushing two screen layers into each other.

        1. ciara says:

          if someone bought me an ipad, i would for sure use the hell out of it. just in case i have any particularly generous readers out there…

      2. Hope says:

        PS. We didn’t start having a real bedtime until maybe 4 months? LJ is only 6 months, so it’s still fairly recent for us. I still end up going to bed about an hour after she does, but I have to get up at 5:45am for work. I like having that hour to myself when I know I won’t be interrupted. I mostly use it for schoolwork, but once a week I try to take a bath and read the New Yorker.

        1. ciara says:

          we just transitioned ramona back into her crib the other day (at 12 weeks old). it is sidecarred to our bed (meaning that it’s pushed right up so it’s level with our bed, & we took off that side of the crib so that it’s all one big open space). she’s down to only waking up once or twice a night. we can usually get her to sleep by 10pm or 11pm & she wakes up at around 3am or 4am, has diaper change & a little snack, & then back to sleep for a couple more hours. it’s going well so far, although she’s still so young, the process of actually getting her to sleep at 11pm can be a challenge. she has a little snack & falls asleep, & we get excited & put her in her crib…& she wakes up fifteen minutes later. but she’s still doing really well for her gestational age, which is only five weeks. i look forward to eventually being able to establish a bedtime routine with her so she really catches on that it’s bedtime, you know? but i know she needs to be older for that.

  3. andrea says:

    I have a Kindle. I’ve been using it for a couple years. I still read paper books, especially because I haven’t figured out the ebook service at my public library. What I discovered about ereading is that it’s great for any book that you read by starting at the beginning and going straight to the end, and it’s terrible for any book that you want to flip through. So, fiction, short stories, memoirs, narrative non-fiction… all good on the kindle. Textbooks, reference books, cookbooks, etc…. not so good. Ditto stuff with pictures and illustrations. My kindle is a few years old now — maybe the newer models will allow you to jump around more easily, but for now it’s really one page and then the next. And I know you can highlight and make notes on a kindle, but I don’t like to. All the stuff I read for school, I read in paper versions that I can mark up, cover in highlighter, etc.

    What I like about the kindle is that you can have dozens of books with you at any given time. Also, it’s not heavy. Some long books are hard to hold and hurt my wrists. I also like the instant gratification of thinking of a book and being able to download it straight away, rather than waiting to get it from the library or a bookstore.

    I like to read in the tub and I worry about getting it wet, but so far that hasn’t happened.

    I’m not thrilled that I buy so many ebooks from amazon, but it is possible to buy ebooks direct from the publisher sometimes. And there are starting to be some independent ebook sellers, like emilybooks.com, which sells feminist-y books.

    1. ciara says:

      i like to read in the bathtub too! i haven’t tried it with the kindle yet. i’m scared of getting it wet. i got the trackpad on my laptop wet & it never worked again. i could have it fixed, but just running the diagnostic on it would be $75, so i just bought an external track pad, which is nothing but a glorified mouse. it is indeed a pain in the ass.

      part of the reason i wanted an ereader was because i wanted to read “far from the tree” by andrew solomon, but it’s like 900 pages long & i knew i’d never be able to hold it with one hand & hold ramona with the other. my arms would fall off. &, although i don’t travel much, it will be handy to just be able to take one small device & leave my books, magazines, & laptop at home. i remember the summer i lived in philly, i couldn’t get a library card because i didn’t have any proof of residence. it was SO BORING to have my reading options restricted like that. i did buy some from used bookstores, but when you read like a book a day, that’s kind of a lot of extra freight to add to your suitcase when you go home. it would have been so much easier to just load up an ereader & call it a day.

      i downloaded a graphic novel & it looks pretty good on the kindle. maybe they changed it to make it better for that stuff? maybe i’m just not real picky.

  4. Eva says:

    I had an android that I used at first but the Kindle Fire has been a lot smoother and easier to use right out of the box. The android missed out on the free options from Amazon for the lending library. I read too much to make a lot of use of that but every little bit helps.
    As for the self published titles, I am of the opinion that this has opened up a whole new world of authors. I like the idea that I am not told who I should be reading by a publisher, or anyone else for that matter. Granted, there are some not worth the space they take up, but I have also found some absolute gems. I have also seen a lot of bloggers write a book or two! đŸ˜‰

    1. ciara says:

      obviously i am supportive of some self-publishing because i was really into zines for twenty years. but self-published books tend to be a different matter. so often they are just the products of people who want to say they wrote a book but didn’t want to put the effort into it to make it something an agent would want to represent or a publisher would want to publish. obviously there are some decent ones out there, & there’s plenty of terrible stuff that is published traditionally. it’s not a rule or anything. but i am kind of a fan of making people jump through some hoops before their stuff is published. a little extra editing never killed anyone.

      & i agree–the kindle is a lot easier to use. an android system is great for someone who is tech-savvy & interested in tricking a tablet out to be a multi-functional device–a mini-laptop, basically. but i have neither the time nor the inclination to learn what i’d need to learn in order to do that.

  5. Hey! I have a nook and I love it. Have we talked about this? Do you know if/how to side-load your kindle? Remind me to tell you. Also: hi, I’m creeping on your blog because it’s the middle of the night and I am AWAKE.

    1. ciara says:

      i don’t know what “side-loading” my kindle means. but now that i’ve had my kindle for a month…i really love it. i use it constantly. i could live without the ads they use as wallpaper, but whatever.

      ps–it’s not creepy for you to read my blog. that’s what it’s here for!

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