In early January, I bought a Kindle 2 “International Edition” (previous editions used Sprint EVDO for wireless transfer; Amazon moved to GSM late last year). I had been considering an e-reader before then, and was mostly leaning toward a B&N Nook.

As a whole, the Nook and the Kindle are fairly similar. Both are backed by large libraries, have wireless or USB upload capability, use the same e-ink technology at the same size (ignoring the Kindle DX’s larger screen), and cost the same.

The Nook has a small color touchscreen at the bottom for navigation, includes wifi connectivity, and includes ePub support. The Kindle 2 is usually slightly faster, is noticeably thinner and lighter, includes a rudimentary 3G web browser with free access, and includes a physical keyboard area that doubles as a palm/thumb rest (the keys are resistive enough that you can hold the device with your palms and thumbs gripping the keyboard area without fear of pressing buttons).

Ultimately, I chose the Kindle for two reasons. First, the Nook was backordered and wasn’t expected to ship for well over a month. Second, I had just received a $250 Amazon gift certificate, which neatly covered most of the $259 price tag. (The price is now $189. C’est la vie.) Wifi would have been nice, but is largely unnecessary for book transfer between 3G and USB. Also, on principle I’d like to have ePub format support, but it’s also largely unnecessary – my two sources for books are the Amazon store and Project Gutenberg, and Project Gutenberg now has Mobi (the Kindle’s native format) support.

I was a bit hesitant about buying an e-reader. I’ve never been much of a reader. Sure, I read a lot of research, papers, etc as part of my job and computer lifestyle, but I would rarely read novels. It’s not that they bored me or anything of that nature, I just wasn’t into curling up with a good book.

Looking back, it was the book part of the equation that was the problem, not the reading. I’ve never liked the ergonomics of the physical book. The Kindle solved that problem.

I immediately took to the Kindle. It feels very natural in the hands, the perfect weight and size. The battery lasts practically forever – I only turn 3G on when I need to download a queued book, and with 3G off, it can easily last a month on a single charge. The screen is the perfect size and the perfect look. When I first saw a 16-shade e-reader in person (a Nook at a B&N display counter), I thought it was a non-functional display model; it honestly looked like the words were printed directly on the display area. There is a refresh between pages where the screen goes entirely black and then clears before the words are written, and while it initially was quite noticeable, it’s now natural – as if a subliminal cue to begin again at the top, the same as when you’re turning a real page – and I don’t notice it anymore.

I’ve been reading an hour or two many nights before bed; sometimes even longer, to my detriment. (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is somewhat long and pretty slow in the first half, but picks up quickly. I spent about a week on the first half, and read the second half in one sitting, until 6AM.)

Of course no “e-reader” post can be complete without mentioning the iPad. I played with one when it first came out, and even if I didn’t already have a Kindle at the time, I wouldn’t have considered it as an e-reader. It’s too big, too heavy, and its LCD is not suited for reading books, especially compared to e-ink. Its one redeeming factor is, because of the full-screen touchscreen, page seeking is much more intuitive. Because the Kindle is entirely e-ink, you lose quick random access ability. Say you want to find an earlier passage, and you know it’s roughly 25% into the book. A physical book is the fastest: you just turn to a spot roughly a quarter way in and quickly go back/forwards from there. The iPad is a close second: drag your finger to the approximate area. The Kindle is the slowest: you either have to rely on previously bookmarked pages or passage highlights, or enter a numeric position identifier (say 1250 out of 5000), then go backwards or forwards from there. Pages take about half a second to turn on the Kindle, which is fine for sequential reading, but worse for random access seeking. Half a second is about how long it takes to flip a physical page, but the distinction is you can flip 2 or 10 pages at a time with a physical book, but not with a Kindle. Still, the e-ink technology is such a vast improvement over LCD for reading, I would not consider an iPad for an e-reader.

It is now 6 months later, and I’m currently reading book #20. It’s mostly been a mix of crime mysteries and science fiction books, but I’m keeping my options open. I have yet to read a book that I genuinely didn’t like, though two stand out for me. The Brick Moon is an 1865 short story that, while an enjoyable story, was written in a dialect that was quite difficult to read by today’s English. And while Mostly Harmless – the final Douglas Adams book in the HHGG series – wasn’t bad, it was incredibly depressing, and was a stark contrast to the irreverence of most of the rest of the series.

Below is what I’ve read so far, in reading order. I’ll probably continue updating this post as I finish new books.

  1. Freakonomics, By Steven Levitt / Stephen J. Dubner (revised edition)
  2. The Nine Billion Names of God, by Arthur C. Clarke (short story)
  3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
  4. Star Trek Generations, by J.M. Dillard (novelization)
  5. Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein
  6. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, by Douglas Adams
  7. Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris
  8. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
  9. Life, the Universe and Everything, by Douglas Adams
  10. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
  11. So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, by Douglas Adams
  12. Mostly Harmless, by Douglas Adams
  13. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
  14. The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells
  15. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
  16. The Brick Moon, by Edward Everett Hale (short story)
  17. Hide, by Lisa Gardner
  18. Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell
  19. The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Stieg Larsson
  20. From the Earth to the Moon, by Jules Verne
  21. Around the Moon, by Jules Verne (direct sequel to From the Earth to the Moon)
  22. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, by Stieg Larsson
  23. Anthem, by Ayn Rand
  24. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll