Borrowing Brains: To Kindle or Not to Kindle?

I’m a book guy. I like the way they feel in my hands. I like the way they smell. I like the way they look (though I’ve gone on record saying that dust covers are expendable). I like getting them in boxes, finding them in used bookstores, or even finding them for $3 amid the garbage at Ollies. I like stacking them. I like having them on my shelves. I like marking them up. Sure, I use some reference materials on my laptop, but I still like to holding a book and turning its pages—on the couch, or bed, or desk, or wherever. I just like them.

And so I’ve resisted the Kindle Kraze. I could see reading fiction on Kindle, as I don’t mark it up or read it so studiously. But Christian books and commentaries? Serious books? I don’t know. It feels like borrowing a serious book: wrong.

Nevertheless, I’m having second thoughts. Kindles are getting more common. Better. Lighter. Cheaper. And books are, well, heavy. Heavier, in fact, unless I’m just getting older. Though I’ve sort of dug in my heels on this, I get the feeling that I’m arguing for the benefits of the typewriter vs. the computer, the 8-track vs. the CD (or mp3; whatever). Denial, anyone?

The point of the post (finally!) is this: Should I get a Kindle? Why? If you’ve done so (I almost said “turned to the dark side”), are you pleased? Would you do it again? Do you still buy normal books? Are there times you wish you had a real book? Is it more a tool or a toy? What do you like? What don’t you like?

Please advise.


23 Responses

  1. You might want to consider trying out the free Kindle app for your Droid first. You’ve essentially already got a smaller Kindle in your pocket. See how that suits you before you spend money on a bigger one. Kindle used to be just a device, but now it’s a platform. Your Kindle books will run on your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android device, and Blackberry. It’s the same approach we’ve taken at Logos Bible Software. (BTW, we’re working on an Android app too.)

  2. I have wondered the same thing, Chris. I am just where you are. Love the whole book experience. Libraries and used book stores are how I get my theme park thrill. What appeals to me about an iPad is that I could have soooooooooo many books at my fingertips at once. That seems empowering. If they (whoever “they” are) could incorporate, say, the highlighting/underlining and book mark features I enjoy with my ESV online study Bible (and I never thought I’d do my morning Bible study online…so I guess I am already succumbing), it would be that much more appealing…except that I could lose it all, and my real books don’t have that problem…unless I…uh…lose them.

    I’ll be interested in watching this discussion. I’m not much for hankering after gizmos…but this one is tempting.

  3. Phil had a great suggestion about trying out the app first.

    Probably a key consideration is whether you want an additional device, or just access to electronic books.

    The Kindle device in terms of e-ink is easier on the eyes vs. an LCD or other back-lit screen, closer to reading a book as far as experience. So for long-term reading it’s more comfortable, for me anyway. That said, you may be better off getting the device for a few key books/commentaries/bibles for long-term reading, as well as fiction/pleasure reading, and then considering Logos for your general electronic theological library. Here’s why: Kindle will let you read books and do basic searching, while Logos will give you both mobile (currently iPhone, apparently later Android) and desktop access to your books, powerful search options, and better highlighting/note taking functions.

    A workflow that worked well for me on a recent sermon was to read the passage repeatedly on my Kindle, while writing out a basic outline on a legal pad, then look up commentaries and other resources in the Logos iPhone app or on my desktop Logos, then type my sermon outline in Word. I’m not sure if you’re envisioning using an ereader for sermon prep or for general reading, though.

    If you get the Kindle w/ 3G, you can access your Logos library via the browser (although it’s slow, and sometimes not the most convenient) at, at least for now. This access will likely improve with the new Kindle browser features and as Logos transitions to and other projects.

    If you can have someone show you the Logos app on an iPod Touch or iPhone, that might also work, depending on how soon the Logos for Android is available – then you could just use Logos on your phone (assuming the screen is large enough; my iPod is OK for bedtime reading but a little small for just sitting in a chair and reading).

    As far as Kindle vs. other readers, the Sony readers seem overpriced for their features (and the Sony ebook store is horrible in terms of functionality and ease of use), and the Barnes and Noble Nook is nice but still buggy and slow, especially for Bible navigation.

    Hope that helps.

  4. Like you, I like the actual books, but when traveling, I have seen people with ereaders and find myself wishing I had one.

    But isn’t the Kindle limited to Amazon books where as the Sony reader will read epubs and other books as well?

    If you go to google books or one of the other online free book resources (that have a lot of classics), they are often published in epub. I would want a reader that could read that.

    I almost got the Sony PRS 600 when it was $99 a month or so ago. I kind of wish I would have. I am not interested in buying a bunch of ebooks (because I can use the library for books I only want to read once), but I do want something that can read the free ones on Google books and the like, and there are actually quite a few resources for these. I think CCEL has a lot of them in epub format as well.

    Check into it.

  5. Regarding the iPad, you’ll want to note that the DRM/copy protection for iBooks purchases is different from basically every other eBook company.

    There are two main ebook formats: ePub (used by Sony, B&N, Kobo, Borders, etc) and Kindle (a modification of the Mobi format). But for ePub there is the Adobe DRM (used by the library Overdrive system for checking out ebooks, as well as by most ebook retailers) and then Apple’s “FairPlay”. So books bought through everyone besides Apple are fairly interchangeable between Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo reader, and most other generic ones available today, but not Kindle. Kindle books only work on Kindle. There is an exception in terms of converting the books, but this is a gray area in terms of whether it’s OK. Kind of like converting your CDs to MP3 – you won’t get in trouble if you’re not sharing them, but it’s a hassle at minimum.

    Also, for the Kindle vs. iPad, the iPad is like the iPod Touch – it’s really tempting and easy to switch from reading to check email, play games, or otherwise waste time; the Kindle makes it difficult to do anything besides read, so it’s helpful in staying focused – more a tool vs. a toy, though enjoyable.

  6. I’ve been considering the same questions. Just this past week I upgraded my Android software to the latest version so that I could download the Kindle application. It works great, but I still am not all that keen on reading large amounts of text on any electronic device. Maybe this will change in time. We’ll see.

  7. I told a friend recently that while I was not KJO, I was PBO (paper Bible only). :)

    I have always been slow to acquire new technology. For example, we bought our first cell phone less than 2 years ago.

    Call me old fashioned but I like kicking it old school.

  8. Oops. Fixed the irrelevant dust cover link in the original post.

  9. I’ve stayed away from purchasing e-books until a standardized file format is adopted. I’ve also found that I can still buy books less expensively by shopping for used paper books.

    However, I’ve downloaded quite a number of free books from Internet Archive and Google Books in the PDF format. I’ve found the iPad to be very useful for reading those. Goodreader allows me to transfer the books wirelessly via Dropbox. It also has good navigation features. I was using the commentaries by Godet and Plummer on the iPad the other day, and I used the slider to move to where I guessed they would comment on the relevant passage. I was off a few pages, but the slider would let me move to the specific page I wanted. The pages also rendered quickly. In terms of navigation, I’d say the iPad beats the Kindle.

  10. I don’t see myself reading long books on a Kindle or iPad, but if I had to choose between them, I’d pick the iPad because it does so much more. I’ve been tempted to get an iPad so that I can teach from one, rather than using several pages of note paper. Little too pricey, though.

  11. Hey… I chose the Barnes and Noble nook because I prefer open formats, because I like the in-store features (because it doesn’t totally replace paper books for me), and because it connects most easily to the google books. That last one is very compelling for me since most of what I read is out of copyright and free that way (ccel as well, btw).

    If you like to take notes, the Sony with a touch screen may be your best choice. As for the ipad… As a book replacement, not so much, but the lure of the cool factor is strong. Kindle loses my interest on the format issue.

    Give me a call sometime and we can chat about it.

  12. There are some things I don’t like about my Kindle, but if it broke I would spend the $139 ASAP to get another one.

    The bottom line is that I read more because of my Kindle. I think the biggest reason is that it is so easy to carry around and to hold. I didn’t realize what a big hindrance that was with standard books – I can read now in situations where it just wasn’t possible before. The Kindle stays open when held with one hand or no hands. : – )

    While I like lots of the other technology options (phones, ipads, etc.), I like the fact that the Kindle doesn’t distract me with emails, tweets, etc. The technology really does seem to disappear, and it’s just me and the text.

    There are definitely drawbacks (I can’t share a book I’ve purchased!), but for $139 it’s definitely worth it to me for the extra reading I accomplish.

  13. I would recommend taking a look at some of the articles on Mark Ward’s blog:

    He’s a proponent of the Kindle and might have some insights as to why you would want one.

  14. I’m not pro-Kindle and anti-Nook, but FYI you can also get many of those same out-of-copyright Project Gutenberg type texts in Kindle format, either through the Kindle store or other websites. Personally I’ve found most of the Google books or ebooks (ePub or otherwise) to be poorly formatted and full of typos, which gets very frustrating when trying to read.

    And like many of you, I’ve gotten used paperbacks for non-theological reading. But my bookshelves are full. And I’m dreading the next move as far as the books we do have.

    To date, I have not bought more than a few Kindle books (mostly because they keep offering free fiction); in the future I will consider (mostly price) between paper, Kindle, and Logos for theological titles that are on specific topics vs. reference type books (commentaries, etc) that work better in Logos.

  15. It was reading serious Christian books on the Kindle that led me to decide I’ll never buy paper again if I have the choice.

    When I read, I highlight copiously, and then scan in selected passages to store on my computer for instant search and retrieval, so I can cite good passages later. With the Kindle, you just highlight, and it uploads your highlights to your page on You can then just grab the whole set of highlights and copy to whatever tool you use to store notes on the computer (I use Outlook). It’s saved me countless hours already.

    Additionally, it’s been really nice a few times when I had unexpected waiting time; I was able to just pull out the Kindle (well, technically, I use the Kindle app on iPad, and choose between several books).

    One other tip — my wife uses a Kindle, and we buy all of the books off of my Amazon account. That way, books can be shared between our devices. The “interesting” consequence is that now all of my Amazon recommendations are mixed up with stuff she likes to read. Tradeoffs, I guess.

  16. BTW, I was a huge paper chauvinist and was very skeptical about Kindle. I had a whole litany of reasons why paper was superior. My wife convinced me to try, and it was the reasons I mention above that convinced me.

    I also disagree slightly about trying on the Droid first. I use a Droid, and there is no comparison to using an actual reader device. I read on the Droid when I have absolutely no other choice — I read on the Kindle because it’s superior to paper.

  17. I love to read and never thought I would enjoy any electronic version of my beloved books. However, after developing severe arthritis in my thumb joints, I wondered if using a Kindle (or similar e-reader) might afford me the delight of reading without pain. My husband bought a Kindle for my birthday and I have loved it right from the start. The actual reading is very easy on the eyes – rather like a premium print quality book. And I find I read more – perhaps, because it is so incredibly convenient! The highlighting function is quite good. I also like the singular focus – just reading – rather than being distracted with email, websites, etc. I have enough distraction in my life without adding something while I am trying to read!

  18. This is a very interesting post to me as I have asked the same question for myself. I have used the Kindle app for both Mac and Android, but was disappointed that you cannot make notes or highlight yet on the free apps. Just keep that in mind as you try them. Hopefully this is something coming soon!

  19. Chris–the highlighting and note taking are the best parts about the kindle. It’s instantly saved and archived on both the kindle and amazon’s website. The kindle’s screen is such that it can be read in direct sunlight, which is a definite plus imo.

  20. Well, let me ask you this. Lets say I offered to sell you all of the books I owned at some discounted rate. But in exchange, you could only read them where I tell you you can read them. And if at some point I decide I want to, you have to give all the books back. Or if I die, you have to give them back. Or, if I don’t like the content of one particular book, I can just take it back, or change it. I owe you nothing in exchange. Oh, and you are not allowed to lend any of those books, or to sell them.

    If that’s appealing to you, buy a kindle. Personally, when I buy a book I like the fact that I *own* that book. If I want to sell it, I can do that. if I want to lend it, I can do that. (Yes, the Nook allows lending, but it’s very strictly limited/controlled). I love the idea, but I hate the implementation, particularly on the kindle.

    If I had the money to spend, I would buy something based on Android – because I could use that to break the chains on the device. I can load my own stuff on it, and not be chained to ebooks that are broken by design. I would *never* buy ebooks the way they are sold on the kindle.

  21. I recently had several surgeries on my eyes and was unable to read for about three months. When my eyes finally decided to come back to work I found that all that I could manage to read was on the kindle. The e-ink solution that amazon uses is very easy on the eyes. The ability to make the font bigger was part of it, but the clarity of the font, the non-white background and lack of glare were perfect for me. I had always wanted the ESV study bible but those footnotes require the eyes of an eagle. The kindle made reading the microscopic notes possible for the first time.

    I also find that I read more. I carry the kindle everywhere and when I have a few minutes I am able to read. I know that I could carry a book but they are much more cumbersome. It would also require that I choose what I want to read before I leave. Now I grab the kindle and know that I have something there that I will want to ready.

    Third, though a iPad would be better for email, blogs and web access I am able to use my kindle. It is slow and it is not great to write an email on or navigate but I can if I need to. The price for the connection is perfect–Free. I also expect that the new version will make this use more feasible.

    Someone mentioned they selected a different model because of “open-formats.” I was also initially concerned with this limitation, however now the kindle supports PDF natively. It is very simple to convert any e-book to the required format using mobipocket or to use the free amazon service. I haven’t found this to be a road block at all. I do believe that amazon has more contemporary books at a better price than any other vendor.

    The most recent kindle upgrade also opened up a tremendous resource on the web-server. The web-server backs-up all of my notes and highlights and presents them in a nice format. The quotations and notes are available from anywhere I can get online even without the kindle. I also use the ability to post from my kindle directly to my twitter page. I don’t really care if anyone else reads them but I use it as a reminder for myself.

    In short, I love my kindle. I still purchase paper books and likely always will. However, I increasingly look for the eBook option, especially if I intend to read cover-to-cover. I still prefer paper for reference books, and can’t imagine giving up my paper Bible. The Kindle is a tool that I have found very useful and would heartily recommend.

  22. I don’t have an eReader of any brand yet, but the nook’s lend to a friend option seems a strength to

  23. […] on September 24, 2010 by Chris I’ll occasionally talk about books on this blog (here, here, and here for example). But I’ve got nothing on this guy. Brilliant. (I apologize to those […]

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