Monday, August 15, 2011

On Owning a Kindle

I was gifted a Kindle a month or so ago. I like it for what it does.

Should you buy one? If you are a book lover, one of those people who always have a book on hand, or reach for one when you have an hour to spare, you definitely should. If you read mostly technical or math books (which require a lot of flipping back and forth and good rendering of code or equations)or research papers, you won't get as much benefit as you ought to.

I am well satisfied with the Kindle for allowing me to lug around about 300 books (I still have almost 3 GB left) so I can read on the bus, while waiting for someone, etc. I would have loved it if I could read math books and papers (pdf rendering on the (small) kindle is terrible) and also scribble notes (the kindle "make notes" functionality is awkward and unusable) but e-ink based readers are still in their early days. For what it does (enable you to carry around a few hundred fiction books it is awesome. For example, I have all the 20 Aubrey Maturin books and the dozen or so Jim Butcher books in a 6 inch device. (E-Paper blows away IPad's screen for reading.)

If I'd received the Kindle before the release of George Martin's utterly terrible "A Dance With Dragons" (I should write a blog entry one of these days on how terrible it is - suffice to say that the man has lost his touch) I could have spent 11$ on a kindle version instead of 54 $ (18 for the book, the rest for postage to India). The Kindle shines for fiction and light non fiction books. And you can avoid paying for the kindle editions by downloading "pirated" versions if you know where to look. I suspect it would work well for magazine subscriptions too ( at least for those in which the written word is more important than glossy pictures).

Somewhat tangentially, someone should write a piece of software that works like LaTex for math but generates flowable text. Tex is (print) page oriented.If you could just take a LaTex file and generate a kindle readable document out of it,I suspect a lot of math/tech papers would find their way on to e-readers very fast.

After having used the kindle for a while I am not surprised that Amazon sells more e-books now than paper books. I suspect the Kindle is a very potent weapon in Amazon's arsenal, that its competitors underestimate. If they make it work in the Indian context, (Amazon plans to launch in India in 2012 - I have no idea how much of a role they plan for the Kindle here), their competitors will get swatted aside like so many flies. (Hmmm I should write a post on how I see the Amazon-Flipkart battle shaping up in India. Interesting times we live in).

Meanwhile, if you are a reader and can afford to buy a Kindle, you should. It (or something like it) is the future of reading.


Deepak Surti said...

You can try the Kindle Personal Document service.

They will convert you personal documents into kindle format.

But the best way out is MobiCreator, but a lot of work; especially if you want a textbook to work the way you mention on an ereader.

Disgruntled PhD said...

I believe that you can convert LaTeX to epub using pandoc (well, I thought that you could use htlatex to convert to html and thence to epub, but I was wrong).

I just tried it with a paper I wrote a while back, and it works quite well. Doesn't appear to pick up the section headings, and tables aren't rendered that well, but it may be possible to tweak the output (i didn't try).

Also, thank you for your data mining list (especially the link to the Strang calculus book).