Friday, February 10, 2012


Let me start out by saying that I am not suggesting that the Amazon Kindle is the only or even the best choice out there--but it does happen to be the one I bought since I already was buying most of my books from Amazon, and the new basic unit at $79 with free shipping was pretty irresistable. It is also, so far as I know, the lightest model at just 6 ounces.

I have resisted getting an e-reader as I am a longtime lover of books, paperback and hardcover books, books you can hold and look at gathered on your shelves. I derive a tremendous sense of comfort being surrounded by books--and so far, nothing like that happens with my Kindle. I suspect, however, because of advantages both forms and formats have, that hard copy books and electronic reading devices will co-exist for many years to come.

As I have chosen to focus on writing and producing my future books and blogs and Moneylove Club audio series rather than on marketing and making money, I have been on a limited budget since my release from 12 years of incarceration in 2008. Despite this, my book budget was averaging about $50 a month. In the ninety days since I bought my Kindle, I have spent exactly $1. for an e-book, as that was one out of a selection of 100 which new Kindle owners were allowed to choose from Amazon. Ironically, it is the only book I have not finished on Kindle, as it just wasn't very well written.

Not only are most books in the public domain, like those by Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, and Arthur Conan Doyle, available free, but Amazon also has at least 100 mysteries that are free to download immediately to the Kindle. I now have 180 books stored, nowhere near the 1400 book capacity of my model.

I am a mystery novel buff. In prison, I read almost exactly 1000 books in my 12 years. Now, with all that I do on my computer, I mostly read mysteries for recreation while riding the BART train back and forth between my home in San Bruno and San Francisco. Many of the mysteries Amazon features free are the first in multiple book series. The company obviously figures that once hooked on an author, customers will then be willing to buy future volumes at up to $9.99, but with so many books to choose from and now only reading about one mystery per week, I am not tempted to play their game.

In addition, you can borrow e-books from your local library. I do this with my library cards from both San Bruno and San Francisco. The county library lets you keep the book for two weeks, when it magically disappears--while San Francisco has a three week limit.
With so many choices, I don't know how some new restrictions may apply, but if you are considering an e-reader, you should probably be aware that Penguin and other major publishers are starting to cut back on their sales of e-books to libraries, fearing this eats into their retail sales (in my case, they are right).

On several occasions in my life, I have had the emotionally jarring experience of losing a large collection of books. Most recently, this was several thousand volumes when I went to prison--including at least 100 books signed by the authors, many of these quoting me or endorsing Moneylove. Thanks to the Internet, many of these are replaceable, but there is an added measure of security knowing that I can put a large portion of my personal library in my pocket now. I don't have to worry about packing up many cartons when I move. In a device smaller than a paperback book, that easily fits in my pants or jacket pocket, I can travel with hundreds of books, all right at my fingertips.

With the new electronic ink technology, the Kindle reading experience almost exactly duplicates the paper version. In prison, books are at a premium. Sadistic guards often confiscate them, and each inmate is only allowed ten at a time (a rule I consistently broke). What a difference a Kindle would have made, though I'm sure it won't be allowed for the foreseeable future, as video games and computers are also banned.

The main reason I bought my Kindle is that I'm exploring publishing several of my early books in this format, including Moneylove. I plan to have the prison memoir I am now writing come out as a actual book, though probably with a Kindle edition available. I expected to have a better sense of what this new phenomenon was all about as an owner. I did not know I would fall in love with my Kindle, and all the freedom it offers. And as long as it is viewed as a bonus rather than a threat, I can't imagine any true book lover not forming a similar attachment.

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