As I've resolved to write more frequently, so have I resolved to read more frequently. And I've done something that only a few years ago, I would have sworn I'd never do: I bought a Kindle. That's it, right there in the picture. I've owned it for nearly three weeks now. Specifically, it's the Fire HD 8, which I understand is not technically a “Kindle”. I call it that anyway because asking my 8-year-old “have you seen my Kindle?” sounds better coming out of my mouth than “have you seen my Fire HD 8 tablet?” or worse, “have you seen my Fire?” Because there's a limit to how many times any parent can handle the “there's a fire in the house?” response from a clever child.
Amazon: you have the Kindle Paperwhite, the Kindle Voyage, the Kindle Oasis. You really should have called this thing the Kindle Fire.1
At Neil Gaiman's engagement here in Houston, he was asked his opinion about Kindles and ebooks. He said that a printed book is always superior to a Kindle, but that a Kindle is always superior to carrying a suitcase full of books. As far as the reading experience, I agree in the main. I love the feel of the printed book. I love the smell of the printed book. But there are cases apart from size and space at which the Kindle excels.
I can read in bed without a lamp that might disturb my wife. I can read privately; nobody in public can see the book cover. I can send book samples to the Kindle at any time; I do not need to purchase an entire book nor do I need to wait for library or store hours to sample a book. Now, I know that these aren't revelations. And I know that Mr. Gaiman is not unaware of such things (he simply had no intention of spending more than a few sentences on his answer at that time, which is understandable).
Before the purchase, I thought about how I would use the device. Forget games. Forget Netflix and streaming Amazon video. Definitely forget installing Facebook and Twitter. Perhaps the Fire HD 8 would be overkill. I could have purchased a less expensive standard Kindle, but I knew I'd be reading books and magazine with color pages. So. Fire HD 8 it would be, and I splurged on the ad-free—I'm sorry, “special offers”-free—version. Yes, for an extra $15, I will pay to never look at advertisements. Worth it.2
The Fire HD 8 in Use
My first purchase for the device was a subscription to support Clarkesworld. It paid off immediately when I downloaded the first issue and read the first article that caught my eye: “How to Injure Characters Without Killing Them” by S.E. Jones. I'm working on a story in which a character needs to suffer a head injury and some blood loss but not die; that article was perfectly timed.
Then, Uncanny Magazine. Soon, Asimov's, Analog, and a few others. And I'm going to switch my Writer's Digest subscription from print to Kindle. That's another benefit of the format: conservation. A library of printed books is great—a library of printed magazines, less so. Magazines just pile up. They're hard to search through when you're trying to find an article you've read. Advertisements take up much of the paper, and therefore much of the shelf space.
I'm buying as many books in print as I ever have. Most recently, Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology and Claudia Gray's A Thousand Pieces of You. I'll never stop buying print books. But I'm enjoying my new Kindle Fire. I don't expect I'll stop buying things to read in the electronic format, either.