Thursday, December 15, 2011

Reading and Warming by the Fire: Kindle Fire

Warming up to the Kindle Fire

Since the debut of the first Kindle e-reader in 2007, I have carefully read reviews, tinkered with display models at local stores, compared features with other e-readers, and have asked for the opinions of friends who own e-readers.  I love hard copy books (some would say, "real books") and I also recognize the inherent benefits of digital editions and using an e-reader. However, I had been hesitant about taking the plunge and buying and e-reader, until recently.  With the incentive of a couple monetary gifts, I went out and purchased the recently released Kindle Fire.  Needless to say, I am very impressed!

Although the Kindle Fire does not sport the paper-like, e-ink screen found on other Kindle models, it by design does an amazing job of encouraging reading.  It may be argued in some cases that the device may increase your delight in reading.  Here's why I think that this is so.

1) Versatility - By design, the Kindle Fire is able to toggle between a variety of types of media.  On this one device readers are able to access periodicals, Kindle ebooks, PDF books and documents, as well as word processing documents.  Additionally, the Kindle Fire allows the user to stream movies and videos, download and use a myriad of apps, view photos, and browse the internet.  These items are often major distractions to reading, but they can also allow for opportunities to enhance the pleasure of reading books and periodicals when videos are included and immediate access to word definitions and internet articles and sites are linked.

Since I currently do not have Wi-Fi in my home, I avoid much of the distraction of browsing and fiddling with apps that require an internet connection.  This is great because I am forced to manage my time more wisely (still working on this) and plan on when I need Wi-Fi to update the Kindle and when I should just relax and read.

2) Portability & Size - One of my apprehensions about e-readers has stemmed from my dislike for reading on computer monitors.  Out of habit, I am a browser when it comes to sitting at a computer.  I have downloaded the Kindle Apps for both my desktop and laptop, but I rarely use them.  The primary trouble I have with reading on a computer monitor is the difficulty in getting into a comfortable reading posture.  Location and position are critical for me when it comes to reading.  There are two chairs in my home in which I can relax and enjoy reading or studying.  I can use my laptop there, but I cannot get into that specific "book reading position" with the computer.  You know what I mean: that cuddled up, leaning back, or legs-crossed-with-pencil-in-one-hand-and-book-in-the-other position that is just right for extended reading.  I can achieve either of these postures with the Kindle Fire e-reader and I can comfortably read for extended periods of time just as with a "real book"!  The size of the Kindle Fire is smaller than the iPad and it fits very nicely into your hand and along side other books you may be carrying.  I absolutely love the fact that it fits perfectly into the inside pocket of my coats.

3) Functionality - The Kindle Fire, although it is not unique in this respect, offers readers the opportunity to read, take notes and compare multiple texts all on one device.  Granted the note taking function is very limited compared to using an iPad, but nevertheless, note-taking and highlighting is possible.  To this is added the ability to insert multiple bookmarks, to jump quickly to the Table of Contents, the beginning of a book, any particular bookmark, highlight, or note, or to sync to the furthest reading location within seconds.

With regard to comparing texts, I have tested this out in the areas of Bible study, Sunday School small-group study, and sermon note-taking.  I recommend the use of the following items that are invaluable for free: the ESV Bible app, the ESV Kindle Edition text (or one of a number of Bible versions available for the Kindle); the YouVersion Bible app,  the Logos Bible Software app.  Although the Logos app only gives me access to selected books offline (I must select the ones I want to download for use offline) and it does not have a highlight and note taking function, it is still very nice to be able to read these resources I already own no matter where I am.

4) Price - Finally, the affordability of the Kindle Fire is what is most appealing to me.  Well, I must qualify this because on our tight budget I had to wait until I received gift monies before I was able to spring for this tool.  Nevertheless, compared to many of the other e-readers, including the other Kindle models, the Kindle Fire is the best bang for your buck if you want a device centered around reading.  On account of the affordability of the Kindle Fire, I found a way to spring for a second Kindle Fire for my wife.  What we discovered very quickly is that this little, yet powerful, device ranks high on the cool factor.  Once I purchased one we quickly discovered that one was difficult to share.  Because this device is relatively affordable we now own two, which would have never happened if I had initially purchased an iPad.  The cost factor is huge especially since we already have a portable computer.

This is my take on the Kindle Fire.  I agree with iPad users that the Fire is limited in comparison, but for all of us who have not been able to break into the Apple world, the Fire is an awesome alternative.  The Fire is aptly named on account of its ability to warm up users in a flash and take reading to a new level of enjoyment.

I'd love to hear your comments on the e-readers you use.  I'm always grateful for tools that promote reading.