Buying a Kindle: Why Didn't I Think of This Last Semester?

Despite my extensive carping about the Digital Restrictions Management on the Amazon Kindle, I ordered one earlier today and now wish I’d been smart enough to do so last semester.

Why? I’m a graduate student in English Lit, and I looked at my reading requirements for this semester and found that the vast majority of the assigned books are out-of-copyright (meaning they were published before 1923), and I can download them free; most are also famous enough to make them easily accessible online. In other words, buying all my books for the semester will cost $200. Buying a Kindle will cost $259, plus another $30 for a case. The Kindle + free books effectively makes the Kindle $59. If I’d realized this last semester, it already would’ve paid for itself. In addition, I won’t have to lug around nearly as many .pdfs as I do now.

Given that the English curriculums appear to focus on pre-1923 texts, I’d be surprised if more English majors and grad students don’t take this path. At the moment, it’s possible to read class books either on a computer screen or print them out, but neither solution works all that well. I suspect this one will, though, as always, we shall see.

4 responses

  1. I don’t see why you need a Kindle for this. When I was in college, I never bought my books (unless there was one I wanted anyway); I checked them out of the library. For anthologies, there were always an ample number of previous editions in the library, and for individual novels, plays, collections of poems and what not, there were generally copies to borrow when needed.

    Nowadays, I’d probably still do this, but I would supplement it with public domain PDFs available from Google Books, Archive.org, etc. Assuming you have a computer (what graduate student doesn’t?), you don’t need a Kindle to read these. I don’t know why reading them on a computer screen should be so much worse than reading them on a Kindle display. I have no idea what you mean by “lug[ging] around […] PDFs” — put them on an 8 GB keychain drive, and this is no worse than “lugging around” your car-keys. :)

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    • for individual novels, plays, collections of poems and what not, there were generally copies to borrow when needed.

      If only that were so! Having played “musical recall” and “grab that book first!” during weeks leading up to a particular class, it doesn’t seem to be the case at UA. And the convenience is major.

      but I would supplement it with public domain PDFs available from Google Books, Archive.org, etc. Assuming you have a computer (what graduate student doesn’t?), you don’t need a Kindle to read these.

      Yeah—I do this to some extent but spend too much time on computers as it is and don’t like reading novels on them. The Kindle looks more like a printed book (a mass market paperback—but still).

      I have no idea what you mean by “lug[ging] around […] PDFs”

      Printing them and putting them in binders. Over the course of the semester, I end up with two to three binders filled with stuff (two for classes I’m taking, one for classes I’m teaching). The bad news is that the Kindle doesn’t have really good built-in .pdf tools.

      Anyway, I’m not sure how this is going to work out. But I suspect that if I were going to become an English major undergrad today, I’d get a Kindle (or one of the other e-readers), since so much of the English curriculum is out-of-copyright.

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      • The e-ink display makes all the difference. I do a lot of screen reading too, particularly for pdfs which I need to annotate. However, I cannot read at the computer for more than a couple of hours at a time before eye strain starts to kick in. This never happens with the kindle. It is the first electronic device that I have used that really supports long-form reading.

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  2. I am Jake’s dad and must comment with sadness on his apostasy to the Church of Apple by buying a Kindle. For years Jake proselytized to me about the wonders of all things Apple, and three years ago we moved our business to Macs from PCs and never looked back. We’ve got Mac Pros, MacBook Pros, iPods, iPhones and an iDon’tevenknowwhatthingdoes. Astoundingly, after Jake was finally right about something, he goes off the reservation to buy an eReader at the exact time Apple is releasing a tablet that will likely turn the Kindle into kindling or a doorstop. As attorney Joseph Welch famously said in the Army-MaCarthy hearings in the early 1950s, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” (I used to misquote this to Jake when he was little and did something wrong as, “at long last, have you no shame”).

    So, what to do? I think we’ll have to emulate the start of each episode of the 1960s Western, Branded, in which Chuck Connors, as disgraced Army Calvary Captain Jason McCord, has his epaulets and brass buttons cutoff to the sound of a snare drum before being banished from the fort. In this case, his mom and I will go over to his apartment, demand that he throw away his stash of 72 black turtlenecks and peel off the endless Apple logo stickers all over his stuff.

    The silver lining in of this is that by now Jake is probably already getting frustrated with the Kindle software, which is likely not very good. This will turn into full-fledged buyer’s remorse when the Apple tablet is revealed later today to the sound of heavenly music by a resolute St. Steve, who will descend to the stage with the new tablet held like a celestial harp. Fortunately, I think Amazon has a 30 day return policy and there is always a chance for redemption at the Church of Apple. Come back, Jake, Apple needs you.

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