Saturday, 7 January 2012

A Kindle Sceptic Converted: Linda Newbery


"I work all day on a screen; I don't want to look at a screen for relaxation, too."

"I like the feel and smell of books."

"How can a piece of technology replace such a perfect design?"

A friend made all these remarks last week, and it was an echo of the objections I was making this time last year. I live with Gadget Man, and it's made me a bit resistant to devices of various kinds (to venture into his study is to be plunged into an archive of redundant technology - items no one wants, needs or can find ways to recycle). He, of course, bought a Kindle fairly soon after they became available. I was sceptical, but two things happened to make me change my mind and have a go.

The spur came at a talk given by Sue Price and Katherine Roberts at the summer gathering of the Scattered Authors' Society. They were messianic about the advantages of Kindle self-publishing, speaking of the control and independence, the ease of publishing, and the attractions of group blogging. I went into the room with only mild interest, but emerged an hour later already planning to reissue THE DAMAGE DONE, one of my favourite of my young adult novels. I went home from the retreat, enlisted Gadget Man as technical advisor, and got to work. Within a surprisingly short time, my book was available, with a new cover.

The second thing was that I'd noticed a change in Gadget Man's reading habits. Over the summer, he could be found for hours on end on a garden bench, engrossed in THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE, via his Kindle. Now, I knew that GM would never have picked up the brick-like wodge of the book, had he seen it - the length would have put him off. But on the Kindle, he could ignore that; the device had allowed him to enjoy a book he wouldn't otherwise have started. On a practical level, holding a large book open can be tiring for the hands, whereas with a Kindle you can read one-handed, holding a mug of coffee with the other. (I'm about to embark on BLEAK HOUSE, and have downloaded the e-version for reasons of ease and comfort.)

Well, it seemed a pity to self-publish an e-book without owning a device myself, so I bought one as soon as the new cheaper Kindles became available.

Other posts within the last week have enumerated the benefits of e-books, but here's one I didn't expect.

I now use my Kindle for reading through work in progress. It's become a habit, each evening, to send my draft to the Kindle. (For anyone who doesn't know how to do this: your e-reader has its own email address, like a person. You just send an email with a Word attachment, and lo and behold, there it is.) Like many writers, I find that reading my work on a computer screen is useful only up to a point - for the final read-through before submitting, I've always printed a paper copy. I travel a lot, so this has often meant carrying a thick folder of printed pages for annotation. Now, instead, I shall be reading on the Kindle, where the text looks like that of any other book, providing the necessary distance needed at that stage. It's more portable than a typescript or a laptop, easier to read in bed, more discreet for public transport.

Like most e-readers, I'm planning to carry on reading a lot in book form, too - we're not faced with an "either/or" choice. But already my Kindle is a constant companion, for writing as well as for reading.


15 comments:

Kathleen Jones said...

This is one of the greatest advantages for me too - reading the WIP on Kindle, highlighting and bookmarking and then being able to deal with the re-writes all in one go. I live with a cyber-freak and learning the Kindle process has been a lot easier. I'd have had to struggle more to learn it all myself!

Susan Price said...

I had no idea Kath and I had been so effective - but glad to hear it. I agree that the kindle is wonderful for proof-reading. I think the only reason I don't read solely on the kindle now is expense - I'm to stingy to rebuy a book I already have in paper, or an e-edition if it's more expensive. But I actually prefer reading on kindle.
Oh, and I loved The Crimson Petal and the White too - and would probably also have been daunted by the paper version!

Cindy Jefferies said...

I recently decided to use my Kindle to import the manuscript I'm reading through, and agree that it is a very useful tool. Good to have another option, and yes...so portable when on the move! Good post Linda!

Linda Newbery said...

This week I've discovered another advantage of Kindle-reading. When I bought mine, or rather Gadget Man bought it for me, he added it to his own account, so that we could share books we'd downloaded. This week I bought BLEAK HOUSE for the ludicrous sum of 77p, and we're both reading it at the same time - you can't do that with a book! Not only that, but our respective Kindles take us each to our own "bookmarks". I'd say that for anyone sharing a bank account, this is a very cost-effective option.

Julie Day said...

I never knew that you could email to a Kindle. What a good idea. Can save paper. Definitely going to buy one next month when my ALCS pay comes through.

Tja said...

As the stereotyped Gadget Man, referred to above, I'll just add that I've also been flirting with Kobo, which is the widely available alternative Kindle.
I have resisted my usual gadget purchasing impulse by not paying £89 for the little handset, instead confining my exploration to the free Windows and mobile phone readers.
Kobo is American and is in colour, which is both visually attractive and more inclined to create eye fatigue, unlike the electronic ink of the Kindle. The range and number of free and buyable books is smaller than Amazon's. I can't comment on Kobo's file reading and self-publishing capabilities as the freebies offer none. Worth a look, however.

Katherine Roberts said...

I also find the Kindle useful for reading work in progress! Especially at the final stages when there are just a few edits left to do... then I add notes to my Kindle file (I've got the keyboard Kindle), and later copy these into my computer.

It's great to be able to work on final edits outside in the sunshine with Kindle's e-ink screen.

Sol Loreto-Miller said...

Really interesting post – I don't think anything will ever replace the feel of a book for me but I hadn't thought about using it to read through drafts/WIPs. That would certainly save a lot of paper and be nicer than reading on a screen!

CallyPhillips said...

tja - point of correction - Kobo is actually CANADIAN (which in my mind has some ethically good implications) though they have just been bought out by a Japanese company but you still deal with them through canada and as a writer this means you can avoid the horrors of having to do the IRS tax thingy with Amazon/Smashwords. As re the comparative qualities of the ereader can't really say as I only use ereader for checking my publications I've never found it a problem 'holding' even a large book.. maybe I have unusually strong hands??(ha ha) but I can say that at the moment despite setting my RRP the same all round, my ebooks are currently £3.99 on Amazon and £3.35 on Kobo (and if you're lucky you can get a 2-% discount code on top of this from Kobo) So I'm putting in a word here for Kobo folks!!! (But then I think Pepsi is (relatively) better than Coke...that's another hypothetical one for me though as I don't drink fizzy pop!

Debbie said...

My local WHSmith has a kobo display. Last time I went in they had 3 of them: one with a flat battery, one password protected (not given) and one broken. Not a good advert!

Editing/reading WIP on kindle is awesome - because it reformats, everything reads differently and the typos jump out at me!

julia jones said...

Thanks for the good advice Linda. And I think that putting ePub versions of one's books on the Gardners Gigital Warehouse sends them automatically to Kobo but I'd better check that ...

julia jones said...

Checked - no Gardner's doesn't. I remember now where I saw the upload inromation - it was on Matt Horners site where they offer retail up loads for £30 and I decided not to do it for Kobo

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I haven't tried emailing a ms to my Kindle yet, but I will so thank-you very much for the reminder! I love my Kindle - could probably sell them. I still read paper books, but it's particularly good for the kind of fat books that are hard to handle - I re-read Nicholas Nickleby on mine over Christmas, and the last time I read it the small print and sheer weight of the hardback didn't add to the enjoyment. I have a cover with a small LED light, which means I can read in the middle of the night without waking my husband - and since I'm prone to carpel tunnel syndrome, it doesn't give me that horrible finger tingling either. A blessing.

Alison Leonard said...

Thanks for your conversion experience story, Linda. I too am a convert - and after the simplistic (though effective) tv dramatisation of Great Expectations, bought the Real Thing for my Kindle for 86p and was wowed. At the same time I've been reading a Carol Shields (a Christmas present) in print and enjoying that equally - so Kindle isn't a replacement for The Book, just an alternative. Tomorrow I'll be on a long train journey, so will take my mp3 player for audio-books (love that Audible Club) and my Kindle - so light, easy and infinite in interest and variety.

Thanks too to Tja (aka Gadget Man) for the comparison with Kobo. My Canadian poet friend Robert Colman is currently trying to access the Kindle version of my novel 'Flesh & Bronze' for his Kobo, and I hope that WHSmith's ventures will help the exchange.

Linda Newbery said...

Thanks, Alison! Good to see you here. You should do a guest post about your new book?