Question of the week: do you want a Kindle and what should I read on my holiday?


So lovely wife bought me a Kindle for Christmas. Ain’t she lovely? Now we could argue a lot about the merits of Amazon’s eBook reader: a lot of people are dubious about them at first, but I love mine and once I’ve shown them how it works, what it’s like to read with, the free/cheap books you can get for it, etc, they generally end up wanting/buying one.

So part one of this week’s question is:

Do you want/have a Kindle? If not, why not?

However, an often overlooked advantage of the Kindle is that when it comes to going on holiday, it’s a revolution. We normally take about an entire suitcase full of books with us, most of which we end up leaving behind at a book exchange. We end up having to weigh all our suitcases very carefully before we go to make sure the books are all evenly distributed so we don’t go over our weight allowance.

Take a couple of Kindles and their battery chargers, though, and you’re pretty much sorted, since it weighs about a quarter of a kilo (half a pound) and can fit 3,000+ books in its memory. Woo hoo!

However, you do need ebooks for it and while I’ve got a lovely supply of free eBooks, I would like some more things to read when I’m on holiday next week. So part 2 of this week’s question is:

Are there any books you’d recommend for holiday reading, preferably available on the Kindle?

As always, leave a comment with your answer or a link to your answer on your own blog

  • Don’t have a Kindle yet, and would probably get one for holidays, though I admit it’s not a must have purchase.
    As to holiday reads, if you haven’t read it already, The Book Thief. Finished it a couple of weeks ago and thought it was brilliant. Made me cry, and while I weep all the time at the telly, that doesn’t often happen with books.

  • Neil

    If you haven’t already try the Game Of Thrones/Dance with dragons – just in time for the forthcoming HBO series (also starring Jerome from Robson and Jerome fact fans).
    I was forced to read them (“Me? Fantasy! blech”) and they are great. A mix of War of the Roses (intrigue, battles, knights, war of succession), I Claudius (intrigue, scheming, politics), plus fantasy stuff too (direwolves, the undead, a bit of ‘magic’, a 700ft high ice wall). Written from a the POV of a number of different characters and cliffhangers all the way through the books.

  • Mark Carroll

    I wouldn’t have bought myself a Kindle but I got one for Christmas. However, I find the price of e-books a bit high given how fragile they feel; I don’t want to depend on Amazon and my Kindle for access to books I’ve bought for non-trivial sums and for agreement that yes I have them legally. So, I rely on free ones, and indeed it is great on trips to bring just-a-Kindle instead of oodles of books. And it’s not like you can just pick up books in airports at layovers after others are finished because books in airport terminal shops are rubbish.
    At the moment I’m reading War and Peace. It’s ages since I did that. Next it’ll be Wuthering Heights, I expect, or maybe The Brothers Karamazov if I feel like more Russian. So, yeah, er, classics that I liked but hadn’t read for very long. I don’t think Seven Pillars of Wisdom is free yet, though. I’m even finding Shakespeare less hard work than I had thought. (Plays are good for the bus bit of my commute, I can normally get in a scene or two.)

  • I forgot to really answer your first question, Rob. I think eventually, I will get a Kindle (or whichever e reader wins the day). Am not sure I want a Kindle morally, as Amazon are doing their best to make sure living authors don’t get paid properly for their work(-: However, I’m guessing given Christmas sales and the fact that ebooks are overtaking hardbacks, Amazon’s probably won the ereader battle. At the moment it is limited, I understand to one typeface for all books (dull, dull, dull), but am sure that will improve.
    I do understand Mark’s frustration as a reader, my last book costs £4.49 as an ebook and £6.99 as a pb. Does the first seem like value for money? Probably not when you think about all the free downloads you get with music these days. The publishing industry is still finding its way to work out fair deals for authors and readers, and hence some companies (mine included) have signed up to the agency model where the publishers set the price of ebooks in the way they used to set book prices before the end of the NBA. Amazon, are not very happy about this and its going to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. From a personal pov I hope the publishers win, because Amazon would be happy for all electronic content to be free, which wouldn’t be so great for the likes of me(-:, but much better obviously for readers. I do think there needs to be a fair balance between authors being paid properly for their work and commercial realities, but we ain’t there yet, which means it’s still an uneven marketplace when you’re looking for new material to read in an ereader. In another year’s time, no doubt it will look very different again…
    Am always amazed that the technology that brought us books has lasted this long without being superseded, and am not really worried about books disappearing, because stories never will.

  • Mark Carroll

    … to one typeface for all books … — it’s at least an okay typeface. (-:

  • @Mark Carroll Yeah, I presume they chose the best one to work on electronic paper. I started my publishing life in production, so I love good text design, and one seems a bit limiting! But am sure that will get better as the technology improves.

  • MediumRob

    There are, just to be accurate, three typefaces on the Kindle, regular, condensed and sans serif, all of which come in eight point sizes. Not a lot, but still a few. And a lot more than the average book of course… 😉

  • OK, Mr Pedantic(-: And I know your average book only has one typeface, but not every book has the SAME single typeface… Am sure it’s been done for clarity of reading which is the most important thing. I just get excited when I see a nice new clean book design.

  • PS Also get very excited by beautiful book design (Marie’s hardback copy of Gods Behaving Badly was a case in point), but the Kindle ain’t going to give me that either!!!

  • Whilst in the long run I doubt I will be able to avoid the temptation of an e-book reader (Kindle or otherwise), I am a BOOK-ADDICT, in much the same way as I am still in love with the hard copy forms of music.
    There are a number of reasons why I feel so in love with books — their longevity, their smell, their feel, their variable typefaces, their shape… there is so much that is evocative in the physical object for me. Of course, it is the stories themselves that are central, but I do love the book…. and I have to say in terms of travelling, I doubt the Kindle et al will resolve my problem since it is less a case of TAKING books with me and more a case of bringing them home.
    In that respect, having a Kindle would probably for me work as e-Music does; I won’t stop buying (real) books, but I may be tempted for some items to indulge in just the e-reader version. I too would probably go for some classics in e-form or some of the quickly and easily read thrillers and mysteries etc I read.
    Recommendations to read: I’d second JH’s suggestion of The Book Thief, very good indeed.

  • Mark Carroll

    “quickly and easily read” — mmm, it would be nice if I could borrow library books on my Kindle. Possibly that isn’t far off. “The Book Thief” does look interesting, maybe I too will give it a go once I’m back in the US.

  • Good point about library books, Mark, I have no idea if you can do that yet. But as you say it can’t be far off. Libraries here are pretty good at that kind of thing.

  • MediumRob

    I’ve added The Book Thief to my Kindle. Any others?

  • I’d recommend a Meg Abbott for a nice line in period noir written today. Die a Little, The Song is You, Queenpin, Bury Me Deep – all good (not too long either, whereas the Book Thief is a whopper – though it is quite large print in the hardback edition). I’d also recommend the Roz Southey books – 18th century-set mysteries with a muscian at the centre: lots of good detail about music and society, and some nice twists that make them more than just period crime mysteries.

  • Do you like Harlan Coben? We usually take his latest on holiday with us.
    If you like historical fiction, we usually go for Bernard Cornwell, but I also read a lot of my friend Elizabeth Chadwick’s mediaeval fiction. I can recommend The Greatest Knight/The Scarlet Lion about William Marshall. Am a bit behind on hers, but she’s had several out since then.
    Plus Terry Pratchett. Always have to have a Pratchett on holiday! Have you read all of Neil Gaiman’s work? (I haven’t so am working my way through).
    Death at Intervals by Jose Sarramago is one I read a couple of years back, but weird and interesting – same premise as the new Torchwood, people stop dying. A bit hard work though as there are no chapters!
    Don’t know if you’re a Zoe Heller fan, but I really loved The Believers, which is also a bit weird, but dark, with spiky characters who you can’t exactly like, but end up rooting for.
    Husband is currently reading and enjoying Tim Powers’ Declare. I’ve just finished The Anubis Gate which I semi enjoyed – have a feeling he’s more of a boy’s writer(-:
    Not usually a fan of celeb autobiographies, but I bought the Michael Caine one for Spouse at Christmas, and enjoyed it – not brilliantly written, but the anecdotes are great and it feels like it comes from the heart. Also, if you’ve not read it, Dawn French’s Dear Fatty (tho seems a bit poignant now she’s split up from Lenny). She’s written a novel too, which looks quite fun.
    Oh and Diana Athill’s Somewhere Before the End, which I read last summer is really uplifting.
    Hope that helps, and you have a great holiday!

  • Mark Carroll

    (For your US readers) Over here it seems to be “Death With Interruptions” by José Saramago; if that’s it, I surprised they named it differently. Since I mentioned “The Book Thief” to my wife she’s already reserved it. I hadn’t heard of Zoe Heller; I’ll give her a try.
    Your mention of Neil Gaiman reminds me to wonder how graphic novels translate to the Kindle. It ought to be possible, even if we lose some shading and colour. I did like “The Sandman”, and that more for the story than the artwork anyway.

  • @ Mark Carroll, I think a children’s book company over here, Nosy Crow, is doing some innovative stuff with children’s e picture books. If they can crack colour that will open up a whole new world… If you don’t know Zoe Heller, her previous book, Notes on a Scandal is very good to – made into a slightly sanitised, but nonetheless creepy film starring Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett. Was assuming Rob had read that one?