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2011 January 3

There are countless debates about the Kindle, the Nook, and eBooks in general, and what they mean for the future of reading, especially if you’re in the publishing world. I’m as tired as the next person about the theories and the total strangers telling me that “no one will be reading books in ten years.” I personally don’t think that printed books are going anywhere, and that’s not just because I am a “book person.” I think that people will always enjoy the tactile experience of reading a book, even as eBooks and readers become more and more prevalent. I appreciate that the format is changing though, and I think that there’s ample room in the field for both printed and digital books. As such, I decided I needed to give the Kindle a try.

Joe bought a Kindle last year and has read a couple of books on it. He recently read Great House by Nicole Krauss for a book club, and bought it for the Kindle rather than the hardcover book. When he finished, he gave it to me to read, since I wanted to read it more than he did, and have been saying for at least a year that I wanted to read a book on his Kindle. Before I get to what I thought about the book itself, here’s what I thought of my Kindle experience:


  • Great for the subway–it’s so much easier to hold on while turning the page when all it takes is pressing a button
  • Lightweight and compact–again, ideal for commuting and traveling
  • Ability to purchase more books immediately and nearly anywhere–I finished the book while traveling to Florida, and had I not had a back up, I could have easily bought another book to load on the Kindle to keep me entertained on the plane ride back
  • Adjustable font size–because I’m blind


  • It’s tough to gauge your progress–despite the percentage read indicator at the bottom of the screen, I found I missed being able to tell how many pages I had left, especially in a chapter or section.
  • I missed the physical experience of turning pages, though the button was very handy on the subway
  • I liked the highlighting feature, but find it more satisfying to physically underline
  • It’s tough to flip back, unless you make a “bookmark” which I didn’t really see the need for. I would have liked to glance at the TOC and I couldn’t do that easily on the Kindle
  • You can’t display a Kindle on your bookshelf or on the train in the same way you can with a physical book

So, my verdict, not surprisingly, is that reading on the Kindle is very practical and actually enjoyable, in certain situations. However, it’s not ideal, and it’s not a book, and I’m certainly not giving up my printed books anytime soon. However, I will be buying Freedom to read on it, since I can’t afford the hardcover price, and I’m dying to know what all the fuss is about.

As for Great House itself–I liked it. But, much like her first novel, The History of Love, I found it ultimately lacking something I can’t really put my finger on. In the case of Great House, the linked story structure really just didn’t work for me. Inevitably, I liked some of the stories more than others, and thought it was interesting that all of the stories shared a somewhat common link (an enormous antique writing desk). I thought the character development was strong, and the writing itself was very good, although sometimes a little too heavy-handed. In the end, though, I didn’t feel like these stories all came together in the way I found myself hoping for. I didn’t get any of the resolution I thought I would, leaving me wondering what really happened to those characters I grew to like–and even the ones I hated.

Have any of you read this book? What did you think? Do you have a Kindle or have you used an eReader? Thoughts please!

10 Responses Post a comment
  1. Kelli permalink
    January 3, 2011

    Jill, too funny. I just finished Great House over break myself. (Though I read the printed book, not on a Kindle.) I completely agree with your review. I really, really like Krauss’s writing – I read History of Love a couple of years ago – but your line about there just being something you can’t put your finger on is dead on in my opinion. When I finished the book I was left with a lot of “what about?” feelings that I’d hoped she’d resolved. I’m curious who your favorite characters were. I think I enjoyed Swimming Holes the most.

  2. Kelli permalink
    January 3, 2011

    I just re-read my comment and realized it sounds kind of scattered brained. I hope you can translate! 😉

  3. meghan permalink
    January 3, 2011

    i love having the kindle! mainly i think it is great because i am running out of book space and i know a lot of novels i own, i only end up reading once and then they sit on my bookshelves getting dusty. i really enjoy that you can archive books on the kindle website and always have access to re-download them. but, i most definitely agree with your critique of the difficulty of moving around within a book. especially since i now have academic books on mine, i need to jump from section to section occasionally and there is no efficient way to do that without making a note or bookmark. that, and the not-so-user-friendly kindle store interface on the kindle itself, are my only two knocks. otherwise i really love it.
    also, i really enjoyed history of love so i plan to check out great house when i am done with exams!!

  4. Amy G permalink
    January 3, 2011

    Great to get your take on it, especially since I’ve recently been contemplating getting one (or a Kobo or a Nook or some other similarly-named thing) myself. Really interesting point about how you missed being able to “gauge your progress.” I can totally relate–I always get a feeling of accomplishment when I’m a good chunk of the way through, and with a really good book I’ll also think “wow, a lot happened in just the part I’ve already read” and it makes me even more excited for the rest.

  5. January 4, 2011

    I love my nook for all the reasons you liked the Kindle, and I don’t really miss holding or flipping through a physical book anymore than I miss writing out my letters in longhand. I do sympathize with the highlighting though!

  6. Raquel permalink
    January 4, 2011

    We just got Jeremy’s parents a Kindle and an iPad for Christmas this year and they are enjoying them, but I am not yet ready to make the switch to an e-reading device, mostly because I inhale books and so get them free from the library (or else buy bizarre used books that don’t exist as e-books). But I think eventually I might like to get an e-reader. We’ll see. I definitely will miss the physical display of beautiful and interesting covers though. I am the first to admit that covers are 95% behind why I impulse-buy books I had no intention of reading when I walked into the shop.

    I read Krauss’ “Man Walks Into A Room” and I feel the same way you do. Her writing is excellent and she has interesting ideas and develops characters well. But I found that when I got to the end, I didn’t much care that I’d read it or really care about the characters. I couldn’t figure it out!

    My verdict of “Freedom”: Love the cover. Love some of the details and descriptions of suburban life. Decent book, but not worth the hoopla. It was sort of like “The Corrections” just set in the 2000s instead of the 1990s and with a younger family. I’d say I’d just lend you my copy but it’s so effing heavy you’re better off with the Kindle!

  7. January 9, 2011

    I have a kindle, and since I live abroad and move a lot it’s really invaluable. I was getting uber-stressed trying to figure which and how many books to bring, especially when going to a country without much access to English books.

    Like you, I do miss turning the pages, but I figure I still read real books too, so I can indulge in that at other times. One thing that drives me nuts though is trying to do anything research oriented with the kindle; it’s infuriating trying to find what you’re looking for. And also I dislike that pdfs don’t adapt properly and that you’re basically stuck with Amazon to provide your books.

  8. January 13, 2011

    I’m loving the Kindle app on iPad! It saw me through a REALLY long bus ride and a whole day at jury duty. But I completely agree about the percentage thing. I find myself “flipping” (the iPad has the animation) ahead to count how many “pages” are left in a chapter (at night, I need to know whether I can/should stay up to finish!). I’m currently reading something with a lot of minor characters and I’ve wanted to flip back quite a few times to find where a character first showed up…but it’s been almost impossible. In the physical book, I usually have some kind of tactile or visual memory of this kind of thing (i.e. “Oh, that was about 1/4 way through the book, on a left-hand page.”).

  9. January 17, 2011

    i read the history of love and felt the same way! it was rife with overused cliches like, “she was a question he had been waiting his whole life to answer”– it had no heart, and was like a corny romance film or something!


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