“Did you see,” I remarked to Katharine, “That you can get a Kindle with a free 3G connection?”
“You know, a mobile phone connection.”
“No, I mean what’s a Kindle?”
“It’s Amazon’s e-book reader. You know, books in electronic format.”
“Right. So as well as reading books on it, you can make phone calls as well?”
“That seems a bit stupid – they put a mobile phone in it, but you can’t make phone calls?”
“No, you see it’s an Internet connection. It’ll connect to wifi, but for that you need a network in range. The 3G thing means you can connect and download books anywhere. There’s also a basic web browser. But the thing is, it’s free! there are no charges for using the connection. Free access to internet anywhere.”
“So you’d quite like one of these things?”
“Well, I’ve had it vaguely in mind to get an ebook reader when they’ve got them sorted out, and the latest version looks good. And the free connection is quite an inducement. I bet lots of people will go for it. Of course, you can read ebooks on an iPhone or an iPad, but I couldn’t really justify one of those. Also, the Kindle has this nice display which doesn’t glow.”
“Well, don’t get yourself one. I always need ideas for Christmas.”
I bit my lip, for the truth was, I had already ordered one.
It’s pretty good, actually. The display, which looks like printing on some kind of plastic, is fine: sharper than print on paper, in fact. As usual with non-standard screens the browser doesn’t always deal that well with web pages, but it’s perfectly usable. I’ve never had a problem with reading on screen – I read Moby Dick that way, among other things – but this would probably suit even those who do.
The first book I downloaded was The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (do you like David Mitchell? I find him extremely readable, but I’m not yet quite sure whether that’s all), which is going fine. A pdf that someone sent me (I seem to read a lot of pdfs these days, and now I can read them conveniently on the train – hurrah!) uploaded fine, and then, in tribute to the vast number of out-of-copyright books available electronically for free, I went for Can you forgive her? I’ve been a little wary of acquiring a Trollope habit, but now it won’t cost me anything, why not?
It all works straight out of the box (it needs to, as the manual is in electronic form). One nice little touch is the charger. You get a USB lead which can be used both for transferring stuff from a computer and for charging the Kindle. I understood the basic deal was that if you want to charge it straight off the mains, you need to buy a separate charger. In fact, it came with an adapter like a standard UK 3-pin plug, no bigger, with a USB socket in it! You just stick the USB cable in there and away you go. I think that’s pretty neat.
I may not be getting a particularly special Christmas present this year, though.