My Younger Self Would Be Blown Away By The Kindle/Kindle App Combo

Kindle Fire I know I’m incredibly late to the party on this one, but the way the Kindle works with the Kindle App for iPhone is pretty fantastic. I’ll be honest, I’ve only just recently started using my Kindle Fire to read actual books. For the most part, I’ve been using it to read comics. Even for that, I tend to only check it out every few weeks — maybe once a month — and then get back to the piles and piles of unread books and trades I have lying around. But, I just downloaded a book I’ve been really interested in checking out and have been reading through it every chance I get.

But, as you may know, my wife, daughter and I just went down to Pennsylvania to visit a theme park called Sesame Place with some friends. Those places might not seem like the best locales to get any quality reading done in, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover it’s as good as any and that’s all thanks to the Kindle App for iPhone. As long as you make sure to synch your devices, the one tells the other where you last left off, so you get to keep your place no matter which device you’re using. It’s fantastic!

Before moving on too much more, I do feel the need to make one thing clear: I’m not one of those overly-attached-to-my-phone parents who barely takes his eyes off his phone while out with the kids. I only turned the Kindle App on when I was waiting for the others to do their thing (not a big ride fan and also had a bit of a stomach ache at one point). Then, back at the hotel, I simply went back to the Kindle Fire, picked up where I had left off on my phone and continued on.

While sitting there waiting for half the gang to ride a ride and the other to check out the gift shop I couldn’t help but stop and imagine how much this technology would have blown my mind as a kid. I was an even more avid reader in my youth than I am now (specifically books, though I guess I still read a lot of comics and trades these days). I’d go to the library, get a stack of books and plow my way through them. I’d also go to the book store — first Thackery’s, a local Toledo place that clased, then Barnes & Noble and Borders — and get things that looked interesting or I had heard about, starting the piles that I’m still working through today.

kindle-on-iphoneI was never more focused on what books I had, though, than when my family and I were going on a trip. The idea of being without something to read haunted me. I have no idea if it ever actually happened or not (probably did which fed into the fear) but eventually it was not an issue because I would use whatever extra suitcase space I had to bring an extra book, magazine or comic to keep my habit fed.

The ability to carry a number of books all in a device that weighs less than one of those old Pocket paperbacks while having a secondary device that I already carry with me everywhere that I can also read on is amazing. Too often we take the tech we have for granted, so this is me taking a few paragraphs to not only reflect back on my old reading habits, but also give a big old thumbs-up to Amazon, the Kindle Fire and the Kindle App team for making a killer combination of functionality and radness. Good work, folks!

The Kindle Fire Is Awesome

Right off the bat, I want to make it clear that this isn’t a “the Kindle Fire is better than the iPad post” because it’s not. I’ve had limited access to iPads and think they’re pretty rad, but I don’t own one because of the expense involved. I do however owned a refurbished Kindle Fire that Amazon sold at a discount price a few weeks back. My wonderful wife and darling daughter got it for me as a combined birthday and Father’s Day present.

I must say, I love this thing. I was a little worried that either the Fire or my iPhone would start feeling redundant because the only real difference is size, but I’ve found that I like checking and responding to email and looking at Twitter better on my phone which also benefits from being more carryable when I’m out and about. The main thing I’ve been using the Fire for is reading, specifically comics.

As a writer about comics, I have access to PDFs of books from various companies. I’ve been downloading these things for a while, but really dislike sitting on the couch with my laptop and reading a comic PDF. After being with this thing all day, I just need some time away in the evenings when I’m relaxing. The resolution on the files isn’t always the best, but I can still enjoy flipping through a comic either horizontally or vertically. This is really the way I want to consume my graphic fiction in the future. Who needs all the clutter and the ridiculously high price of printed comics anymore? I just want to read them and move on to the next thing. If I really like something, I’ll probably get it in trade, though I have read some collections on the Fire as well and might just be able to convert my thinking to that format as opposed to the hard copy one.

I’ve also been downloading some of the classic free books from the Amazon store. I’m currently reading G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Knew Too Much. I’m roughly 13% through it, which is an interesting way to think about books. Sometimes a book with a large page count can be overly intimidating, but I wonder if seeing a mere percentage will change how I think in that regard. So far I’ve found that the black on white text doesn’t hurt my eyes too much, but extended exposure can be a little rattling. I’m also experimenting with the white on black which seems to work better for me in the day time than in the dark. If nothing else, I’ll be on my way to reading more classic literature, just like my college days.

I’m also a big fan of using the Read It Later app which cost about $3. Read It Later is an add-on you can download for your web browser that allows you to save a web site or page by clicking a yellow arrow that appears in your browser window. I have the app on my phone, laptop and now the Fire, all three of which access the same account. Like with the comic PDFs, I much prefer to sit with the Fire and read through the stories I saved throughout the week than with the laptop, especially as the days and nights start heating up as we go into summer.

Getting the Fire also turned me on to a service that I think I will grow to like very much as well which is Amazon’s Cloud service. My wife and I have decided to get an Amazon Prime membership again this year which gives you unlimited access to the cloud and I’ve been uploading my music ever since. I’m not quite sure why you can’t just prove you own something and have Amazon just copy the digital files they already have over, but what are you gonna do? I’ve got about half of my laptop’s music library up there and it’s been great because, as long as you’ve got internet access, you can get into those files on the cloud without taking up any space on the device itself. I’m hoping they come out with an iPhone app eventually, but we’ll see.

Games aren’t really my thing, but I have downloaded a few free ones like Fling and Quell which both look nice. I also haven’t really explored the video capabilities, but do have the Netflix and Hulu Plus apps downloaded for when I do. I literally just hit the Video tab for the first time and discovered that Amazon Prime members also get access to lots of streaming content for free (as well as discounts on books and other downloads). I also downloaded the Wired app to supplement my subscription and can’t wait to dig into that a bit more.

I’m also really impressed with how well integrated the systems are. Obviously, they’re all hooked up to the Amazon store, but if you’re looking for a book to read, movie to watch or record to listen to, they’re only a few taps away. Speaking of which, I’m still getting used to typing on the thing. I’ve taken a few notes and written a few emails, but I don’t think the system is fast enough for my thumbs (or I’m possibly too clumsy for it). I felt the same way about the iPhone when I got that, too, though, so I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. I love the idea of being able to carry a device with me, though, that has so much functionality and gives me the opportunity to get the heck away from my laptop, but still catch up on the media and material I enjoy reading, listening to and watching.