Saturday, February 19, 2011


Bookface, as you may have deduced, dear readers, is not a gadget freak.  I don't own a single iThing.  I'm very fond of my Fujitsu laptop and my Creative Labs MP3 player only because they're tools that do jobs I want done.

I looked at various e-book readers for over a year and thought very hard about whether or not I would use one.  I could see a number of advantages:  as with my MP3 player, I can carry a whole library of books in just a few ounces.  Electronic books may save some trees.  I like the fact that I can adjust the font and font size, and most of them have on-line dictionaries.  Physical books are quite expensive here in Malaysia.  I've found some excellent used book sellers overseas, but the shipping costs bring the prices up.  On the flip side, I love print books, especially second-hand ones and hard-covers.  There's no way an electronic gadget can ever smell like an old book.  (Is there?  Ahem!  Calling all you engineering geeks!  Here's a challenge for you.)

After numerous conversations with gadget nuts, I had to conclude that the Amazon Kindle was the best e-book reader for the money.  High resolution, no glare, good features, and at less than half the price of the least expensive Chinese brand I can buy here.  The catch:  Amazon refuses to sell its Kindles (or e-books, or used print books, or audio books, or music, or...) to Malaysia.  I loathe that company.  The hardest part of the decision to obtain an e-book reader was overcoming my aversion to doing business with Amazon.  When a friend told me, however, that her brother would be traveling from Cleveland, Ohio to KL, I choked back the venom and got out the credit card.  Amazon shipped the Kindle to his house as a gift, and he gave me the gift of transporting it to Malaysia.

My verdict:  YES!  I love it.  It fits easily into my handbag.  The not-so-stylish nylon zippered cover that I selected protects it from cat fur, falls from the table, detritus inside my bag, and moisture on the days when I forget my umbrella.  No reading glasses at hand?  Increase the font size.  The built-in Oxford English dictionary (including etymologies, praise be!) is a boon, and highlighting and annotating are easy.  At the moment, I have about six books loaded on it (and space for a few thousand more), so I can always find something to fit my mood.

Generous friends have shared CDs containing libraries of several hundred titles, and I have found many others on my own.  What American publishers and resellers do not appear to consider is that by refusing to sell their wares to Malaysia, they are not discouraging piracy.  They are fuelling it.  I've gone on this rant many times before, so I'll cut it short here. Let's just say this:  I don't know any Malaysians who download bootleg books because they are either unable or unwilling to pay for them.

I can also say this:  of the people that I know here who have gotten Kindles one way or another, all agree that they are reading far more than they ever had before.  If I were a publisher, I wouldn't see that as a menace.  I'd see it as a market.

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