Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Nerd Food: Kindle my Fire!

Being in Africa, one of the things we miss the most is access to books. Y'all know how book mad me and Shahin are - all those full shelves we always had. Suddenly we had to downsize significantly, and books were at the bottom of our priority list. I frantically searched for ebook replacements for all my programming books - and largelly succeeded, it must be said. But novels and so on were nowhere to be found (other than project Gutenberg, that is). I ignored the whole Kindle revolution because I'm not a big fan of ebook readers. For one I find them far too expensive. Also, when space is at a premium, you really don't want to have to carry yet another device on you. However, my ignorance played very much against me this time, as I missed the Kindle for PC. Luckily we have slashdot.

Amazon, being the great Linux company they are, they released a Linux version of their product. Not. (Just kidding! The amazon MP3 downloader is absolutely fantastic!).

Early reports of wine support were quite promising so I gave that a go, only to find out that the latest release does not work! Luckily our faithful ubunteros discovered the old version, which works just like lifehacker had reported.

All of this to say, I got Kindle for PC working on wine, and it works well. I must say, the experience was not perfect:
  • The whole .com vs amazon websites is rather confusing: for dead-tree items (and for MP3's too) one is supposed to go via the website, which has prices in GBP. However, for kindle I could only find a .com website with prices in USD. On the plus side, my English amazon account works perfectly, and I was able to use the 1-click (TM) order to buy my first Kindle ebook.
  • The Kindle interface is a bit too spartan; after buying an item, its difficult to tell how long the item will take to download, how fast the download is going, etc. Its obviously not designed for dialup style internet connections like the ones we got here, that bounce more than a basketball.
  • Shantaram is not yet available, and that was one of the main things I wanted to (re) buy.
But even taking those problems into account (and the lack of a Linux version, of course), its still a great product. I mean, its nothing more that a pdf reader, really, but the availability of a lot of books at a decent price makes it really compelling. And for someone like us who cannot access dead-tree books at all, man, its like having all your birthdays in one go.

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