KINDLE MY SHORTS
by Steven Steinbock
I finally broke down – or in this case, a better metaphor might be melted-down – and bought a Kindle. I looked at other options, and am still not 100% sure I made the right decision, but so far I’m happy with it. Other products have touch screens, color, and backlighting, all of which would be nice. But the Kindle has the best battery, and seems to be the simplest of the eBook readers. No bells or whistles.
The two primary reasons for the purchase both revolve around Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. The first is that with my new job as book critic for EQMM, I’m reading a lot of books, and having to lug them around with me. I thought that if I could get Galleys or ARCs electronically, I could cut down on the clutter and have greater ease doing my reading. More on that later.
The second reason is that EQMM and AHMM (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine) both do really nice electronic editions of the magazines. Sometimes the e-version will even include a bonus article or photos not found in the print edition of the magazine. An eBook reader is an ideal medium for reading short stories. Devices like the Kindle are ideal for travel, commuting, and catching a bit of quick reading whenever an opportunity arises. Short stories fit the bill perfectly.
Having said that, I need to qualify. Yes, being able to read an entire issue – or individual stories from – EQMM or AHMM on a hand-held device is pretty cool. But as I said – or at least I implied – that the Kindle only operates in black and white. When I open the free Kindle app on my phone, all the cover art of the magazines is in color. The newest issue of EQMM (Sept./Oct.) includes my article “Seven Anniversaries” in which I leap, a decade at a time, to every ten-year anniversary issue and summarize the contents of the issue and the changes in the magazine over the years. (I’m not sure if the article appears in the print edition. I haven’t seen it yet. But eventually it will be posted on the EQMM website). On my Kindle, the cover art is in small, drab, black and white. On my phone, even with the tiny four inch screen, the seven magazine covers glimmer in full color.
That brings up another caveat: If you use the free Kindle app on your computer (as I do), or have any desire to do so, you’re out of luck if you want to read EQMM or AHMM. At present, the Kindle for PC app, and I assume the Kindle for Mac app, do not support magazines. This means that no matter how much I try to get my purchased electronic issue to show up on my computer, it won’t work. Something for Amazon to think about for the future.
When I began reviewing books for newspapers almost twenty years ago, I was giddy at the prospect of free books. Whenever one of my reviews appeared in print, I would mail a tearsheet (fancy publishers word for a torn out page) to the publisher along with a note. Soon my mailbox and front porch were inundated with packages of books. At present, I probably receive twenty to thirty books each week. That’s more than ten times what I’ll ever be able to read, let alone review. And week after week they accumulate. I give them away, slip them on the bookshelf at the local coffee house, donate them, and yes, keep some for myself.
I never thought I would say this, but there is such a thing as too many books.
The accumulation of books is also a constant source of marital discord. She-Who-Calls-Herself-Wench demands clear space everywhere. To her, piles of books are an anathema. Books are meant to be read and then given away or taken back to the library. Otherwise they just collect dust. Of course, I don’t agree with She-Who-Calls-Herself-Wench. But if I’m to continue living in her house, I need to limit my book-accumulation habit.
An eBook reader would seem to be the perfect solution for the book reviewer. The Kindle (or Nook or Kobo or Sony eReader) allows a reviewer to read whenever convenient, to carry a lot of books without any excess weight, and to make notes fairly easily. Alas, so far very few publishers have caught on to the idea of sending electronic editions to reviewers. One outfit, NetGalley, is serving as a mediator between publishers and reviewers, providing electronic editions of galleys. But the selection is pretty slim.
Beside me is a stack of twenty-two (physical) books that I plan to review. I’ve checked through NetGalley’s index to see if I could whittle the pile down by reading on my Kindle. Of the twenty-two titles, one of them was available as an electronic galley.
That’s okay. It’s gonna be the future soon.
Next time, unless something else kindles my fancy, I’ll share some electronic reading gems I’ve found in my travels.