How the Kindle changed my world: the first five years

How the Kindle changed my world: the first five years

“SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Nov. 19, 2007– (NASDAQ:AMZN) today introduced Amazon Kindle, a revolutionary portable reader that wirelessly downloads books, blogs, magazines and newspapers to a crisp, high-resolution electronic paper display that looks and reads like real paper, even in bright sunlight. More than 90,000 books are now available in the Kindle Store, including 101 of 112 current New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases, which are $9.99, unless marked otherwise. Kindle is available starting today for $399…”
Amazon press release

It seems like books have always been a big part of my life.

I remember being read out of a book at bedtime. I remember the wonder of the school library, and the public library.

As I became an adult, books continued to matter. There were times when I didn’t have much money to spend. I know I spent more of it on books than on food. I’d see a book in a used bookstore, even for fifty cents. I’d make myself leave and come back an hour later. I figured if I didn’t still want it an hour later, it could wait. That didn’t happen very often; I usually ended up buying it, even if that meant I ate so many carrots (which were very cheap) that I literally turned orange.

I would even dream about bookstores. I’m a lucid dreamer: I can be aware during a dream that I am dreaming, and still keep going. One clue that I was dreaming? There was a used bookstore I would go to in my dreams…it wasn’t a real one, but there wasn’t anything really special about it. If I realized I was in that store, I knew it was a dream.

Later, I would go on to manage a bookstore. Even though I didn’t make much money at it, I loved that! I loved connecting readers with books, and I just loved being surrounded by them. Yes, it was hard work and long hours. That’s why I eventually stopped: I got into a relationship, and it didn’t really seem fair to work three evenings and both weekend days.

Eventually, I had about ten thousand paperbooks on shelves in my home. When we bought a house, we would buy an extra bedroom, just to have a floor to ceiling library. I always remember the moment when my kid realized the books always got the bigger bedroom. 😉 What was my kid’s stated life ambition? To have more books than me…

When the Kindle was introduced on November 19, 2007, I wasn’t really interested. I thought, as so many other people did, that I liked the feel of a “real book”. I loved books as artifacts of history; I had ones that were over 100 years old by that point.

I wasn’t going to spend $399 on a device to read electronic books! Oh, I think I’d looked at e-books a bit on my computer…that didn’t thrill me.

A relative, though, got me a Kindle for a holiday gift.

I was happy about it, but just figured it was a gadget…like those vacuum cleaners that spiffed up your LPs, or the little calculator-like device I’d had that you could type on and it would print out an adding machine tape with the words on it.

I started reading on it. It was okay, a little hard to get used to holding. I bought my first Kindle book on January 29, 2008. It was a book I already owned…I had several different editions of it. I liked the ability to search, but I wasn’t hooked.

It’s amazing to me when I look at it now, but over the next couple of months, I only bought a few e-books. I was reading a lot of paperbooks, and still trying to find the value in that butcher block of a device.

Then, author Michael Hicks helped me out by answering a question on line.

I bought In Her Name (no longer available in the edition I got…I’ve linked to the current version which contains what I read and more) on March 12, 2008.

It was a big sweeping epic science fiction novel, and one of the best things I had read.

It was that experience, of being able to read a book which would have been the size of a small airport 😉 easily which really got me into reading on the Kindle.

It wasn’t a diminution of my experience of reading paperbooks…it was an expansion of it.

I couldn’t have easily carried that book with me everywhere, although I don’t always do things the easy way. 🙂 I was in the habit of packing an extra suitcase just for books when I traveled, and I kept an “emergency book” in the car in case I was out and finished what I had.

Shortly after that, I published my first book on the Kindle.

That was a huge change! I’d had a column in a national newsstand magazine, and had some other articles published. I’d had a couple of plays done, and had been  publishing what was then called an “e-zine” online.

This was different, though. I had a book at Amazon.

As a former bookstore manager, I knew how hard it was to crack that distribution near monopoly of the major publishers. I would have people walk into my store with a self-published book and ask if I would sell it on consignment (if it sold, they got paid. If it didn’t, they got nothing).

They figured that was a no risk proposition for me.

They didn’t realize that we were always fighting rent and salaries. A book sitting on a bookstore’s shelf costs that store money, because they have to pay the rent for that space.

I would ask the indie: “If I call you and tell you I need 100 of these in three days, can you do it?” The answer was always no. The tradpubs (traditional publishers) can do that.

Here I was, though, with a book in what was perhaps the largest bookstore in the world.

I started buying more e-books. I also scanned a public domain book for a non-profit where I was on the board, and we made that available to the public. What a wonderful feeling that was!

Gradually, I started buying fewer and fewer p-books (paperbooks).

As the Kindle technology improved (the devices got lighter, easier to use, cheaper, and with more capacity), I was making the full switch.

I stopped even buying p-books. Me…not buying paperbooks. Our best friends had said they would never help us move again because of the number of boxes of books. 🙂 That wasn’t going to be an increasing issue in the future.

By February 15th of 2009, I had found the Amazon Kindle forum. This is the first thread I remember starting, although I think I’d done a few before that:

Is there a way to get a list of the discussions you’ve started?

While I got one snarky response right away, people were generally nice and helpful…I had a clever response to the snark (one which might have pleased Sigmund Freud), so I felt good about that.

That relationship to the forum would definitely become a major part of my life over time.

On August 28, 2009, I started this blog.

It was an amazing creative outlet, and a great way to help people.

Eventually, it would become (but not stay) the number one paid blog at Amazon. I always like to tell people about the day I passed both The Huffington Post and The Onion.

I continued to publish to the Kindle store, and to write the blog. For the first time in my life, I was making real money as an author. Oh, I still had (and still have) a (more than) full-time job.  I remember the first time, though, that income from my writing alone would have kept me above the poverty level…that was a shock (and in some ways, still is).

Eventually, it got to the point where my writing was making enough to pay my kid’s rent in college. That’s not bad, and has certainly helped make our lives easier.

On September 7, 2010, I described A Day in the Life of a Kindleer. You can see how integrated the Kindle had become.

Since then, it’s been non-stop. I’ve had Kindles fail, and I’ve had Kindles stolen (one theft was actually caught on a security camera). I’ve moved on to using a Kindle Fire tablet, and am anxiously awaiting my Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G LTE Wireless 32GB.

I haven’t been in a bookstore in a long time, and I haven’t dreamed about one, either.

I do know one thing, though: I love books now more than ever.

How about you? How has the Kindle changed your world? Feel free to share your experience by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


20 Responses to “How the Kindle changed my world: the first five years”

  1. Tuli Reno Says:

    I got my first one in 2008. I had been having some medical issues which seemed to impact my ability to concentrate and my short term memory. I hadn’t been able to read anything for a long time and I had been an avid reader. I picked up Jim Bouton’s book “Ball Four” and found that very easy to read because I could read a page or two or even a paragraph or two and get what he was writing about.

    When I saw the Kindle, I thought it might be able to do the same thing for me; there was just a few paragraphs of copy that should be easy to get through and no place for my eyes to wander except what was on that screen before me. Being able to change the font size was incredibly helpful. But, the truth is, I really can’t explain why it seemed easier to read from that small screen rather than a paper book.

    My medical issues are pretty much resolved but I credit my Kindle with having read 60 books last year. I can’t tell you how tickled I am to be able to say that. I normally have buyers’ remorse for anything I pay over $50 for. Not with my Kindle, not one second of wondering if I had wasted $389.

    Although I have “graduated” to a K3 and a Fire, I still have that Kindle. And it still works.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tuli!

      While my situation wasn’t the same as yours, the ability to increase the text size has been a big advantage for me…and one which I wouldn’t have anticipated.

      I think there are several reasons it is easier to read on a Kindle than on a paperbook, and why most people do it faster (we even get people questioning if the Kindle edition is the full book, since they go through so quickly):

      * Consistency of size and appearance. You don’t have to keep adjusting because you happen to be holding it farther away, or the book is bowed, or it is a different size than the last one

      * No wrinkles, smudges, and so on

      * Being able to have the text size at one that works for you

      * It weighs less, so again, the eye/hand distance is less likely to vary

      * The “bevel” (border) which makes background distractions less evident (I think it’s easier to read a Kindle with a TV in the background or in a moving car than a paperbook, because the reading area has a border)

      * You don’t have find your spot again, or worry about having dropped a bookmark

      Those are a few guesses. 🙂

  2. Karin Bird Says:

    Well, I have had a Kindle since 2008, the only difference was that I fell in love within 30 minutes of opening the box of my Kindle 1. I knew I would never go back. I worked in bookstores for over 10 years, and I have a degree in Library Science. I have a large personal library, but there is something so magical about being able to have a thousand books that weigh only 10 ounces on one device.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karin!

      Based on something another reader said, I’m curious: did you buy that first Kindle for yourself, or was it a gift to you?

  3. Deb Schmalz Says:

    Oh, how I’ve loved and still love libraries. Not just for the books but for the smell and ambiance. I knew my way around the Dewey decimal system and enjoyed using the card catalogs. But, then because of one of my cousins who waxed poetic about his thousand+ library books on his Kindle my husband bought my Kindle 2 for my birthday. Now I’ve a Kindle 3 (Keyboard), a first generation Kindle Fire, a Kindle Paperwhite and a Kindle Fire 7″ HD. Now I still go to libraries to soak up the atmosphere and to sniff. Here in Iowa City Prarie Light Books is an experience not to be missed and some terrific authors do readings there. Of course the U of I has the Iowa Writers Workshop so I’m lucky to live in an eclectically literate town. But I would still need to be surgically removed from my Kindles :).

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Deb!

      Websites can do sight and sound, but I’ve wondered if physical stores shouldn’t do more with smell. Certainly, department stores have fragrances by the front door (I have to literally hold my breath to get through those entrances, or hold my shirt up over my face), and some restaurants I know must arrange to have the smell waft out front somehow (I’m sure Cinnabon does, somehow).

      Could a bookstore pump a subtle book smell through the place? Maybe…

  4. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I got my first kindle, a KDX, about 4 months after it was announced. I’m not sure what prompted me at that time to give eBooks and the kindle a whirl. I had been buying print books (mostly technical) at a $3k-5k per year clip since at least the mid eighties. I too had way over 10k books (I never counted them — I just know every few months I was buying grey metal warehouse shelves to hold them all).

    Perhaps it was the 80 pounds of books I would carry with me as I traveled around on consulting gigs for MIcrosoft. Anyhow, I decided to give myself a combined Christmas/Birthday present in the form of a kindle. Why kindle? I had been doing business with Amazon for print books since the early 90s, and had always had good experiences with them as compared with Barnes & Noble who I also dealt with extensively.

    For me the big decision was K2 or KDX? The KDX would do a better job with PDFs (most of my technical books and journals), but it was a lot more expensive. I finally talked myself into it by telling myself that I would recover the cost in money saved buying eBooks (a little bit), and instead of printing interesting stuff out to read later, I would whip something up to implement a “print to Kindle” function and save a lot on paper and toner. This latter notion was more difficult than I had foreseen, and didn’t really get solved in an elegant way until about a year ago. On the other hand I was saving (still am) a bundle on technical books in pdf format. Before agency pricing came along I was saving modestly on mass market titles as well.

    On the question of bookstores I went cold turkey — save for $25 BN gift certificate my brother gave me one Christmas, I haven’t bought a single print book since I got that first KDX. I still have about 1000 print books on tasteful shelves in my new house (primarily as decoration — or the occasional reread). All the rest are in storage. At the same time — as my print periodical subscriptions came up for renewal, I converted them to digital, if available, or cancelled them.

    About a year ago I got a KF and a KT. I now do most of my mass market reading on the KT, and most of my daily tech screenings on the KF via email, Pocket, and Pulse — I’ve also started to deliver most periodicals and personal docs to the KF. Technical and professional PDFs still mostly go to the KDX.

    In the early days I would sideload a lot of non-Amazon stuff, now I just mostly email that kind of material to one of my kindle’s personal document email addresses.

    With 3 kindles I’ve spent a lot of time in the past year ruminating about the challenges involved in managing and administering 3 devices, and at least 5 kindle reading programs without coming to any clear resolution — I keep hoping Amazon will run with this.

    And today my fourth kindle, a KFHD 8.9″ 32 GB arrived. I’ve spent the last 4 hours or so running it through its paces. This is not the place for a review save to say so far I’m well-pleased with it — even if the administration challenges just mentioned now begin to really bite.

    While all this has been going on, agency pricing has come along, indie publishing has become a real competitive alternative to Big 6 fare, and I’ve spent a lot more time following the publishing industry than I ever did before (who would’ve guessed that the purchase of a “gadget” would be so transformative). I find that my mass market purchases are tending to skew away from the Big 6. I buy mass market fare for entertainment, and I find much indie material that satisfies that need at much lower prices. I still buy favorite authors from the Big 6, but I tend to try out new stuff more often than not from the indie pool.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I appreciate the time and effort you put into this post!

      It’s possible that Amazon will adapt their Whispercast program to private use, which would help with personal management.

      I’ll be interested to hear what you think about your Fire when you are ready…

  5. Jimmy McPhink Says:

    Where do I start. First, I’m a little embarrassed to say this but I read my first book at 27 years old. I had no idea what I was missing. In high school I faked my book reports or just did not do them and got a zero for the grade. There was no punishment waiting for me at home for bad grades and kids do not always make the best decisions when left to their own devices. At 27 I heard about a book I wanted to read and that turned me into a sort of reader of 5 or 6 books a year but many years none.

    I became a kindler on February 21, 2009 and over the next 1,368 days I have read on average about 30 books a year. I realize that may be a seasons worth of books for some but that makes me an avid reader compared to everyone else I know. For the first time in my life I realize I will sadly die someday with books to be read. I have about 50 books I own and want to read but can’;t get around to it and another 30 something in my wish list. For the first time in my life I want to be a vampire simply so my body will not require sleep and therefore I can read more. For the first time in my life I would gladly give up cable TV if my significant other would just so I’d have more time to read.

    I paid $359 I think it was for the first Kindle and if they were still $359 I would gladly pay it. The kindle is worth at least that to me.

    I even developed a PDF file which keeps all my kindle stats. That’s how I know my total cost of Kindling is $1,521.34 with 56.2% of it spent on readers and only 28% on books. My average price per book is $2.92, average price per non-free book is $5.61, and my average price per book considering all cost is $10.42 and also my average cost per day of kindling is $1.11 which is a bargain. A bargain I tell ya.

    As far as the kindle forum goes I loved that place when I first got my kindle and at a time was leaving almost as many post and replies as Bufo. I had the name PHINK if anyone remembers that. But I stopped because it became a very rude place with condescending remarks, rude comments and just a very snarky place. I have not been in a while so maybe it’s calmed down but it is a shame what it became.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Jimmy!

      I remember you as PHINK. 🙂

      I think your story is a wonderful one. It isn’t what one has done that matters so much as what one is doing…and will do. 🙂

  6. Jimmy McPhink Says:

    I meant I created an Excel file, not PDF file. Woops!

  7. Curryanne Hostetler Says:

    I wanted to get a Kindle when they first came out. But could not talk myself into the price. Then I visited our daughter in Arizona. And my suitcase weighed so much because I had taken so many books. On the way home I saw a lady in the airport with the Sony. I could not resist any longer, but I had seen the Sony and was not a fan. It lacked a keyboard which was big to me. I bought my first Kindle 2 in March, 2009. I really never looked back. I love books always have. But I now love them on the kindle touch. But I did get the kindle keyboard (3). When I did, I passed the kindle 2 to my daughter in Az. She was just going to try it. She fell in love. Then as I said I bought the Kindle Touch and passed the Kindle 3 to my husband. Now I have the touch and use an iPad app which is not as nice as the way collections work on the touch. I wanted to go to the new paper white but the lack of text to speech stopped me. Can’t decide if I want to go to the kindle fire or wait and hope the bring out a kindle paper with text to speech. Who knew that would some day be my delimma.
    Books have always played a roll in my life but I no longer am driven by the need for space to store them.

  8. D. Knight Says:

    Bufo, I really enjoy all of you blog columns, but I believe this one is my favorite. As an avid reader myself, we have a lot of parallels. For instance, I too went through a not-much-money era, and I very much remember deciding whether to skip a meal and buy a book (yes, the choice was often between a book and food). The book often won–and this at a time when I did not eat three meals a day on the good days (no wonder I was so skinny then!).

    I didn’t get a Kindle until the day the Kindle Keyboard was announced. When Amazon lowered the price so dramatically for a new item, I realized they were serious about making an e-reader more than a niche product, so I was willing to get one. My main motivation was for space–books are overflowing in my house, and when the Kindle dropped below the price of a decent bookshelf, I thought it was finally worth it.

    My plan was to buy most future books in e-book form and just continue reading both forms. Then I read my first e-book and I was instantly in love with a gadget. It was so much more comfortable than reading a p-book–both for my eyes and hands, that I now have a hard time making myself read a p-book.

    My sister’s first reaction when I told her I’d bought a Kindle was: “Oh, now you can bring one less suitcase when you visit!”

  9. Cheryl Says:

    Hi Bufo:

    I re-read your “Day in the life of…” because your post started me thinking how the Kindle has changed my life. Like you, I have one of the original K1s (still use it as backup); I also have a K3, a Kindle FIRE SD [gonna give it to my brother…because now I have a Kindle FIRE HD 8.9 !!!]. I also had a gazillion books everywhere P. K. (Pre-Kindle) and was NEVER caught ANYWHERE without a book somewhere close. A previous post of yours about losing the fear of finishing a book and not having another immediately close by also touched a nerve.
    Anyhoo, it amazes me that so many of us Kindleers have similar routines (nobody mentioned falling asleep with the Kindle and having your siblings take a picture to blackmail you with so I guess that’ll be my claim to fame). The continued strength of Kindle sales, in particular, and EBRs, in general, totally lays to rest the old “EBRs will kill reading” fears. From your, and your readers’, posts it’s pretty clear the Kindle has re-inforced, encouraged and enhanced our “addiction”. As always, I ADORE your blog !!!!!!

  10. liz Says:

    Funny that you didn’t take to your Kindle immediately like I did – I wonder if it’s because it was a gift rather than your own purchase (I tend to appreciate, or make myself appreciate, purchases with my own money more than gifts). My book history is very similar to yours; I have always had a deep love and appreciation for books to the point of making house moves very difficult for me and my friends. 🙂 The only difference was I never owned a bookstore, but I did work as a librarian several summers while in college. I felt an affinity for card catalogs, Dewey Decimal, LC cataloging, and of course the SMELL of books.

    When the Kindle first came out, I was intrigued, but the books that Amazon was showing as available for Kindle weren’t my type (I typically don’t read the books on the NYT best seller list), so I couldn’t justify the cost. Then in May 2008, I was working a job in a small town without a bookstore; when I reached the end of the book I’d brought with me, I couldn’t locally purchase the second part of the trilogy, so I went online to Amazon to order the book. I was surprised to see that it was available on Kindle, and I could foresee that having a device that could purchase and download books anywhere there was a 3G signal would be wonderful (I travel a lot with my job), so I placed an order for the e-book … and the Kindle. I haven’t looked back since, and am now the proud owner of multiple Kindles and a couple thousand e-books. One of my favorite things about the Kindle is the ability to pick up where I left off in a book, regardless of which device I’m using. So if I’m stuck at the doctor’s office, I’ll pull out my cellphone and start reading the book I was reading the night before on the “bath Kindle”. And when I’m in the car sitting in traffic, I can listen to my book on the K2. Then when I get in the bath that night, my bath Kindle is ready to go. Love it.

    I still purchase p-books when they are significantly less expensive than the e-book, but the annoyance factor of having only one copy of the book often makes me decide it’s worthwhile to pay a little more and have access to it wherever I am. It just annoys the *** out of me to pay more for a digital copy than a physical copy that I KNOW cost a lot more to produce, transport, and store. Ok, rant over.

    I think I read more now with the Kindle than before. I’m hoping that the addition of X-Ray for books will help me with the one thing I still find annoying about reading on the Kindle: it’s hard to simply “page back” in an e-book to figure out “ok, now, who is this character again?” which was much easier to do with a p-book without losing my place. We’ll see next Monday when my Fire HD 8.9″ comes in!

    PS: I didn’t realize I was one of your earliest subscribers – I subscribed to your blog in Nov 2009. It’s still my favorite!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, liz!

      Yes, I think having gotten it as a gift makes a different. You had an immediate need when you bought it for yourself. I had already decided I didn’t need it before I got it. I think it makes sense, then, that you would start in meeting that need.

      We saw an analysis pretty early on that the “produce, transport, and store” was about 12 1/2% more, although that doesn’t have a lot bearing on the price.

      First, the cost of manufacture has little do to with the cost of purchase. A videogame DVD costs under a dollar to make, I think…and you could pay $50 for it.

      You wouldn’t expect the cost of purchase to be under the cost of production (usually), but that’s the main correlation.

      Publishers have to think in terms of populations of purchases, not individual transactions. Consumers tend to have the reverse priority.

      I appreciate you being a subscriber for so long…and thank you for your kind words!

      This one was published before you subscribed, and has some bearing on the relative value of e-books and p-books:

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  12. carolyn perreau Says:

    I got my first kindle as a gift – and only a picture since they were delayed in production – i upgraded to the k keyboard with wifi and 3 g and gave my sister my old one – i to carry a book in the car and also one in my purse and yes i to have carried several on vacation
    i try to buy books for the 3 of us that read the 2 kindles so i have like 3000 books
    my favorite thing is finding new authors – in particular the indie authors but i keep my wireless on at all times so if a book or author is mention in whatever i am reading i can look it up and buy or better yet dowload a sample to read and my leisure and decide if i want it
    the kindle has opened up a new world because books i would not ordinarily read catch my eye and i can try them out
    many of my books are free but i do read 2 – 3 or more books a week plus the paperbacks scattered throughtout the house i can pick up
    i also own several hundreds of hardback and paperback used and new – i belonged to several book clubs at one time – i do know people who dont read but cant imagine it.

    thank you for confessing and making me feel more normal about my habit – now do you know a mover interested in helping me pack
    ha ha

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