The Pillars of the Earth – and the Kindle

pillars In 12th century England, society is built around the Church and the King.  The working class build their towns and homesteads around the monasteries and lease the local Noble’s land to make their way through their lives.  It’s a violent, difficult and somehow simple time.

This is the story of one man, Tom Builder who dreams of building a cathedral.  It’s also the story of Prior Phillip, a man of the cloth trying to hold his own against the larger corrupt and vengeful religious order he’s part of.   It’s a story of conquest and greed, of splendor and destitution, of dreams realized and hopes dashed.  Across generations and landscapes, it’s a wide reaching story of the passions- ambition, faith, beauty- that drive the human spirit.

*****

So, this book was okay.  It’s a pretty ambitious story and it’s a fairly good one, but eventually Follett’s writing style annoyed me.  Have you ever read a story that seemed almost padded?  Like the author felt it was necessary to remind you of who was who when you were pretty sure you could remember them from that major thing that happened before?  Yeah, that’s the feeling I got.  It was too bad, because the story itself – which is really wrapped around the Cathedral and the lives that it impacts – was a good one.

Follett created a lavish world with good characters even if they are painted with a pretty heavy brush.  There are very few “sort of good, sort of bad” people in this book – they are either good or bad and you know it right from the start.  Personally, I prefer characters who are written a bit more realistically – no person is all good or all bad and to portray them as such pulls me out of the story.  There’s no potential for redemption or surprises with reactions.  I realize that’s not the purpose of this book, but I personally think that you end up caring more about complex characters than one dimensional cut outs.

This book is worth picking up in a used book store somewhere, I’m not sure I’d pay full price for it.  It would be good for a plane though, it’s long!

So, what was different about this book?  I read it on this:

kindle1 Yep, I bought a Kindle.  Okay, how many of you are really surprised?  I mean, I’m a techie dork and I like to read and it was only a matter of time, right?

So, I got this on April 1 and have been using it off and on since.  Let’s start with some specs from Amazon (the only place you can buy the Kindle)

Display: 6″ diagonal E-Ink® electronic paper display, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 16-level gray scale.

Size (in inches): 8″ x 5.3″ x 0.36″.

Weight: 10.2 ounces.

System requirements: None, because it doesn’t require a computer.

Storage: 2GB internal (approximately 1.4GB available for user content).

Battery Life: Read on a single charge for up to 4 days with wireless on. Turn wireless off and read for up to two weeks. Battery life will vary based on wireless usage, such as shopping the Kindle Store and downloading content. In low coverage areas or in 1xRTT only coverage, wireless usage will consume battery power more quickly.

Charge Time: Fully charges in approximately 4 hours and supports charging from your computer via the included USB 2.0 cable.

Connectivity: EVDO modem with fallback to 1xRTT; utilizes Amazon Whispernet to provide U.S wireless coverage via Sprint’s 3G high-speed data network.

USB Port: USB 2.0 (micro-B connector) for connection to the Kindle power adapter or optionally to connect to a PC or Macintosh computer.

Audio: 3.5mm stereo audio jack, rear-mounted stereo speakers.

Content Formats Supported: Kindle (AZW), TXT, Audible (formats 4, Audible Enhanced (AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; PDF, HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.

Included Accessories: Power adapter, USB 2.0 cable, rechargeable battery. Book cover sold separately.

That’s the techie part.  Here are my thoughts and impressions after using it about a month:

1)  This thing is COOL!  e-paper is cool.  technology is cool.  cool

2)  This thing is thin, I’m scared to read it in bed (since I have a tendency to fall asleep with books in my hand) and I’m seriously thinking about getting the replacement insurance although I’m pretty cheap and probably won’t.

3)  This changes reading.  First, it lets me carry a bunch of books around with me at all times.  Second, it remembers where I am with all of them and I can sync that to an iPhone application that lets me read the same books and then sync back to the Kindle.  It lets me buy a book immediately.  And I can preview them to see if I think I’ll like it.

4)  It’s not like “tree book” reading, it’s a different experience.  The Kindle is light, but weighted differently than a book is.  You push a button to turn the page.  BUT, that being said, there were times when I found myself reaching my hand up to physically flip paper

5)  There is no eyestrain like reading on a computer.  Of course you can’t read in the dark – no light, no reading, just like real paper

6)  There are TONS of free books.  Between books that are out of copyright (like all of the OZ books and classics like Don Quixote and The Divine Comedy) and newer ones that are being released either as promos (via Amazon) or via Creative Commons licences on other sites, you could read for a long time and not pay a cent.  That’s cool, yo.

7)  The battery life on a “wireless on” Kindle is about 4-5 days but I leave my wireless off and I’m going on week 3 on the same charge.  Granted, I’m not reading this all the time, but the battery life kicks butt.

So, I’m still getting used to it, and you’ll start to see books listed here that I’ve read on the Kindle.  I’ll tag them for you, just so we can see if my reading habits change over time.  One note about “number of pages” on a Kindle – because you can change the font sizes, there aren’t page numbers – there are location numbers.  I’ll have to figure out how to convert them to pages.  If there is a print version available, I’ll use that number for my page count.  If I’ve had to derive it otherwise, I’ll tell you that, too.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, 973 pages (as listed by Amazon print edition spec page)

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Published in: on April 27, 2009 at 10:21 am  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. My Dad & Steve both read this and thought roughly the same thing. I am going to start it once little man is sleeping though the night… or I know it will just fall on my head a lot. Cool Kindle!


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