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I now own a kindle.

Kindle-itis: an advanced viral mutation of Amazon-aholism. When it comes to Amazon, I am riddled with viruses. A few weeks ago, I received a credit card billing statement that ran four pages --both sides, small type--filled with incriminating evidence of how fast Kindle-itis can infect someone. We're talking a couple of books a day at least. And I'm reading them at about that pace. Day dawns, I'm reading an ebook. Night falls, I'm still reading ebooks. Dead of night, the white light of a portable Kindle-compliant (or should I say, submissive) device glows through the surrounding darkness.

It's a disease. After decade upon decade of undying devotion to the television, I find myself not turning it on for days on end. One of my lifelong idols, James Gamer, died during the summer, and I had to be told over the phone by a friend days after it occurred. Is that shameful? And wild horses could not get me to tell you what disgraceful genre dominates my compulsion. You would lose all respect for me and, until I complete my own book in the genre, I need all the friends I have around me.

The Only Cure Is More Ebooks

I have long decried the notion of buying a Kindle. Why pay Amazon for the right to pay Amazon? And for a one-trick pony that you have to lug around to do one task, when you can use a stone-cold free app to do the same trick on any device you are already lugging around or have sitting on your desktop. The nerve! They should practically give away the razor (device) and rely on the income from the blades (ebooks). I still believe in the wisdom of that policy--unless of course, you are in the deathlike grip of Kindle-itis and have panic attacks when you see a battery warning statement appear on your tablet while using the Kindle app. Now, you have two choices. Stop reading, and wait for the charge to complete. (Yeah, like that's going to happen.) Or fire up your main computer, tethered to a desktop, and read the ebook there. (Gads! It's bad enough being tied to the desktop all day for work, but all night for leisure too?)

The solution? Buy another Kindle-compatible device to back up the iPad Kindle app. And what device is more compatible with Kindle than a Kindle itself? So I clicked on to Amazon and ordered a Kindle Paperwhite, the Wi-Fi version, for $119 and added a power adapter for another $19.99 to make sure I could recharge via a plug in the wall as well as through the USB cable that comes with the Kindle for sticking into my desktop computer. Right away, Amazon wants to set up selling environments. The $119 price tag belongs to the version that can send you sales pitches ("special offers"). It's $20 more to get the ad-free version. More of that nerve, if you ask me.

So now what do I think of my new Kindle device? Well, frankly, not much. Its main advantage is its lightness. You can read with one hand, just as the promotional statements claim. But the claim that its battery charges last for "weeks, not hours" is--for this disease-ridden Kindleitis victim--pure bunkum. Amazon says that the device's charge can last up to 8 weeks. Its projections are based on reading an ebook a half hour a day. Puh-leez! Who reads a book for only a half hour a day? Certainly no one infected with Kindle-itis. But even with that standard, I had to charge my Kindle device just as often as my iPad. Half the battery power was gone within a day. That was the quickest 8 weeks I'd ever spent. If I ever started aging at the Kindle time rate--and I assume sleepless nights could initiate that process--I'd be 104 by Tuesday. Methuselah must have owned the first Kindle.

'Special Offers'

This is one of the most irritatingly instruction-resistant devices I have ever used. Trying to get the basic toolbar in place, which is the only way to get anything to work on the device, had me thumbing the thing to death until I discovered that only a fairy touch in the upper left corner could tempt the toolbar out of hiding. The text for the ebook takes up most all of the page surface, so you keep triggering features you don't want such as location or the definition of a word. And that's yet another thing. The device apparently has a moral imperative to teach the ignoramuses using it by offering a service called the Vocabulary Builder. Anytime you want to find the definition of a word, it adds it to the Vocabulary Builder. But since you're much more likely to be trying to do something else, such as invoking the toolbar or just changing a page, you end up having to bat down all these intrusive false responses. The other day, when just trying to turn a page, the device thought I needed a definition of the word "then." And since I asked, it has now included "then" as one of the words I need to learn to build my vocabulary. Now that's insulting!

And it sure does like to sell you things. OK, OK, it doesn't put ads actually in the ebook reading experience, but when you finish a book, a rate-this-book statement jumps up whether you want it or not, with recommendations attached. It also keeps pushing me to join Goodreads. I don't think that option should be so pervasive; instead, it should be something initiated by using the settings feature. Speaking of settings, I would like to be able to turn off one in particular: the tool that tells me how much longer it will take to read the book. For one thing, how does it know? Does it know how fast I read? Does it know when the phone rings and I set the Kindle aside for a while? The percentage already read and page counts are more than enough. One nice thing: Apparently, a free ebook that comes with the device is an instruction manual. If only Apple would follow that policy.

And the syncing doesn't work well. On each of the apps, there's a little symbol--two arrows chasing each other--that informs you syncing is in process. You can click on the symbol to initiate or refresh the process. That symbol will handle both types of syncing: with Amazon to get a new book or between devices to go to the last read page. This Paperwhite lummox doesn't have the symbol at all. I managed to stumble across one layered downscreen where syncing pages is one of a half-dozen instructions, though I can't remember how I found it. But honestly, Amazon, when you get something right on the free version of Kindle, how about keeping it right on the high-priced version? Sheesh!

Stick to the App

So, final judgment. How does the Kindle Paperwhite device stand up in comparison to the free apps? It loses. The iPad app doesn't give me the extra features, such as definitions and links to Wikipedia. Of course, I have a "first day sold" iPad, so maybe later versions would offer more options. But still, now that I have discovered how Apple deletes items, I'm comfortable with the iPad app. But the very best version of Kindle is the one for the Windows PC. On whatever page you happen to be reading, all the features you want are right there. No clicking to some toolbar before you can click to what you want done. The library feature will show you other available ebooks or let you delete ebooks when you're finished. The table of contents feature will let you navigate the document. Whatever you want, you're just one obvious click away on the Windows Kindle app. And it's free!

Will I still use the Paperwhite? Of course, as long as I can keep both it and the iPad fully charged and as long as Kindle-itis viruses course through my veins. But if you don't have the fever, stick with the free apps.

One more thing: I managed to stagger onto Kindle Unlimited ($9.99 a month for access to 600,000-plus ebooks, at least 1,000 of which come from my compulsive genre). While the Paperwhite won't let me search the Kindle Unlimited database--or even fully search Amazon at any level, unlike the apps--it does identify titles in lists of recommendations as available through Kindle Unlimited. Paperwhite is a day late and a dollar short--again.

Barbara Quint is senior editor of Online Searcher. Her email address is bquint[R] mindspring.com. Send your comments about this column to itletters@infotoday .com.
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Title Annotation:VIEWPOINT
Author:Quint, Barbara
Publication:Information Today
Article Type:Product/service evaluation
Date:Oct 1, 2014
Words:1456
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