The Kindle Review and my First Book Review

Julie and I are getting so tech-savvy since quitting our jobs. We purchased a smart phone with a cool wi-fi hotspot tethering feature. We purchased this awesome netbook computer that we type all our blog entries on. We bought an awesome Sony Bloggie HD video recorder and camera that only weighs 4 ounces. And most recently while in Santa Monica, we went to Best Buy and purchased a Kindle. Tonight, I’m going to give a quick review of the Kindle, and then provide my first ever blog book review of my Kindle books, something I hope to keep up on a regular basis. (The picture has nothing to do with the story but I liked it and wanted to share it. His name is Richard and we enjoyed a pancake feast with him and our friends this morning).

We bought the second generation Kindle, not the new ones coming out at the end of November. We paid $139 and got the black and white, non-touch screen model. However, we did manage to get the version with built in 3G wifi included. So for example, while we’re here in Mexico, our Kindle can hook up to the local network and download books without any charge for the wifi.

Our first impressions after a couple weeks with the Kindle are: it’s awesome. This is coming from a couple that has shipped a collection of books weighing over 500lbs. back and forth across the country multiple times. The ease of the Kindle is ideal for traveling, it’s comfortable to read, and it motivates me to read more right now. That last benefit may wear off and the Kindle may be a novelty; we’ll find out. I also like how the Kindle shows on a percentage basis how far I am through the book I’m reading. For goal oriented, task individuals like myself, it pushes me to keep reading and keep at it because I want to complete it.

Some of the downsides I thought I’d experience have simply not panned out. I thought I’d miss holding a book in my hands. The Kindle is comfortable and light and is actually more comfortable to hold than a book. I like to write in books and thought I’d miss having a pencil in hand to mark my favorite lines. Not a problem here; the Kindle is better with that too. I am able to highlight sections I like and it saves them all nicely for me to be able to go back and reread or for me to easily export them to another document. I thought I’d miss my collecting obsession as well. I can still collect in my Kindle library but I don’t have to worry about hauling them all around anymore.

Some actual downsides may be how easy it is to purchase new books. I load up books in my wishlist on the Kindle or Amazon and then with one click, I can purchase new books. It’s so easy to spend money and this could be a problem if my self control isn’t not working well at a given moment. It’s also a little scary to think that if I lost the Kindle, someone else could go crazy with my credit card info and purchase new books. I’m sure there’s a way to combat this but it’s yet another thing I have to worry about if stuff gets lost or stolen. Lastly, since I don’t physically possess the books, it doesn’t actually feel like I have the books and I have to trust that my online library will always be there and that Amazon stays in business so I can always access the books I’ve purchased. Overall though, these concerns are minor and the Kindle rocks.

Now on to my first book review. My first book on the Kindle relates to the Life List item of competing in a 100 mile race. In that spirit, I picked out a highly rated training book, Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons, by Bryon Powell. I chose the book because there were few options on actual ultra-specific training books available and it had some solid reviews. I was extremely disappointed.

I usually like most things I read; I am the Optimist but this book let me down on many levels. To start, the book was not well written. The editing was poor and there were many typos and grammatical mistakes. It also did not flow well or seem like a continuous guide or story with each piece building on the other culminating in a system of training that was both comprehensive and convincing. Instead, this book seemed to be snippets of articles written by the author for his website or by his ultra running friends. These pieces were sewn together but were never part of any sort of larger vision.

Second, perhaps my expectations were too high but this book provided little in actual training advice and almost no evidence or conviction backing up the claims in the book. The author would repeatedly say that he was giving advice on what worked in his experience or other bloggers experiences, but he would say he was not a doctor or that it hadn’t actually been proven scientifically. Due to how much I appreciated Jack Daniels’ book Daniels’ Running Formula, where the training plans came from a convincing, well researched philosophy of training, this book was very much amateur hour providing anecdotal evidence at best. The training plans were a few spreadsheets with seemingly arbitrary mileage plans, filled with easy runs with long runs mixed in. Hal Higdon has done more for runners with his simple online plans, and they’re free.

This is not a book. This is a collection of thoughts from a website along with some loosely connected side articles from other ultra runners. The biggest issue I have with this book is that even though it only cost a little more than $10, I feel that I did not receive nearly that in value. I could buy Daniels’ book for $13 and have a well backed theoretical framework for building my training plan. I came away with nothing more than a few new ideas of things to potentially try for my next phase of training and racing. But with these ideas, I had no evidence or proof to back it up other than that they’ve worked for some people in the past.

In conclusion, and I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, while I love the Kindle and the ease it offers to reading books, the first book I picked out was lousy and not worth the money I spent on it. The only take away is that it had me thinking about running and training for my next race, even though it didn’t help me in any significant way with actually planning my training or racing.

My next review will be on a parenting book and after reading a little more than half of my first parenting book, it is surprisingly gripping and enjoyable. So the Optimist is not all negative gloom and doom, over-critical guy, but this book needed to be ripped because it was an impostor of a book.

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