Kindle for the Food Enthusiast

The image used in the preview of this article was taken by John Pastor and used via a Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic license

It's hardly a secret, especially after Oprah told everyone to buy one, that Amazon has* an e-book reader called the Kindle. There's a general review of the Kindle and a comparison between it, books, and other e-book readers, but those who already own a Kindle and just want to know what books to get for it can scroll down to near the bottom, past the blocks of text and into the listy bits.

The basics

Your general purpose e-book reader is a small device, generally the size of a paperback book or thereabouts, designed to hold a bunch of books on it. The screen of an e-book reader is usually what's called e-ink. Unlike your general LCD screen, the e-ink has a very high contrast ratio, meaning that it's easy to distinguish between the words and the white space. Also, it's completely reflective, so unlike a laptop, it works just as well outside in full sunlight as it does inside under a lamp. And it does require a lamp, because also unlike a laptop screen, it doesn't have any sort of backlight. So, just like a book, you need to ensure that there's a proper reading light source available.

What's special about the Kindle
There have been several e-book readers over the years, many of which are from Sony. What makes the Kindle so special?

The Kindle has a built-in cell-phone modem, meaning wherever you have an EVDO connection, you can shop for, buy, and receive books, newspapers, magazines, and blogs. So, if you're stuck at the airport and nothing you have in your library suits your tastes for the 4-hour layover, you don't have to buy the latest Stephen King novel from the airport newsstand. Instead, you pop into the Kindle store, search through there hundreds of thousands of titles, and within a few minutes, your new book will be ready for you to read. Best of all, it doesn't take any more space in your luggage or your home library for the extra book.

Because it has an always-on internet connection, you can even browse the web in a pinch. The browser isn't the best, and the connection is a little slow, but it's great for popping over to wikipedia to look something up that might not be in your library.

Pros vs. Books
As mentioned, you can have hundreds or thousands of books on your Kindle, and they won't take up any more physical space. The largest of books will never be heavier than the smaller books. You can make annotations, highlights, or page clippings from books, and those will appear in a centralized file that you can reference later, as well as interspersed within the books themselves. It's hard to argue with the ability to hold a library in your bag.

The biggest advantage of the Kindle vs. a real book, aside from space savings, is the ability to search everything in your library all at once. For me, this is especially useful. If I want to find out what I know about aubergines, I can hit the search button and see:

aubergine-kindle.png

Likewise, if I do a similar search for "maillard" and click on the On Food and Cooking link, then I will see something like:

maillard-kindle.png

Clicking on any of those items will take me to the part of the book referenced. It is unbelievably handy.

What are the downsides

The biggest downside to the Kindle vs. books is that the Kindle does not handle the organization of large numbers of books very well. You can sort them by title, by author, or by recency, but that's it. You can't sort by genre, you can't make custom lists or groups, and you can't put them into folders. I really hope they fix this problem, because it's the one thing that keeps me from going crazy putting lots of extraneous-but-free books on my Kindle.**

Another downside, which is much more obvious but should be stated, is that the Kindle is a battery-powered device. This means that, if you don't keep up with the charging, you will be book-free until you charge it back up again. This is rarely a problem, especially if you don't leave the network connection running all the time. One of the advantages of e-ink is that it really uses very little battery power, and mostly just to change the page. I've gone for days of regular use without having to recharge, though it's wise to get into some sort of charging routine.

While there are pictures in the Kindle, they are not as sharp as they would be in a book, and they are never in color. Generally they're good enough to get by, though.

Finally, the Kindle does not support all of the features of the e-book file format that it uses. Specifically, it can't handle tables, which means that there are sections to some books that look like lists that would make much more sense if the Kindle decoded them properly. This and the organization of books should just be a software update, so it's possible that they'll fix both of these problems. Maybe.

What do I have on the Kindle, anyways?

Although I have many other titles on the Kindle, these are the things that are related to food and/or cooking.

From the Kindle Store:



From other sources:


On Food and Cooking and Bakewise are the two titles that currently get the most use. I can't yet fully recommend the other titles, because I haven't gotten through them all, but these seemed the most useful to have on hand of what was available at the time. As time goes on, I'll update the list here.

If it weren't so expensive, I would pick up a copy of Chef's Book of Formulas, Yields, and Sizes as well, because it sounds terribly useful for a reference library. Perhaps one day. Preferably one day when the price is lower.

*- Well, I say "has" but they're sometimes backordered, such as at the time of posting. However, according to commenter Karen, there are refurbished Kindles available. Read her comment for more information.

**- There's this great e-book from feedbooks.com that has links to kazillions of free e-books, whether public domain or creative commons. You download the book into the Kindle, then click on the links in the e-book, and it will put the book onto your Kindle, as if by magic. They have some cool other services as well, and they have things that work with other e-book readers, so go to their site and peruse.