The Misadventures of a Kindle-Wielding Lawprof
So, I decided to get a Kindle this summer. I liked the idea of having lots of books in one place, not having to haul the usual load around. I liked the idea of searching a book easily, of highlighting text and copying it out (no more typing up long blockquotes!), and I was told that I could get IT to upload my exams onto it. Grading (and paper editing) at the beach! What’s not to like? I cheerfully handed over my $300 to purchase this magical new wonder. The results since have been decidedly mixed.
On the bright side, the device is light and portable. The book prices are nicely low (though I ordered a few books that I already had, since I wanted them readily available, so there was an extra cost there). And the searchability of the e-book is really, really cool. That’s almost enough reason to buy the thing, all by itself. But . . .
On the down side — there are major, massive gaps in the book catalog. I located Al Brophy’s Reparations Pro and Con and Randall Robinson’s The Debt. But Martha Minow’s Between Vengeance and Forgiveness and Roy Brooks’ Atonement and Forgiveness are not listed — and these are recent, common titles from well known presses, not obscure old treatises from eighty years ago. I put in requests for both Minow and Brooks (and many more), and crossed my fingers.
And there is a second, major, non-negotiable down side: Endnotes. As in, they don’t exist. Or rather, they exist, but I can’t access them from the text. I called customer service, and was told that I need to click up to the note, and then highlight it, or before it, or after it, or down. I’ve tried all of those, multiple times. I’m getting nothing.
The cheerful customer service rep told me that some books don’t have endnotes coded in by the publisher, and so endnotes don’t work as links (In other words — my words, not hers — they are essentially useless for those books.) But she assured me that this was relatively unusual. (I asked whether I could tell when buying a book if the endnotes are functional; she said no.)
I’ve bought three books with endnotes, and so far not a one of them is letting me access them from text. Either I have the worst luck in the world (a possibility) in stumbling on those rare uncoded-note books; or I’m just not doing it right (also a definite possibility, though I’ve clicked every combination I can think of); or the lack of coded notes problem is a lot bigger than the cheerful customer service rep knows about (I would test the theory more, but I’m not going to spend money on more endnoted books without some assurance that I will be able to access them).
(Update: Scratch that. I figured the problem out. I went ahead and bought Infinite Jest after double checking Matt Yglesias’s post about it, how it had definitely-working endnotes. And it turns out that the endnotes in it are different. They are obvious hyperlinks, and they obviously, easily work. So yes, I bought three non-coded books in a row — all heavily endnoted academic books. Recall that there is apparently no way to tell, ahead of time, whether a book’s endnotes will actually work on Kindle. I’ve been told the only solution is to beg the publisher to create a new Kindle version that has working endnotes. That doesn’t sound too promising, but I’ve done it for the titles that I have.)
So it’s a pretty, searchable, expensive device that doesn’t have all the books I want, and doesn’t let me see the endnotes in the books it has. That’s not really a winner in my — err, book.