So much for a more consistent writing schedule, huh? Forgive me, WordPress, for I have sinned. It has been more than 30 days since my last blog post…
Reading Is Fundamental
It’s Books Or Nothing For Me
I read a pretty fair number of books – 231 of them since I started tracking them in Booxter five years ago. According to my lousy math, I read about one book every eight days. As you can probably imagine, that means I have some pretty ingrained habits and some pretty strong preferences about how I consume the material.
Since I’m also a gadget guy, you would think that I’d have been an early e-reader adopter. But you’d be wrong.
Back in the day, I never liked reading on the computer screen, and I never liked reading from a PDA or cell phone. Even all the way up to the iPhone 3Gs, I was never comfortable reading on that kind of device. For me, it was all about physical books made out of paper. I liked the heft of a book; I liked looking at the cover art. I liked being able to loan the book to a friend, never really concerned about getting it back after I’d already read it. And I really loved buying books, toting a bag of them out of the bookstore, or finding that delivery box from Amazon waiting for me when I got home.
None of the early e-readers struck my fancy. Too many limitations from a technology standpoint, or the material that you could read on them didn’t match my tastes. You were stuck with finding PDFs of DRM-free material, which meant you were either pirating the books or you were reading something that you probably scowled at being forced to read back in high school. And let’s not start on how manual the transfer process was from your computer to the e-reader device…
Can We Interest You In A Kindle?
When Amazon first came out with the Kindle, I was slow to accept it. The second generation Kindle devices especially started to catch my interest about a year ago, due to several factors:
- The price point started to drop to something I could stomach for a single-purpose gadget
- The Whispersync technology that allowed you to purchase the book on Amazon.com and have it wirelessly delivered to your Kindle, without any manual action
- The ability to sync your current spot in the book from the Kindle to other devices with a Kindle app – namely the iPhone at the time.
Amazon Kindle 2
We bought my mom a Kindle for her birthday in 2009, and I was finally able to see one in person, to touch it, to test the screen. The electronic ink seemed an acceptable alternative to the printed page. I waited a couple more months to see how my mom found the experience – “What do you DISLIKE about it?” — and then I finally took the plunge in buying a Kindle in October.
The timing of the purchase was important. The price had just dropped on the Kindle 2 to $259, and I was going to be traveling internationally at the end of October. Previously, whenever I traveled, it meant throwing several books into my backpack and suitcase, and for this trip, I knew I wasn’t going to have much room in my suitcase. The Kindle was a perfect solution for the problem at that point in time.
I had just started reading The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown in hardcover when my Kindle arrived. I switched over to reading it electronically once the Kindle arrived. The first book that I read completely in Kindle format was The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson. The first book that I had to switch over from Kindle back to print was The Book of Basketball: The NBA According To The Sports Guy by Bill Simmons – excessive footnotes are an absolute horror in an e-reader. Thanks a lot, Sports Guy.
I liked the Kindle 2. It wasn’t anything groundbreaking as a gadget, and I quickly found the limitations that kept me from loving it:
- Slow page-turning
- No auto-rotating of the screen
- Next-page buttons that weren’t in quite the right ergonomic places for my hands
Apple Ruins The Kindle For Me
None of these were deal breakers for me. I count seventeen books that I read on the Kindle 2 over the next few months. But I knew that my time with the Kindle 2 had an expiration date once the iPad rumors started flying. The iPad was going to solve all of my Kindle 2 limitations and more! It was going to be revolutionary! It was going to be magical! It was going to end world hunger!
When the iPad did land in my grubby little hands, the Kindle 2 was relegated to an afterthought. The iPad was so much more than a simple e-reader… how could Amazon’s no-frills device compete? I quickly gifted my Kindle 2 to my cousin, who was getting ready to move overseas and would be losing easy access to English books.
Kindle app on iPad
But I quickly discovered the limitations of the iPad as an e-reader:
- It’s not lightweight! I do a lot of my reading in bed at night, lying on my back, and the iPad is too heavy to hold in that position for long periods of time.
- It sucks in direct sunlight. The Kindle may not have been backlit, requiring a booklight or a bedside lamp at night, but at least the e-ink was visible when I was outside. A definite drawback in the summer months.
- It’s revolutionary and magical and all that wonderful stuff that Apple promised. With such a powerful device in my hands, I would easily be distracted from my reading, and switch away from the Kindle app on the iPad back over to Facebook or Twitter or email.
- No retina display. I wouldn’t have noticed this at all if not for the iPhone 4’s display. The Kindle app on the iPhone 4 is so much crisper than the Kindle app on the iPad. It ain’t bad on the iPad, until you’ve seen the iPhone 4.
But Wait! Amazon Makes A Comeback!
Then Amazon had to go and announce the Kindle 3. When I first heard the rumblings on Twitter, I dismissed the idea of buying another Kindle… been there, done that, bought the iPad. At least, that’s what I thought until I read the details – even lighter than the Kindle 2; faster page-turning; better battery life (which wasn’t a problem on the Kindle 2); and, most importantly, a $139.00 price for a Wifi only version of the device!
What did I need a 3G Kindle for, anyway? I already have a 3G iPhone and a 3G iPad. Surely I could wait until I was on a Wifi network to Whispersync my Kindle 3. I wanted (needed?) 3G for the iPad because it could do everything else besides be an e-reader. An e-reader, though, can get by with Wifi only.
My Kindle 3 arrived on my doorstep on Friday, and I spent most of the day on Saturday and most of the morning today with it – currently reading Lamb, The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. I can say unequivocally that I needed the Kindle back in my life for my reading purposes. I forgot how light it was in comparison to the iPad. I forgot how easy it was to read in direct sunlight. I forgot how much focus I put on the book when I wasn’t constantly hitting the Home button to check Facebook and Twitter.
The Kindle case has improved since the Kindle 2, with an elastic band that keeps the case closed when not in use (or open when you’re reading with the device propped up). Even with the case on, I was able to stick the Kindle in the backpocket of my jeans while walking yesterday, like a paperback book. Can’t do that with an iPad.
Some drawbacks… Amazon still hasn’t added auto-rotating of the screen to the Kindle 3, which isn’t a big deal at the size of the device. Worse for me, the Next Page buttons still aren’t in quite the right place for my fingers. I’d love to have a next page button at the bottom of the screen, not just on the sides, for instance. Or, I wish I could re-map Previous and Next, either putting Next solely on the right and Previous solely on the left, or at least putting Next as the top button instead of the bottom button. That’s where my thumbs feel more natural. However, the extremely light weight of the device makes it easier for me to hold the Kindle 3 in comfortable enough positions. By the way, I’ve held the Nook from Barnes & Noble in my hand, it’s no better for me in this regard.
There’s room in my life for multiple devices. At the moment, I’m typing on my Macbook Pro, with my headphones plugged into my iPhone 4 on the table next to me; my Kindle 3 is also on the table, and my iPad is tucked into my backpack at my feet. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, each has its specific purposes in my life. And you can bet that each will be traveling with me wherever I go.