When I was much younger I used to read voraciously. Newspapers (proper ones, not tabloids), magazines and books. But times change. I got a computer, then a laptop, and a smart phone. I discovered RSS feeds so I could read what I wanted, rather than what an editor thought was best for me. And books started to get increasingly expensive.
This post was drafted on a three-hour journey. With a similar amount of time to kill on the way home there would have been a time when I’d have bought a paperback at the airport or station. But the selection offered by chain outlets has been going downhill steadily for years while the price has been climbing, often to the wrong side of a tenner. And even if it was pulp fiction I’ve never discarded books, for a reason I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on. I think it’s a trait shared by quite a few people who enjoy words and aren’t so houseproud they fret about shelf after shelf gathering dust.
I joined BookCrossing, thinking that might be answer both to getting back into reading and to recycling some of my volumes that really weren’t worth keeping. Plus I liked the idea of liberating a book and watching its progress around the world. Trouble was, BookCrossing didn’t have many pick-up or drop-off points that were convenient for me, so signing up was as far as I got.
And then I got given a Kindle for Christmas. The person who bought it wasn’t sure what I’d make of it and probably also liked the idea of them being able to use it as well. It was a device that I’d heard of, of course, but hadn’t really considered. I’ve never been a great fan of closed or proprietary technology (that’s caused us more than enough grief at work over the years) and I also thought of the Kindle as just being a book reader that was tied to Amazon.
It didn’t take me long to discover that with the right software it was actually quite a versatile device and content could be sourced from many places. In no small part that was thanks to some of the tech blogs I read. They spotted that Kindles were very popular gifts and ran articles about what to do with your new toy.
Like many people, I guess, I started with free books. Not because I was mean, but because I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on something that might turn out to be a short-lived novelty. And while I was getting to grips with my new gadget I wanted to test it out with files that didn’t matter too much if they got mangled or deleted.
In no time at all, I’d got the reading bug back again. The question about whether I really wanted to pack another device (my carry-on bag for flights is already almost as heavy as my checked-in luggage for a week away) plus cables, plus charger was soon answered. The USB cable’s the same as my phone’s and the Kindle’s been used (granted not really heavily yet) for nearly a month without running short of juice. Then add in the fact that it can also be used as an RSS reader, a web browser (offline too, Instapaper suddenly became much more useful) and a convenient repository of flight, car hire and local information.
Perhaps the most interesting thing, though, is that the Kindle has started me reading at times when I wouldn’t have contemplated it before. I can see why people still like conventional books. But if you are on a train or a plane without one then you don’t have any options. Now though, if I’m standing on a crowded train and getting out the Kindle (never mind the netbook) isn’t really an option I just reach for my phone. I can pick up a book where I last left it, read a few pages, and then come back to it later on the Kindle. And if I’m not in the mood for that writer I can choose something else.
So the next time someone tells you having a Kindle is not the same as owning “real” books then ask them when was the last time they had a library to choose from when they were travelling. I’ve already finished one book and am well into another, and it’s only half way trhough the month. It’s been a long long time since I’ve been able to say that I’ve read two books, if not more, in that space of time. And as I think about other ways that I might use the Kindle (this post by Bobbie Johnson, for example, is an interesting idea) I suspect that’s only the start of something bigger.
I might even be tempted to start a reviews page soon.
- Moving a truckload of eBooks (ask.metafilter.com)
- Just How Big is the Kindle Revolution? Our Estimates (teleread.com)
- How to Remove DRM from Your Kindle Ebooks [Video] (lifehacker.com)