My trip to Chicago was the perfect opportunity to test drive the new Kindle 3.
Up until now, I have hesitated getting an electronic reading device. Feeling a thick wad of physical paper, its slightly rough texture against my fingers, the tension of the pages as my thumbs hold them apart against the natural tendency of the spine, is one of the few remaining digitally unspoiled pleasures I have.
I love what technology has afforded in convenience and capabilities in my daily life; however, there are times when I want to escape, and books provide that refuge.
So what prompted me to acquire the Amazon Kindle 3 reading device in the first place? Was I not happy anymore with my long-standing relationship with paper books?
Fear of Becoming a Luddite
The pace of technology is moving faster than ever. Simultaneously, it is becoming more personal and penetrates our social fabric. One can have intellectual debates on whether this is a good thing or not, but the fact is, it is happening, at a rapid pace. There is a part of me that recognizes we say we like change, but we all naturally resist it.
I wanted to make sure I wasn’t one of those people still clinging onto stone tablets and scrolls while others carried books. At least I would try out a new reading device. If I didn’t like it, I could simply go back to my old ways, knowing I had at least tried.
Most of the reading I do for pleasure is while traveling. There are too many distractions, obligations and work-related reading I need to do during the course of my regular life. Transporting books has become more problematic as I try to consolidate and travel lighter. You don’t realize how heavy books are until you have two stuffed in your laptop bag and you feel the strap of the case cutting into your shoulders. With the new Kindle 3, the idea of potentially carrying 3,500 books in a thin little form factor is appealing.
The environmental angle was holding up quite well until I read an op-ed piece in The New York Times, “How Green Is My iPad?” which concluded the break even point for impact on global warming is 100 books. The library, admittedly, still gets the highest green points.
So after a week on the road, what do I think?
It’s smaller than a paperback.
Overall, I like the size and weight of the Amazon Kindle 3. It is easy to hold in the hands and with the navigation buttons on both sides of the device, I can easy hold the reader with only one hand. It slips nicely into my laptop bag. I do eventually need to get a case for it. I can’t decide between the two Amazon Kindle cases, but I am leaning towards the one without the light.
My eyes can’t tell the difference.
I was impressed with the clarity of the screen. It looks hauntingly the same as printed text on paper. One of the things I thought would annoy me that didn’t was the flash of black screen with white letters that appears between each toggle to another page. It turns out this is a nice transition for the eyes between one page and another.
It did take me a couple of hours of reading before I felt comfortable reading on the device and the Kindle started to disappear into the background as I became immersed in the story. I like how the Kindle is simple, modest looking, not slick.
It’s not paper.
I don’t get the visceral feel of the book or the physical sense of accomplishment of thumbing through the the thickness of the portion of the paper book I have completed and the journey yet unfold.
Instead, there is a bar at the bottom of the screen that tells you what percentage of the book you have completed. Currently, I am at 59% of the book, “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo“. (Thrilling read so far, stayed up until 2 am yesterday, a real page clicker.) I do miss this. I work so much in the digital world that having simple physical accomplishments such as how many pages of paper I’ve read through is one of the simple joys in life.
Treat with care.
One issue I still don’t like about digital readers is how fragile they are compared to books. While on the plane, the stewardess accidentally spilled a couple of drops of water on my Kindle. I was instantly worried about it and proceeded to quickly wipe it down with a small American Airlines napkin. If it was a paper book, I would have been barely bothered.
Is it more or less social?
Another has to do with the ability to share books. Right now, with any of the books on my office bookcase, I can easily lend them out to a friend or relative to read. The Kindle, not so easy. This may be a good thing though as there are still several books out on permanent loan to friends and family. I have been too uncomfortable to ask for back since I don’t really have a need for them at this moment, but would like to see them returned to their rightful spot on my bookshelf.
I do notice there is the sharing of popular highlighted passages in books. I have yet to explore this feature.
For now, I need to stop and return back to reading “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo“.