Journey up to the Kindle

I’ve been intending to do a quick post on my experience with a Kindle but as I began writing it, I realized that I needed to remind myself of how ebook-reading started for me…so, bear with me through this nostalgic post and you’d figure a thing or two about how people managed their lives the last 2 decades despite meager tech resources 🙂

I’ve been using Personal Computers since 1985…so, easily 25 years. It started with a PC XT for me. I remember that this new machine had generated much excitement in my small American cooperative and cost over Rs1 lac, a phenomenal sum then. It was shared among our 10-member team so its usage was prioritised in view of the urgency or relevance of tasks on hand. Later, PCs became regular work devices for not only processing but also sharing of information and for word-processing. As also for reading ebooks. Thanks to my geeky spouse, we bought a PC even before we got ourselves a Television at home…so screen-based reading happened for me early on.

It occurs to me though that much as I read regularly on a PC at home or work then, or do now, I have never read a full book on a desktop or laptop. For a long time, I was happy with paper books and later even happier with the flexibility of carrying my reads on hand-held devices as they started coming into my life.

My first acquisition in this area was a Palm Pilot III in the late 1990s. It was wonderful then, as now, PalmPilotIIIto carry my contact database, to-do-lists or calendar entries on an electronic device on which I could easily scribble with a stylus and sync its data with a desktop. Its larger screen and multiple functions made it a far smarter personal digital diary than those commonly used then. Most of all though, it helped that I could carry books on it and read while watching over my toddler son playing in parks. I remember reading many mysteries that way…a new genre for me then that I grew to enjoy in ensuing years. Now when I look at its screen though, I wonder how I adjusted to its 2-bit grayscale font and read so much text on it. Nonetheless, it was a pleasure to own it then.

I graduated to a Tungsten T5 sometime in the early 2000s. This little gem eventually acted as a Tungsten T5full-fledged computer for me while I studied Human Resource Management over two years. The husband had splurged on its accessories, and one that kept me delighted during my back-to-college days was a small wireless, folding keyboard. Gurgaon’s poor power supply used to render my home desktop useless too often for comfort, and in the absence of a personal laptop, I’d use my Tungsten T5 as the monitor and type my assignments on it as part of the HRM course. Being a touch-typist, I didn’t have to read what I typed so closely and I’d later sync my documents with the desktop. In comparison to the earlier Palm, the Tungsten T5 was much nicer with its coloured and backlit screen. Reading of ebooks on it was also easier than the grayscale Palm. Again, I read on it many classics and mysteries I’d download from free ebook sites, particularly http://www.memoware.com/.

My next two acquisitions were a Netbook and my much loved iPod Touch about two years ago. iPod Touch 2 GenThe Netbook has been used as a laptop whereas the iPod has acted as a hand-held computer-cum-entertainment device. In reading, apps like Stanza and iBooks made downloading of several free or paid books such a painless and rewarding exercise that I thought I was going to quickly overcome my recent sluggishness over reading books. That I could change the screen orientation, pan out, carry so many more books on my 8 GB Touch made reading on it a bigger pleasure than the earlier two hand-held readers… I noticed, however, that although I read regularly on the iPod Touch, it was mostly my RSS feeds and tweeted sites that I read more often than full books.

It occurred to me before long that I’d have to use a dedicated ebook-reader to re-develop a focus on book-reading. Now…the Kindle as an e-reader has been around some years and in Kindle 3our personal home gadget library since early 2010, but it was only when I got one of my own 2 months ago that I began using it regularly. A shared e-reader often posed challenges of timing one’s reading so, like a toothbrush, I felt I needed one of my own.

So, what have I figured and liked about the Kindle these last few weeks?

In no particular order…

. I like the fact that my Kindle 3 can carry some 1000 books and hold its charge for 4 weeks and more. I feel ‘rich’ about being able to carry many books in its lightweight body as also relieved to not have to frequently charge yet another oft-used device.

. I like that I can get word meanings simply by taking the cursor to a word and find I’m now more eager to figure strange words as I come across them.

. I like to be able to type notes at any position of a book or highlight well-expressed phrases, and like the idea of them aggregating methodically in a single file for later reference.

. I love it that I don’t have to frantically look for toothpicks, pencils, used boarding passes or paper bookmarks for books I’m reading. The Kindle simply remembers the last left position for my multiple ongoing reads.

. I quite like its text-to-speech feature. I used it often in the beginning, and even though garbled in some places, I find it reassuring that I can listen to my books if need be. The feature feels like a bonus with an e-reader.

. I totally love the cover I’ve got for it. It has an in-built reading light that can be pulled out and used when the Reader is on. It doesn’t need additional batteries as it gets its charge from the device itself. Such a nifty add-on by cover designers without weighing it down much.

. I do like the instant gratification of purchasing and downloading a book I’ve just learnt about and can’t wait to read. It seems to me that paper and ebooks are costing about the same right now, and in future it may get cheaper to buy e-versions.

. That I’m able to use my Kindle in any light condition is wonderful. The sun’s glare doesn’t affect its screen and its in-built light helps in converse conditions.

. Of course, that I don’t have to give away books to Kabadiwala as I run out of physical storage space enhances my likeness for it. I can simply delete them from the device as they remain on the main computer that is used to sync the library.

. What a relief too that I don’t have to dust the books I own 🙂

Now all I need is some peaceful days, and a bit of discipline, to wade through my 200+ (mostly free) books on it.

Do you read ebooks? How often and on what devices? How do you compare that experience with reading paper books?

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