Sunday, 5 August 2012

My Kindle and Me

As of today, I have owned a Kindle for three weeks. In this time I feel rather saddened that my reaction has not been the one of complete and utter delight that so many friends and colleagues have experienced since buying their device.

I am now about half way through my third purchased book and this is the furthest I have got with the downloaded books so far.

The first book was a rash purchase: the publisher’s newly released blurb made it out to be a very different book to the one I started reading. Having made it a couple of chapters in, I was delighted to discover that it is possible to return Kindle books and get a full refund within seven days of the original purchase.

The second book was one that I had ordered a few months ago in a paper copy. I changed the order when I bought the Kindle and it duly arrived by magic during the night when the book was published. I managed a little more of this one, but was struggling to commit to the plot and when confronted with an unpleasantly visceral description of violence I was convinced to take advantage of the full refund again.

Knowing that I rarely give up when reading a book made me wonder about the Kindle as a medium: as I consume a lot of information through screens of different sorts, I began to wonder whether consuming a book in this way means that I see it as a more superficial and transitory method of delivery, or is the guarantee of a full refund – something not available for physical books without having to pay shipping costs – something that I would have used previously had it been possible?

The third book that appeared over night, when it was published, is the second book in a series I started reading last year. Maybe because I had some idea what to expect from the novel I am now reading this and looking forward to picking up the Kindle and continuing reading. However, I still do not enjoy the Kindle reading experience.

There are two things which I feel make me dislike it: firstly, the serif font is terrible (the sans-serif alternative is worse) and it is not pleasing or easy to read. I find this frustrating when the quality of some graphics available show that more artistic fonts could easily be offered as options. Secondly – and I know this sounds strange – I cannot stand the lack of page numbers as I do not feel physically anchored in the text (I know there a location reference, but its big jumps lack any sense of continuity). The lack of my physical position in the text also means that it is not easy to flick forward a couple of pages to know that I only have another two pages to read before stopping reading (as by the time the end of the chapter has been found there is no quick way to go back to the original place).

I know people bemoan the demise of the codex book and use that as a reason not to buy a Kindle. I forced myself to overcome that objection, but am really struggling to build any (for want of a better word) relationship with mine. I will continue to use it in the hope that the technology will become more familiar in due course, but in the meantime I think I will have to pick books for it carefully.