Sunday, 24 February 2013

My Kindle and Me Revisited

I have been intending to write this post reflecting on my initial Kindle owning comments last August for some time now, as I felt that three weeks' ownership may have been too short a time in which to form solid conclusions about it.

I was initially annoyed that I had not found a book which I enjoyed reading on the device. At first this was down to my poor choices and succumbing to marketing blurb, but discovering that a reader has a week in which to apply for a full refund of their purchase, and finding a book I wanted to read helped matters as far as I was concerned.

At the time I objected to the default font. This is still true, but in the absence of anything more beautiful I have grudgingly come to accept it, and I just hope that future Kindles will have come equipped with an aesthetically pleasing alternative. I also did not like the fact that the reader's progress is measured by a percentage rather than the feel of a stack of pages betwixt left or right hand. I still do not like this, but knowing that most YA novels I read are around 400 pages, I have come to equate 5% remaining to some twenty pages.

As is usual in the twenty-first century, I have therefore adapted my habits to sate technology's restrictions, but it is what technology is able to offer over the codex book that now makes me look for the 'Kindle Edition' links on Amazon.

Not only do I own a Kindle, but I also own an Android tablet and smartphone. Both of these devices have the Kindle app installed. While I do not use it frequently, being able to pick up the book I am reading at home  (after a quick sync) while I am stuck waiting for something is impressive. I know some people carry their Kindle with them at all times, but I am not one of them. I do, however, always have my phone. The usefulness of this app seems massively underrated in the people to whom I have spoken, and it is one of the things that puts technology ahead of its paper counterpart.

Technology also sets itself apart from paper when it comes to reading for academic purposes. Many of my printed books have PostIt notes sticking out of them at all angles to mark passages which I either have, or need to, transcribe to the computer for possible use in my writing. With a Kindle (or the Android apps) it is possible simply to select the text to mark it, and then log into my Amazon account on a computer to access it when it is needed. It is also possible to add annotations, but as I rarely do this in printed books, I have not found the need for its electronic equivalent.

Although seemingly small, these two features afforded the Kindle reader by nature of its medium make it a very different tool for the 'professional' reader as technology is providing something that print cannot.

Six months ago I wrote that I was struggling to build a relationship with my Kindle. I will accept that I have now built a professional relationship with it, and if it was the case that Kindle books were always cheaper than their paper alternative, or that people could buy Kindle books as gifts, the relationship would probably be stronger. But we all know that relationships need to be worked at, and I guess that one challenging a reluctance to pay £4.99 for a text when a 'Like New' copy is available for a penny still needs a little more time.

As a brief postscript, I believe there are some features available to US Kindle users - such as sharing with other users and 'borrowing' texts - which still have to cross the Atlantic and these are likely to make a also likely to make a positive difference when (or if) they arrive on British shores.