There, I’ve said it. Never thought I would, but I prefer my Kindle to books. Okay, let’s not be rash. Not in every situation, not all the time, but I am seeing benefits now that I wouldn’t have expected. Time for a list.
- Tabletop reading
When I was a kid I used to read a lot, and everywhere. In the morning I’d get my cereal, and my book, but then be frustrated that I could’t lay my book down flat on the table to read ‘no hands’ whilst I ate, especially in the case of thick paperbacks. Or when at the start or end of a book, it would always close again. I’d usually end up looking round for things to balance on the page edges to hold it open, and fail. Kindle solves this. I open the case, fold it back on itself and there we go. If I’m leaning it on a dirty surface I do find myself getting all fussy about not wanting to mess up the nice furry inside of my case, so I often lay it on a napkin. Like Metallica said, sad but true.
- Easier to read standing on public transport
I read my Kindle on the Metro (tram) but I’m sure this stands for bus, train, or underground use. If I’m standing, holding on somewhere, with a paper book in the other hand, I have to use two hands to turn the page, and in the case of heavy books, sometimes change hands. Turning pages on the Kindle can all be done with the same holding hand, especially as there are buttons for page turning on both sides.
- Easier reading whilst settling a baby
Okay, you might think I’m coming up with edge scenarios here but if you’ve ever had to sit up with a baby for an hour trying to settle it, when all it needs is holding or rocking, you’ll appreciate it’s nice to have something to do as well. Reading a paper book is often hard because you need a second hand to turn the pages, which may be in the baby’s mouth (no, not the entire hand!), or holding them, whatever. I used to fantasise about a book format that would float in front of your face and be controlled by a wave of the hand – the Kindle isn’t actually that far off. It can be propped easily on the arm of a chair and pages turned very easily with one free hand.
- Who is Khal Drogo?
I have just started reading Game of Thrones (based on some loose The Wire parallels that are being made). I don’t usually read the fantasy genre, but thought I’d give it a go, despite having heard there are a lot of characters to keep track of. The Kindle is perfect for this. I’ve repeatedly come across names without being sure where I last came across them in the book, or who they were. Kindle allows for a quick text search and jump to any page containing that word. In a paper book, this is alos possible, and some would agree it’s quicker to riffle through pages to find a previous reference like this, but you’re going in blind really, trying to remember roughly where it was you last saw that name.
- Thick books are… thin. And lighter
Coming back to Game of Thrones again, this is 850 pages. Looks impressive in a paper book, but the novelty soon wears off when you realise it’s a dog to read on the tram, or fit in a pocket. Yes, the Kindle is larger than many paperback formats, but I’ve noticed I seem to be reading a lot of ‘thick’ books. I’m sure Game of Thrones would be heavier than my Kindle in paperback format.
- No one knows what I’m reading
When reading in public, my blue leather Kindle case hides what I’m reading. In a world where adult prints of the Harry Potter books were published with ‘darker’ covers, surely that’s significant to some people.
- Sampling for free
Every book I’ve seen for sale on the Kindle Store has offered me a sample for free. The paper book equivalent is standing in Waterstones reading the first couple of pages to see if you like it, but you don’t usually feel you can stay to read the first couple of chapters, which is usually what’s offered on Kindle. This gives you an idea if the book is likely to sustain your interest. On the downside, there have been books that have started off a bit slow, which I have persisted with and been eventually happy that I did. In these cases, Kindle might actually convince us not to persist with buying the full book when it would actually be worthwhile. I’m maybe thinking of things like JG Ballard’s The Drowned World, which has a pretty slow pace.
- Now I know what a bluff is
I sometimes get frustrated reading a book where I (often repeatedly) come across a word without any idea what it means. There might be some indication but I’d never know without looking it up in a separate dictionary. Typical of this are Cormac McCarthy’s descriptions of American landscapes, where he uses words like bluff which I’ve never come across, possibly because he’s describing landscapes other than those I know in the UK. With Kindle, a few clicks and I can instantly look it up in the built-in dictionary, and around 90% of the words I look up are in there. It was useful in Oliver Twist recently when I finally found out what a beadle really is.
A bluff, in case you were interested.
Okay, enough praise. There are also a few areas where the Kindle falls flat.
- Lack of a bookmark
There isn’t always an instant quick way to get back to the point where I am reading, if I skip around the book. I may be doing something wrong, but if I read to page 500 for example, and then go to another page, like 200, the only way I can get back to my ‘current’ point in the book is to open the menu and Sync to Furthest Page Read. The problem is it doesn’t store this information locally by the looks of it, because every time it has to connect to wifi or 3G, I assume to grab it from the Amazon server. Which isn’t always possible. There are other ways of jumping to the right page, but not as quick, and you need to remember what page you were on. Also, it sometimes syncs to the page I was on when I last turned it on, not useful if I’ve since read 20 pages. A paper bookmark will always be quicker than that.
- It’s not poolside reading
I am going on holiday soon and will be taking my Kindle. This hopefully involves at least some lounging around reading. However, I will feel less comfortable leaving it lying around, or by the pool or on the floor (outside in the garden). I’m just too protective of it now. So will I end up reading one novel for outside, and my Kindle novel when inside? Sounds odd, but it might happen.
- Contrast is good, but not perfect
Kindle screen contrast will never be as good as a paper. Okay one day it might be, but not now. So if I’m reading in the dark, do I turn on my often overly powerful light or turn up the text size? Both work but aren’t perfect.