Stop the clocks and sound the alarm. Hell has frozen over and pigs are circling Heathrow. I was wrong…
For years I have questioned the Kindle with its paper-like display and capacity to store thousands of books for a few reasons, some more sound than others. Chiefly among these, who doesn’t love the smell of a good book?!
Can a book by definition be a ‘page turner’ if it is absent of any physically turned pages?
Paper-like can extend to its brightness, or lack thereof, and even texture to a degree. But a digital book cannot replicate additional senses a real book can stimulate. The touch of paper, the scent of the glue bonding it all together and the ergonomic nightmare that is a books form factor, all contribute to the charm of reading.
In the same way the idiosyncrasies of an old cottage provide its charm. You cannot objectively justify wonky walls, low ceilings and draughty windows. Any new build home would immediately be condemned. But it’s not just about the objective attributes and the same goes for books. It is not just about the content, the indescribable qualities of books are why people love them.
The Kindle is surely a fad like 3D TVs or the QR codes? Can a book by definition be a ‘page turner’ if it is absent of any physically turned pages? No, everyone buying this tech from 8-80 is wrong. This was what I thought, until recently when our travel plans necessitated adoption of this binary bibliotheca.
Other e-readers are available but let’s be honest, the Kindle dominates a market in a way only the Hoover and Sellotape have previously; a product that transcends competition to such a degree that the entire category is named after them. So naturally, that is what I was aiming to purchase.
Far preferring a toe dipping approach to diving headfirst I sourced myself a used 10th generation Kindle (2019) for just £40. ‘Think how many books you could buy for this!’ I naively thought.
But then I noticed the cost of the kindle edition books on Amazon. Reads that would set me back easily £10-£15 were available for under £5. Interest piqued, I took the plunge.
My first impressions were mixed. The display wasn’t as sharp as I was expecting and in comparison to my iPad, performance was tectonically slow. The form factor was also very awkward initially. Far smaller than most books and without a crease down the middle, there was no natural place to rest your thumbs.
That all changed when I read a quick blog post on tips for a better Kindle reading experience and among a few other forgettable ideas was a gem. Set the orientation to landscape.
Now it all made sense.
With the device landscape there’s a much larger place to position your thumb. The size is also much more similar to a typical book, albeit without as much vertical space. Reading did feel more like a book than a large phone.
This minor change was not enough for me to correct my previous assertions though. That came with the discovery of the highlighting feature of the Kindle.
Doing this digitally on the Kindle though has a huge amount of benefits. Firstly, I don’t spend five minutes trying to find a highlighter and post it notes whenever I was to make a note.
I read a lot of non-fiction and in order to properly commit the content to memory, and make for easier reflection later on, I highlight and mark pages all the time.
Doing this digitally on the Kindle though has a huge amount of benefits. Firstly, I don’t spend five minutes trying to find a highlighter and post it notes whenever I was to make a note. The gesture for highlighting on the Kindle takes a few goes to really get used to it, but once you have, you can even continue to read as you highlight.
The real magic comes from what happens to the highlights afterwards though.
The highlights are already digitised by virtue of them being on the Kindle, I don’t need to go back and scan them into Notion or similar workflow which I almost always neglected.
This means you can easily revisit book highlights anytime, anywhere. With the addition of the Readwise app on my phone I now have a widget on my phone screen which randomly delivers little gems of wisdom I highlighted in previous books.
I appreciate this feature so much I’ve considered purchasing Kindle editions of books I already own in order to have these little nuggets served up. Something that I would never have considered doing before buying the Kindle.
It has rekindled (pun intended) a love for reading that has been absent for a while.
Another game changing feature is the backlight (Amazon insist on calling it a front light but it just sounds weird to me). The Kindle I have just has one colour temperature which is too cold, but it still allows for reading in environments that would otherwise not be possible. Pitch black rooms when your parter is asleep, buses, trains, planes anywhere where lighting is poor you can smugly unleash the Kindle to full effect.
I think you can probably tell by now I am a convert. I admit I was wrong (for the record I am joking, being wrong is a very good idea when it comes to learning things) and I’m loving my new e-reader.
It has rekindled (pun intended) a love for reading that has been absent for a while. The ease with which you can download a book the very second someone recommends it or continue to read regardless of lighting truly is game changing. Sure you don’t really need to be able to store thousands of books, but the ability to have practically unlimited reading material in your pocket (I checked, it does fit) removes almost any friction you may have to reading and the highlighting feature makes it easier than ever to actually recall the things you read. Which after all for non-fiction, is kind of the point isn’t it?