Saturday, January 2, 2010


Slow posting day, because I'm working on the dissertation chapter that ate my brain.

But I don't want to go postless, so, a quick post on my Christmas present to myself: a Kindle 2. I've wanted one for a while -- in fact, I've been dreaming about the future of ebooks for probably most of the last decade -- or whenever someone first suggested to me that it would be possible to put books on an easily portable device. I've dreamed about it because I can be terribly scattered -- or syncretic, if you'll allow me a more positive term -- in my reading and research. Inevitably, if I want to go and work at a coffee shop, I feel like I need to carry at least 20 books with me -- and even having done that, I have often found that the one I want is one that I neglected to bring.

I've had a sort of Kindle -- the Kindle for iPhone -- for about a year. First purchase: The Serial Garden, by Joan Aiken, if you're curious about that sort of thing. I've been wanting a full-sized Kindle for quite some time, for the purpose of storing 18th century facsimiles in an easily readable/accessible/portable format -- more easy than carrying my laptop wherever I go. But at first, the Kindle 2 didn't have native PDF support, and I knew that my texts would end up garbled. Nor did I feel like spending the extra money for a Kindle DX.

But when an extra teaching gig brought me a small windfall at the end of fall term, I couldn't resist any longer. Or rather, there was no reason to. With more and more academic books that I use becoming available in Kindle format, it made sense, both for immediate research, and for the three month research trip I'll be taking in July of this year. The fact that the Kindle Whispernet is now up and running internationally helped too.

I'd found, in using the Kindle for iPhone, that it helped my reading comprehension because it wasn't conducive to skimming. Often, I feel pressured to try and grasp the big picture and the little picture all at once, and to fly through chapters at breakneck speed. As a strategy, this has definite room for improvement. To my delight, the full-size Kindle has a useful feature in this regard that I didn't even know about: I can alter the width of the column of words, choosing to read in what I think of as MMPB width, or newspaper column width.

It's not the same as a book, and not the same as the iPhone Kindle, which Nicholson Baker prefers. My MLA roommate, playing with it, was irritated by the brief flash of black on the screen as you "turn" a page. I wasn't sure about that myself, at first. But all it took was a little reading for me to forget about it entirely. Highlighting is easy. Annotating is easy. Certain academic titles are so cheap that I barely have to think about purchasing them. And I remain surprised by the fact that more reviewers aren't trumpeting this to the skies. I like the smell of old books, and the feel of them: but if I can trade those sensations for being able to have 59 books with me at a time, and not even notice the weight? There's no contest. No contest at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment