I’m a bit surprised that in the 6 weeks I’ve had my Kindle I’ve read more books than in the previous 6 months. I thought I’d like it, but I didn’t expect it would change my reading habits so much.
Prior to buying the Kindle, I’d read a few novels using the Kindle App on my iPad and iPhone. These have some of the advantages of the Kindle – in particular the clever bookmark syncing, where if you read the same book on both devices, when you finish reading on one and pick it up on the other, it remembers where you got to. However, there are some drawbacks. The iPad (version 1 at least) is a little too heavy to read comfortably. The iPhone is better, and mine with a retina screen, so the text is much sharper, but the screen was too small and I had to turn the page too often. A backlit screen is still much more like reading a computer than reading a book.
I considered getting a touch screen device (having experienced the allure of the Kobo Touch) since I felt I’d become so accustomed to that form of interaction. But the experience of reading on my phone, where I found my thumb hovering ready to turn the page actually blocked the text, made me choose to go for the bare-bones Kindle (the Touch is also larger, heavier, and slower to respond). I didn’t go for a keyboard because I can annotate more easily using the iOS app (it’s larger and heavier too).
So why do I read so much more with it? I’m not sure, but I think it might be…
Wherever I am I have the book(s) I’m reading with me. And the ones I’m going to read next. That’s when I go away – no packing choices, just sling the Kindle in my bag – but also when I’m on a bus, or have five minutes waiting to meet someone, because the same books are on my phone too. It’s a lot easier to just pick up a book and read a few pages, so I don’t look for something else to fill the time instead.
It’s not just being able to pick up what I’m reading whenever I have an odd moment, it’s also the fact that as soon as I finish one book, the next is already there waiting for me. I’ve bought a pile of Kindle books that are sitting in the device, all I’ve got to do is choose an away I go on the next one. Previously I’d resent having to take a heavy book with me which had a chapter or two to go, and take the next book on my list as well. Sometimes I’d judge a book would last me longer than it would, and be left without. Like the chain-smoker lighting one cigarette from the last, there’s never a moment when I need to stop.
I can’t ignore this one, though I’m sure if it’s a factor it’s not the only one. Reading on the Kindle is a bit new, and a bit different. I do love to get a new gadget and play with it to try it out. I’m haven’t cast it aside yet, however, so if it is novelty it’s taking a long time to wear off.
Of course, it needn’t be just the tech-toy effect. I’ve also been motivate to go and buy some new books so as to have something to try it with. It’s been a great opportunity to acquire a few things I’ve been meaning to read for a long time (even if some of them were free: I’d never read The Great Gatsby until now, for instance). So I’m benefitting from being able to indulge myself with all sorts of my favourite fiction and non-fiction. I could have done that with paper books, but I without having the reason I wouldn’t have devoted the expense and time to it.
This hadn’t really occurred to me, though it seems obvious in hindsight. Partly it hadn’t occurred to me because I have a sentimental attachment to “the reading experience” which is about more than just reading (it’s the smell of the book, the look and feel of the binding, the rustle of the pages). That blinded me to things I’d ignored, about propping up heavy books to read when I’m lying down, propping open books when I’m at the table (sometimes I read when I’m eating – naughty me), or squinting at small or badly formatted text. The Kindle’s e-ink screen is lauded for being easy to read, and it really is. It’s at its best in bright sunlight – when the iPad is at its worst – and that’s partly because the contrast is much poorer than paper (you really do need a good reading light at the bedside). Very occasionally I notice some aliasing, but it’s almost imperceptible. But having every book in your preferred font at your preferred size really is a luxury that makes me question my sentimental attachment to books. I like books for all sorts of reasons, but for reading, the Kindle has become favourite.