Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The world of digital reading

It would seem like there has been a sudden explosion of digital reading in my life, as of late.

Who knows what a kindle is? A digital reader? I’m not sure what else they might be calling them.

During my time in the US I was privileged enough to become part of a writing project for a publisher who is promoting digital reading. That was my first exposure to this concept. I then became aware of the Amazon range of books for – what they call – the Amazon kindle. On the plane back to South Africa it appeared as if every second person owned one of those. Finally my mind started opening up to the possibilities of owning such a device. I have since downloaded the Kindle for PC product from Amazon and have added several books to my library.

Although it was something for me to get used to I have to say that it is growing on me; fairly rapidly so, and here’s some of my reasons why:

• With my life in transit I don’t really have capacity to carry tons of books everywhere with me. I do, however, enjoy owning books. Now I can – in my computer (or on the kindle if you have one).
• The kindle books on Amazon are cheaper than the hard copy ones. Sometimes it makes sense to save a buck.
• The device has some wonderful features that I thoroughly enjoy, such as choosing the background – choice of white, black or sepia. I enjoy the black back ground because the white glare causes strain on my eyes – especially reading after lights out. Also, it is less light to attract insects and I can read in peace.
• I can change the font size – I find that I prefer different ones at different times of the day – larger at night.
• I can add notes of my own and highlight text that stand out to me.
• These notes are easy to cross reference later on – they are filed in order as you go along and can be visible or hidden as you need them.
• I am able to search the text of the book for key words or phrases.
• I am able to add a bookmark where I stop reading and easily find my place again next time.
• When I buy a kindle book it is delivered to my device within seconds - no waiting for the courier company to deliver it after between 8 – 14 business days.
• The ‘book’ (the kindle) is always the same size to fit into my hand bag wherever I go.
• Of course, depending on which device you choose in particular, some have 3G and internet connectivity so you could even read online newspapers and other e-zines and newsletters.

Possible problems with it:

• A kindle – or other digital reader can be an expensive toy. If you buy it in the shop – the places where I’ve enquired – you can pay up to R3,000 for it. I haven’t checked every site, but I think Amazon kindle is rather affordable. You can get away with $139 (roughly R1,000). I would consider insuring it like I would other portable electronic devices.
• Because it is expensive it is not something I would take to the beach and leave on my towel while I take a swim in the sea, just like I wouldn’t let my cell phone lie around.
• If you use the computer kindle it is not exactly bathroom reading material – if you know what I mean. Who takes a laptop in the bathroom with them (or is that a stupid question in the 21st century)?
• If it runs on battery power it will have to be recharged. If you don’t have electricity you would be stuck.
• You can’t lend the kindle books to someone else (if you are someone who does lend or exchange books with friends.
• Depending on your particular device you might be limited as to whom you can buy products from, e.g. I’ve got other digital books that are registering as *.pdf files and the kindle won’t recognize it. I need to use another software program to read those. This might restrict you with regard to paying the best price as you have to pay the price for the product that you can use on your device.

All of this having been said – and that is from someone who don’t know this product inside out yet – I don’t think that digital readers can ever replace the feeling of a good old fashioned book, magazine or newspaper between your fingers. I particularly love those studies in the movies where the whole wall is a library. I would like to collect books like that again. For now, however, the kindle concept is serving me well, and I’m grateful that I’m able to have books as a loyal companion at this time on my life journey.

Do you own a kindle or a digital reader of sorts? Tell me about your experience thus far. I would like to hear from you! In the meantime I am adding the Amazon Kindle to my wish list for sure!


  1. I have a nook. I love it because A) It's open source formatting, which means I can buy from any digital music site and shop around for the cheapest price or for a heard to find book; B) it's touchscreen, which makes it easier to find a boo...k in my library (I'm like you, I carry a ton of books around in it) or to make notes; and C) You can lend books on the nook to other people with nooks. I have 4 friends that I share back and forth with right now and it's pretty awesome. Other than that, I think there's not much difference between a nook and a Kindle. The nooks do cost about 10 dollars more. Great write up! (As always).

  2. Hmm... I think when it comes to actually buying it will be good to investigate this (and possibly other) option(s) too, especially the ones that are around the same price range - I should check whether the kindle is open source too. I figured you can share your books on condition that others also own a device. With me no one else does, so I wouldn't share - then again, I don't usually lend books to others anyway. But with the electronic version you don't have to worry about a book being looked after properly, hey? Thanks for the feedback, Mark! :)

  3. I think you're good either way. Kindle's are prettier, I think. Liked your commentary.

  4. Pretty works for me, Mark!

    Oh, and I forgot - another great thing about the digital reader is the dictionary. Sometimes I want to know the full meaning of a word, or I don't know the word at all. You can check it by simply clicking on it. That's cool!