So since I spent a good chunk of the past month out of town, it is a good time to revisit my old friend, the Kindle, and note how it has turned into the (pretty-darn-) perfect travel book.
Portability: Let’s not quibble about this – it is easier to carry around a kindle in its case than to lug about a Neil Stephenson epic. Add to the fact that I could (when I chose to) carry a NUMBER of books and be able to cart them all around.
Anonymity: One of the things that get you to buy a book (a colorful or interesting cover) also works against you reading it in public (You want everyone to know you read that stuff? Or worse yet, it invites others to TALK to you about the book). A simple screen is very nice, and lets you read alone in a restaurant without attracting any attention – it looks like you could be taking notes on PDA.
Expandability. Finish a book? Buy a book. Talk about your instant gratification.
Battery Life: Enough to last a week, which carries it through most business trips. If you’re going to be longer away from home base, then you should bring the charger.
Air travel: It is an electronic device, so off it goes on takeoff and landing. Bit of a bummer.
Accessibility: Was reading Anathem, which has a glossary and several chapters of back matter. Referring to it is a pain from the main narrative flow.
Art: OK, let us be honest - Kindle does text well, art, not so much. The screen emulates my old Macintosh SE as far as screen graphics. Even simple drawings have a case of the jaggies.
Inadvertent button pressing: I have developed the tendency to shut everything down (not a difficult thing) when I do anything else, even to carry it about. Otherwise you may leap ahead dozens of pages. I have lost my place a number of times, and had to search through numerous identical pages to figure out where I was.
Electricity: The battery can hold out for a good week, but you still need to recharge.
Lack of Sharing: Great, you finished the book and want to pass it along. No, sorry. You just have that bundle-o-bits, deadended into your machine. Not good for infecting others with the meme of reading.
End result: Not a bad thing, all in all. I'm not abandoning the Big Pile of Books next to the bed, but it is a nice thing to travel with. I suppose the next thing is to get my portable computer shrunk down as well.
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