Virtual reading: Kindle review
Kindle by RachelC
Packing for my stay in Mexico, I realised something: aside from the fact I’d have to pick which shoes/dresses/hair products to bring, I’d also have to make a tough decision regarding which literature I could fit (carry) in my two suitcases. Yes, hand luggage was still an option, but my bag was already bulging with my laptop, charger, camera, passport and important documents, a couple of packets of sweets (no Percy Pigs in the airport), my over-filled diary and more clutter I care to recall. What to bring? How do you pick between Molière’s dramatic comedy, Ruiz Zafón’s page-turning novels and Pratchett’s sarcastic fantasy? What about all the other loves in my life, the Arabic classic literature, the socio-economic tirades of South America, the sharp wit of America’s finest authors, or the Renaissance literature of Britain?As I sat in my room, wondering which books to take (new or now dog-eared), I had a thought. A thought I had dismissed when it first came about, as I scanned the online pictures of the grey, slim-line, tablet-like thing and guffawed at the reviews by Amazon users. How on Earth could an object so bland, so boring and so incredibly ashen - the Almighty Kindle - replace my old tomes, leather-bound and tokens of my years through academia and the world of fantasy? No, no, no, I was not going to buy into this craze, I thought. Why would I when I so enjoy flicking through the real pages of my book, finding grains of sand etched into the spine of my holiday reads or spotting my page markers in the shape of a triangle, scattered throughout the paperbacks. Yet, it was that very night before take-off when the doubt began. And as the months went by, the doubt grew stronger. Pacing the streets of Zacatecas, I found but two (yes two!) bookstores. One of which had an elementary selection of English books, priced at too much. The second store had a small section of classics, yet no real space for contemporary word (unless you were into Buddhist thought or, better still, How to specials). Eurgh. So I did it, I caved in. It took 83 days and 4 hours to finally make me click the checkout button and buy one. A Kindle. Me, Tach, always lugging her current reads in her bag, come rain or shine, or a sore shoulder, throughout the streets of London and elsewhere, bought into technology’s finest virtual book. And I got myself a snazzy green cover, too, as I thought it had to at least look a bit more colourful than the greyness. And then I started tracking my package.
As I opened up the brown box, eager to have a feel of what was inside, I felt a little anxious and a little American (meh). Sure, the Starter Guide is a little boring, but you do find out about all the tricks and shortcuts to use the Kindle. You get to have a feel of the buttons (ease of page-flicking is found through both left and right sets of buttons, positioned on each side of the screen), you can get read to (although both female and male voices are very robotic and static) and adjust the screen composition to suit your eyesight, by making it lighter or the words wider. Quite fun, if you’re into that geeky sort of thing. But I wondered what the actual books looked like. So I got connected to the internet thanks to the built-in wifi, and started browsing. God, some books are cheap. Bestsellers at less than a fiver, classics for free and a host of websites, like this list demonstrates, by showing off the best of the bunch, it was too good to be true. Blogs, humour, newspaper subscriptions, magazines galore, all at the touch of a few buttons and clicks.
Yet, it wasn’t all happy Larry. The keyboard, small and fickle, tends to do as it pleases (mind you, I also have issues typing on an i-phone, so it might just be my plump, clumsy fingers). The cursor can also be quite annoying, as you click the one button for it to go up and down (sometimes rather quickly, possibly due to my lack of patience). The keyboard shortcuts are particularly good though as you can easily go from book to home screen, to dictionary, to Kindle shop.
Reading from the device is quite fun, it’s as light as a 150-page paperback and you can adjust the light to suit your surroundings. dark spots mean you can make it lighter, and vice versa. Additionally, you can change the size of font, so that you can read through a book at a quicker (or slower) pace. Move the cursor onto the text and you’ll get a dictionary definition of each item, although it’s up to you whether you’d prefer this in UK English or Webster’s English Dictionary. Once you get the hang of it (as it may take more or less time, depending on how tech-savvy you may be), you will easily glide through chapter, to particular sections, to indexes. You can get books in other languages, for a quarter of the price of retail shops. And, it’s the perfect item to take away with you, especially if you’re short on space and/or weight. The battery life is also pretty good, with the ability to charge it from any USB port. You can also send items to a newly created email address, so as to pick them up from your Kindle once you’re on the move - pretty cool if you’re short on space. Downloading a book takes barely any time at all. If you choose to read a copy of the book on your Kindle and on your computer, you can sink both so as to never miss a paragraph again...Pretty cool.
However, the genius part of the Kindle lies in its ability to share information. You choose whether you would like to link up your device to your Twitter and Facebook accounts, but even so, you can access other people’s notes, see most quoted passages and much more, at the click of a few buttons. Gone are the day of scribbling onto your textbook, hooray for a quick search of precisely what you were looking for. Some of you, like I, may feel that there was some joy to be had by highlighting, penning and note-taking with the old fashioned pen and pencil, however, this little device will save you valuable time and effort. Although I wouldn’t recommend spending hours of your reading typing through the Kindle’s keyboard, if you’re looking to highlight a small paragraph or take a few golden words down, the ebook reader will be right up your street.
So, in short: good buy or bad buy? Although I miss my physical reads, I have to say I have grown quite fond of my Kindle. I get weird looks here, although I know just a few months down the line, it’ll be all the rage across the border. Plus I find the cover quite fetching, too.
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