Apparently, the Japanese have a word for buying books and leaving them to pile up unread. It’s ‘tsondoku‘. I’m certainly guilty of that.
This week, I finally bought a Kindle. I’ve wanted one for a while, but haven’t been able to justify it to myself because I have the iPad – and lots of books made of paper.
I didn’t go for the fancy all-singing, all-dancing, full-colour Kindle Fire, nor even the one that has a screen that lights up so you can read at night. I have the bog-standard, everyday Kindle e-Book reader. That’s it in the red leather case above. It already contains all of these books and quite a few more.
And before you ask, I bought it at Waterstones. A book shop.
I am totally in love with it. It’s a complete revelation. I mean… far more than I thought it would be.
I’ve read all sorts of books and articles on all sorts of screens over the past decade, and I like to think that I’ve adapted to the point where it’s as easy for me – sometimes easier (or at least more convenient) – to read long text on my laptop than from a printed page.
But it’s not ideal. The direct light from the screen is tiring and even though I’m more accustomed to text on screens than most people I know, it’s still not a natural fit – and it has its drawbacks. Reading in bright daylight doesn’t work – and the iPad is too heavy for reading in bed or reclining on the sofa. More than once, I’ve dozed off while reading horizontally with the iPad suspended above my head. That thing hurts.
The Kindle’s e-ink trumps both traditional screen-based digital and print. It has the ‘reflected light rather than direct light’ advantage of paper (so no eye strain), and the flexibility advantage of digital text.
I can set the font size (which is important to me for reasons of reading speed), it will never lose my place, I can skip between books at will and I can carry a whole bunch of reading with me wherever I go. And it’s lighter than most paperbacks, which is handy for those of us who have a tendency to nod off at the drop of a hat.
And with the leather case that opens up like a book jacket – it feels right.
My job is ‘professor’. Reading kind of goes with the territory. I already read quite a lot every day. But I have read more in the past few days than I have in the previous few weeks. And it’s not just the novelty. My eyes – and my brain – prefers this to every other format I’ve ever encountered.
I’ve long been saving things on the internet to ‘read later’ – and never quite returning to them. Now, using these tools along with my usual RSS reader, I can gather together all of the articles I’ve been saving up, and once a week, dump them as a Kindle file. There’s a single button on the Instapaper site that allows you to do that.
Essentially, you curate your own weekend supplement.
Even better, the free Calibre software works seamlessly with the Kindle – converting every format of ebook you might encounter and transferring it to the device. I have ePubs I’ve been sent or have purchased from Apple or Kobo in the past.
Drag, drop, and a one-button overnight conversion process has put all of my electronic texts onto a lovely, small device that I can take with me everywhere I go.
And best of all, it’s already reopened the world of fiction to me. I used to be so reading-fatigued from all of the academic texts, subject articles, non-fiction works and related analyses and discussions that I simply didn’t have the eyeball strength left for stories when the end of the day rolled around.
Which was a shame, because I love stories.
I’ve made more of an effort this year – both with paperbacks and with audiobooks – to get back into the fiction habit, but I’ve found it to be uphill work.
With the Kindle – there is no reading-fatigue. Like I say – this appears to be how my brain likes to take in words.
This is not a ‘books are obsolete’ diatribe from a technophile. I love paper books. I love the tactility and, more than anything, the smell of books. I like second hand books especially. I don’t want everything to be digital. I am, remember, someone who virtually fetishises vinyl.
But for me – this is how I want books from now on. This is what will ensure that I actually read them.
I am an early discarder as much as I am an early adopter. I’m an experimental pragmatist. I tend to try everything, and then just keep what works for me.
This works for me. I am an ex-‘tsondoku’ist. If only they could work out a way to make it smell cool…