Let me cast an impressionistic eye back across the past 12 months to see what difference the portable reading device has made to my view of the world. Overall the experience has been positive, both extending the range and volume of reading that I have done, and extending the quality of engagement with ideas, authors and stories.
After college and with the advent of Internet, the amount of my reading has gone down. But the ability to hear an author interview or news story on the radio and then go to Web search, Wikipedia or to download a sample chapter or entire book within minutes is appealing. With the annotations and screencapture capabilities, I can readily share passages with others I know who have common interests. And while I have not fully explored the subscriptions to magazines, blogs and newspapers, the limited experience I had under the Trial Subscriptions has helped me to understand the power of wirelessly receiving periodical content. The catalog of Project Gutenberg books at http://bit.ly/gutmagic has awoken my dormant interest in the classics –both early traveler accounts and many of the canon of Great Books. And with the convenience of kindlepedia (online converter of Wikipedia articles into a MOBI file for portable reading offline that preserves hotlinks and allows all Kindle annotation tools to be used), I have gathered sets of related articles into Kindle “collections” for rainy-day reading on two dozen interests that until now have been on the backburner of my imagination until now.
My habit of reading is different, thanks to Kindle, too. Instead of a linear experience of reading one or sometimes two sources during the same week, now I have perhaps 6-8 things underway at the same time; some suitable for reflective times of the day and others readable even in noisey settings while I wait or have a brief interval between tasks. In a sense this wider reading consists of sipping and gulping the material, rather than the slower and more sustained reading I do on paper. When faced with computer screen reading, if it runs more than a few screens, my inclination is to move it onto my e-Ink screen. When composing or editing text, though, I still tend to put the ink on paper to mark it up and revise. In sum, depending on the purpose, I will read on computer, on e-Ink or on paper. Each medium has its place, but of the three, it is e-Ink that seems most versatile and general purpose, with the other two reserved for more limited situations.
Conceptually, I think of my Kindle as a sort of bionic eye and ear. It amplifies my human abilities and allows me to touch the ideas of others quickly, usefully, affordably and for the long term. In the coming years I can envision this as indispensible; the equivalent to a personal automobile in our mobile society; the equivalent to a telephone, television or radio in our telecommunications era. With an appetite to learn (motivation), plus an eBook reader integrating to the Internet source materials (opportunity), one can undertake a course of lifelong learning that has no end.
Are there any disadvantages? The only downside in the past year is tendency for my intentions of reading to outpace my actual available hours to read. As a result, I quickly add more material to my eReader, and many times forget that I have placed the writings on the device, awaiting my attention. In an effort to treat the device as a place to go with my questions, rather than a magpie’s treasure trove of all sorts of things, I try to follow a certain workflow: confine readings to my “collections” (I have about 30), and periodically back up the F:\kindle\documents folder externally so that I can delete the onboard file when finished. That way I have the satisfaction of seeing the grand total of files go down little by little. The end result is to visualize all my accumulating electronic readings on an external “book shelf” with my active and next-in-line materials residing on the Kindle at any given time.
I have no idea what the design life of the device is, but I would like to be able to grow comfortable with this extension to my eyes and ears for a period of 5 years before having to shop for the next big thing. But looking back over the past year, I can say that Kindle has made it possible for me to read the Long Tail of written works, benefitting from easy access to things in print as well as gathering things that are long out of print, or that are too ephemeral ever to appear in print. I read more pages and I read better things from this deep well.