Tuesday, December 29, 2009


2009 has been more than just the year of Tiger. It's also been the year of the e-reader. E-reader sales have tripled this year amid a torrent of new devices. And the device to kill all other devices, the Apple tablet computer, isn't even out yet. So it's an opportune time to mention that e-readers are back in my good graces. A month ago, I was lukewarm on the gadgets. But I have since re-kindled my enthusiasm for the Kindle.

I've been traveling a lot recently, and the Kindle has been the perfect companion. Before a recent trip to Miami, I didn't frantically scan my shelves for a book to take along. I didn't have to worry that I'd take the wrong book and then have to lug around a useless paper brick the rest of the trip. And I didn't have to make the agonizing decision I often face on long trips: one book, or two? I mean, what if I only bring one book and I finish it somewhere over Dallas and I'm forced to watch Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince? Or that eerie American Airlines pseudo-TV channel that's always featuring something with Charlie Sheen?

But not with the Kindle. While sitting on the tarmac, I bought and downloaded two books, a magazine and a newspaper. On the way to Miami I read half of the novel Gilead. But on the way home I was tired and hungover, so I had to switch to The Lost Symbol (another great thing about the Kindle is you can get the new "hardcovers" for 10 bucks). And when even Dan Brown was more than my taxed brain could handle, I switched to the magazine -- all without ever reaching for the overhead bin.

The Kindle is also improving my vocabulary. I love the built in dictionary. It was especially helpful while reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Although many of those unknown words turned out to be Spanish slang.

There are still a few e-reader quirks I haven't gotten used to, and I don't know if I ever will. Since the font size is variable, there are no page numbers, just "locations" and a "percentage-complete meter." I still find myself doing conversions in my head (if the book is about 400 printed pages and I have 10% left on the e-version, that's 40 pages, and so on). As I've gotten used to it, however, the page thing has faded to a minor nuisance, just a small con against a long list of pros.

But today brings a new challenge for the age of e-ink. Today I leave for Hawaii. Let's see how the Kindle does on the beach.


  1. The Kindle sounds cool and convenient especially for someone who enjoys to read as much as you do. Is it strange to not turn the pages and bend the corners as book marks???
    There is something to be said to be able to dust an old book off the shelf and cuddle up to it.
    I'm sure I'm of the minority. What do I know.... I have never tired a "Kindle." But I'm glad it's working out for you. :) Enjoy Hawaii!!

  2. Kristen got a Kindle for xmas. And she loves it. She can hold it with one hand while feeding our baby with the other. She can even turn the page with the same one hand! The screen is so easy on the eyes that it should not even be called a screen. By calling it a screen one associates computer or iphone screens. Not this screen. no backlight at all. Just pure digital ink. And...what was that quip about Harry Potter? I watched the 'Half Blood Prince' 2 days ago and enjoyed it very much thank you.

  3. Oh, and I forgot to add that I hope your kindle enjoys the beach sand. yikes! There is something that a paper book would not bat an eye at, but a kindle...ooh that could be more of a kindle killer than the Apple tablet will ever be.

  4. Om. I want a Kindle =)