I love books. Actual, physical books.
In fact when I first heard about e-readers the idea just turned me cold. How could people give up the feel of a proper book in their hands, the artwork on the sleeves, and all those creases in the spine that acted as waypoints for the adventure you’d just experienced? What grey, cold, computer could have the same heartwarming effect?
Well, as it turns out…the Amazon Kindle.
I bought my first Kindle as kind of an experiment. The slim plastic casing was lightweight, easy to hold, and in direct sunlight the pages looked, well, like a book. I tried in vain to fight the lures of this temptress, but in truth, she had me once I read my first e-inked line. The transition was swift. When perusing the listings on Amazon I’d check to see if new titles came in digital formats. Second-hand bookshops, once a sanctuary to me, slipped from my mind and faded into legend. Only something that could be emailed to my device was worthy of inclusion in my collection.
I had been digitised.
Where once I was a man whose home was packed with books, now the shelves were empty, an ebook collection nestled in the slim belly of my Kindle…and I was happy.
But there was one area in which the little device struggled. Well to be honest it didn’t struggle, it outright failed. Low light. If the sun went behind a cloud, the lightbulbs chose to shine in different directions, or my warm glow of literary self satisfaction faded, then the Kindle became next to useless.
I tried various lights that could be attached to the Kindle, but these all quickly became annoying. Some were bulky and added weight, others were tiny and flapped about all over the place like epileptic stick insects. I considered the official Amazon case with a built in light, but the hilarious price of £50 soon put paid to that idea. No, I was a dayreader now, and that is how it would stay. Unless I sat by a desk lamp of course.
Then came rumours of a new Kindle…one that would bring light to the word. I held my breath. Could this be true?
Slowly rumours transformed into speculation, then tentative, leaked technical specs appeared. So, the prophesies were soon to be made plastic. Glory be! Shortly afterwards the Kindle Paperwhite appeared, replete with an internal light and the promise of eternal happiness. Well, the happiness was only available through certain outlets, but the light remained standard. Lo, the Paperwhite had come into the world…and it was good.
After spending the past two weeks with this luminescent device I must admit that sadly…it’s rather wonderful. I say sadly because it now means a frantic scramble to gather together enough cash to buy the damn thing. Thus it was, as ever shall be.
What makes the Paperwhite so attractive is the illumination itself. I’ve tried reading books on my iPad, Nexus 7, and various mobile phones over the years. It’s not a terrible experience, but my eyes tend to tire quickly when staring at small text on those harshly bright screens. The Kindle Paperwhite glows in a more gentle fashion, allowing you to spend longer reading and less time Googling for symptoms of cataracts.
The design is elegantly simple too. Gone is the keyboard that wasted so much space on my old unit, replaced instead by a touch-screen. Thankfully there’s no swiping involved. You just tap the left side to go back, the right to go forward, the top to bring up a menu, and the bottom to see how much of the book remains. Actually this is a great little feature as the lower display swaps between the rather random ‘Loc’ display – which acts as a page number – to a far more useful option that uses your average reading speed to calculate how long it will take you to finish reading the book. Simple, brilliant, and mildly accurate.
Otherwise it’s business as usual for the Kindle. Meaning that the extra functionality (distractions) tablets and phones offer are sacrificed in favour of a dedicated reading experience. It’s hard to convey just how powerful this simplicity is. When you pick up an iPad you can read, then check your email, quickly update Facebook, maybe order another book from the Amazon website, then watch that video that your friend has just sent, possibly a quick game of Ski Safari, then….what was I doing again?
On a Kindle you pick the device up with a solitary purpose in mind – reading – and with the Paperwhite you can now do that anywhere at all. The battery still lasts forever, you can load new titles from your computer or have them delivered straight to the unit from the Amazon store, and the compact design means it’s comfortable to hold for long literary sessions.
If you’re a reader then there’s no better device on which to enjoy the words of others.