A Kindle to My Heart – James Meléndez / Jaime Patricio Meléndez

I remember the Kindle original’s release and how I was pining for that machine.  But I resisted I wanted to get the second generation.  But with my impossibly heavy messenger bags was begging for me to consider getting a Kindle, stop reading books (at least taking them out of the house) or getting a bag on wheels (I call them Urban trippers because of their propensity to trip someone who can see these near-the-ground stealthy things).

As soon as the Kindle 2 was on the horizon my credit card hovered near my computer; I ordered the Kindle and was looking for updates on when I would get my reader.  Each day I became more impatient because my Kindle was on it’s way and I was in my paper recycling mode—I was scanning papers from college and graduate school years and many other volumes of papers I had written.  It was my determination to have them on my laptop and I knew I would send a copy to my K2.

The promise of this modern area I felt had finally arrived.  I needed the portability as I was constantly away from my home.  I love my home and like anyone else wish I could spend more time there.  But each time I left my home I had to make a decision what was I going to read.  I usually read at least 2-3 books at a time and multiples of magazines and plenty of papers yet carrying them was a guaranteed heavy bag, sore shoulder and uneven posture.  I also felt that I never had exactly what I wanted to read or what if I changed my mind and desired to read something else?  If my music collection is digitized—why not my library?

I also felt on my heavy travel schedule that I either had to take a few books with me to keep on schedule or miss reading what was important for me.  My messenger bag tore once—I had to get re-sewn.  I still enjoy my current non-digitized library and I do relish it with it’s many first editions and autographed and coffee table books that I could never get rid of—I do plan to also get paper cookbooks in the future.  I guess there is a slight pang of guilt for moving away from paper book, after all I had been a managing editor of several publications.  But because I would possess and promote the electronic version didn’t mean I believed in throwing away writers actually it was the exact opposite; it was my desire to stay connected, discover and have many cherished words closer to me and not just in my homes bookshelves.

The Kindle has many features that stand out and make it a compelling machine.  The capacity of between 1,400 and 1,500 books is an amazingly large amount to take with you wherever you go.  If the Kindle was solely a book reader it would not be as compelling and soar in our imaginations as the machine that enables one to be in touch with not just books but blogs, magazines, newspapers and personal docs.  This machine makes subscriptions—newspapers, blogs and magazines a joy.  There are, at this time, fewer magazines than one might expect but there is the innate knowledge that many more are coming.  I love my New Yorker magazines, however, in analog form, they pile up quickly and while one isn’t heavy imagine 2-3 to carry with you hoping you might finish one on any given day which may or may not happen.  And yes at 2-3 they get heavy especially if you are carrying other things.  I still get the wondrous New Yorker cartoons and they look good in their Kindle form.  I am testing out several newspapers to see where I will land for my subscription base.  So far I have subscribed to Corriere della Serra, New York Times, and International World Herald—what I like best about my Kindle subscriptions are there are no ads.  I am enjoying this for as long as I can because I feel that at some point ads will creep into the Kindle subscription versions.

Being a city dweller and rider of public transport this is where the Kindle makes a lot of sense.  I have been on countless sardine rides where holding up a paper is futile—the train is so crowded that unfurling a paper to advance one page is not possible.  So I ended up staring at the same page for several stops.  Also jet travel and reading is finally a pleasure.  I have traveled on endless flights where I took 2 books—wasn’t sure what I really wanted to read or I thought I could make some progress on both by reading a bit of each.  But what ended up happening was I was pining for a variety and a non-heavy book.  I thought I could pack more but it turns out that I always packed too much and my papers, books and magazines made for an enormous messenger bag.  For the first time was satiated on a recent trip with respect to the written word.  I had no need for my once obligatory airport newsstand purchase.

The machine itself is well designed and it is simple to use out of the package.  The keyboard is small but it flows easy for input for your note taking needs.  I have read that there are some complaints about clarity of text but I do not concur.  A big win is take your Kindle outside in the bright sunlight and you will be able to see your screen—take a computer or mobile phone and you will be barely able to read or view your screen.  Adjusting text size is simple and gives a quick response; page turns are also a quick responder.  One of the most appealing things is the small but not too small display—6” diagonal—it’s not just the physical size but the focus of text on the screen that has allowed me to read faster—I am a fast reader to begin with but know I do like that my eye is not wondering to a nearby ad or another article.  The advance to the next article or previous is simple and intuitive-the 5-way controller button is a major navigational feature and truly the only way to get around.  There is no touch screen component—I found myself touching the screen—it’s was due to all of my Apple training that prepares you to touch screens thinking that will do something.  But the ease-of-use of the 5-way controller is easy-to-use and you get use to it.  There are few buttons beyond the alpha keyboard which has a “SYM” button.  Entering notes is simple and straight forward and highlighting text is super simple as well.  I like that I never forget where I left off and no book marks to fall out.  I do wish there was a change in font as it relates to the original source.  But this is not a deal breaker it is far from it.  I do wish that PDFs all downloaded the same way and to a certain extent they do but if you look at the diagrams, drawings or photos they do not always make it.  You can download from your computer to your Kindle (thus far I have not been successful in doing that) or you can send to your Kindle via email (.10¢ per item).  I do like the capability of sending things I have written and journal articles that I like to read as well.  I do find myself reading more because I can now access a richer assortment at anytime and I like all of the possibilities at my fingers tips and via Whispernet I can have my downloaded books quickly – 60 seconds or less.

You do have access to the web but it is a very limited browser so you may or may not be able to launch a particular site.  I do find launching Wikipedia a straightforward and easy process.  Web browsing, MP3s and Text-to-Speech are experimental.  I do think the evolution of the Kindle will be dependent on having full web capabilities and an ability to at least quickly share clippings for what you are reading and perhaps to make simple updates to documents you have authored.

I do think the Kindle is here to stay and that there are only so few computers / devices that we can reduce for logical reasons.  I do not want to read a book, magazine or a paper on my phone; my phone and no matter how advanced batteries will be able to support constant use of these devices without recharging.  The Kindle is a newcomer and will be more than just a footnote in a historical citation but will perhaps be known for a device that revolutions not what we read but how we read our chosen content.  For the environment, our hyper-mobile society and are adjustment in this technological society nearly demand portability and a sensibility of access.  The future Kindles will obviously be more advanced than the Kindle2 today—who knows what they will be like in future releases.  I do think that prices will come down and it will be quite common in a few short years that many people will talk about these devices as if there were as common as a mobile phone or computer.  Regardless, I am happy with my Kindle2 and would not return it for any reason.  My back thanks me as well and the richness with my new found access have garnered and gather a re-curiosity of the written word.  Happy Kindle(ing)!
© 2009 James Meléndez / Jaime Patricio Meléndez

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