Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Changing My Position: Review of an E-Reader

Recently, it was my good fortune to become the owner of an e-reader, specifically the Kindle Touch 3G.  Previously, I had pooh-poohed these devices, stating that bound paper was the only reading format for me. Who would want to spend any more time than necessary staring at a screen? Certainly, not I.  Still, I was thrilled to receive the Kindle because it finally occurred to me that 1) this device would augment my bound books--not replace them and 2) it is more book-like than computer-like.

The e-reader's chief advantage is convenience: I don't have to leave my house to find something new to read.  Let me repeat--I can remain horizontal, indeed, practically paralyzed, and access umpteen books. My hot little hand can hold an entire library.  Granted, ninety-nine percent of amazon.com books cost $$$ (as opposed to the free public library); however, I've found that there are some free Kindle books worth downloading:
  •  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer  (and many, many more classics!)
  • 5-Minute Recipes
  • The Book of Tea
  • Dishes & Beverages of the Old South
  • History of the Donner Party
  • How to be Sexy
  • A Little Bit of Everything for Dummies
  • The Woman's Bible
  • The Kama Sutra
Okay, I haven't downloaded the last title in the list, but if I want to, I can have it with a simple touch of the screen. (Well, maybe not so simple, but more on that in a moment.)  Even new releases at approximately $9.99 are a better deal than their hardback cousins.

So, I give e-readers top marks for convenience and value. But what about ease of use?  Erm, well, here's where the Kindle falters in comparison to good old paper.  The packaged device arrived with paltry written instructions because the User's Guide was already loaded onto the device. Makes sense, right?  So, I've accessed the electronic guide several times but have found it likewise paltry as an information source.  Typing "delete books" in the search field yields one or two sentences on archiving rather than deleting them. From what I can gather, on some Kindles, you can't actually delete anything. Downloads are archived in perpetuity. (Hence, my concern about the Kama. I need to be able to digest it and ditch it, don't I?)

Second, the touch mechanism to turn pages isn't as easy to execute as the old fashioned thumb to forefinger method.  Maybe sometimes I touch too hard or too softly because the Kindle will jump ahead more than one page or won't budge at all.  And, when I "dogear" pages on the Kindle (a feature I dearly love), sometimes the device thinks I want to do a search or change the font. I'm not sure how I could do anything differently in touching the top right hand corner of the screen. My move seems straightforward to me, but the e-reader often has other ideas.  Furthermore, if I close the cover after dogearing a page, sometimes the dear Kindle has lost my place entirely. (I think my adorable hot pink cover's touch is making it race ahead.)

Still, the e-reader's positives far outweigh the negatives. (Library in my purse!)  And I'm slowly adjusting to the subtleties of touch needed to navigate its narratives.  Perhaps, unlike bound analog material, the e-reader is just waiting for the reader to perfect her digits' digital sense.  After all, according to The Kama Sutra, practice should lead to the perfect touch. (Or so I've heard.)