Monday, 14 May 2012

Reading Revolution

So, as I posted earlier in the week, I decided to treat myself to an eReader. I’d considered the various different ones on the market and eventually settled on the Kindle (in part because that was what several people at work had received for Christmas and so I’d seen more Kindles than any other eReader).

I was all set to go for the original one but Mr. Click pointed out that I wouldn’t be paying that much more for the Touch version and it would give me rather more space for reading material. And who was I to argue? I also treated myself to the mains adaptor for it and also to a cheap and cheerful protective book-style case.

I didn’t go for the extra postage fee for quick delivery because I’ve learnt in the past that this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to get to you any quicker. And I suspect I was right there, having ordered it on a Sunday night, the day before a Bank Holiday Monday, I was told it would get to me on the following Saturday. Instead it showed up on the Thursday.

I have to say that I was very impressed with the packaging. It’s all very environmentally friendly. I was a little confused by the massive Amazon style cardboard package it came in, like an oversized DVD packet. But inside was a neat little box which you tore open and there it was nestled inside. Even the polystyrene insert appears to have been recycled. The cable held together by a strip of cardboard, and a couple of little sheets about the set-up and warranty tucked neatly away too.

It came to life as soon as I took it out the box, recommending that I connect it to my computer via the USB. I fiddled with it and discovered the power button on the bottom; in true modern gadget style it doesn’t actually come with any instructions beyond telling you to attach it to the nearest PC with the appropriate cable. It started up wonderfully and immediately brought up the User Guide.

I skimmed through that and very quickly got a feel for it. Having had an iPhone in the past, it’s very easy to get an idea of how to work it. The button on the bottom is the ‘Home’ button, taking you back to main screen where all of your books are listed. To go back or forward you swipe your finger across the screen, alternatively to go back you tap the left edge of the screen. Clicking at the very top of the screen opens your options giving you a menu, search options as well as various other features depending on what it is you’re looking at. I also discovered, quite by accident, that you can adjust the font size by making a ‘pinching’ motion with your thumb and forefinger, just as you would zoom in and out on an iPhone/iPad.

Not having internet access at home, I wasn’t able to register it immediately. So I also couldn’t download any books as I didn’t have any eBooks saved onto my computer. I did however connect it to the computer and transfer my OU course books, assignment guide and EMA guide in PDF format onto it. It seemed far too easy, plug it in, let it install, click and drag the files into the folder on the Kindle. No special software required at all.

I was a little bit surprised at the lack of specific software, I’d been at least expecting something with the user guide actually on the computer rather than just on the device itself. But I suppose that they expect you to have access to the internet where presumably there is a whole lot more information. It’s something I can live with, it’s such a simple thing to use anyway, and the search function is great. When I wanted to check how to transfer PDF documents, I just opened up the guide, ran a search for ‘PDF’ and there it was.

I’ve not had much of a chance to explore it properly yet, but it certainly seems easy on the eyes. Having seriously strained my eyes reading A Christmas Carol on my DS screen, as well as giving myself headaches lying in the dark playing with an iPhone, already I feel like this is gentler for me. I’m looking forward to trying it out over a longer period of time to see how it compares, but I’m already thinking this’ll be so much better for me.

As of Saturday I started reading Dracula on it, which I got as a free download from Amazon; they have loads of ‘classics’ available for free download. I’ve found the dictionary function really invaluable, I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I go back to reading a paperback after this and I can’t just press on a word to bring up a dictionary definition, hehe. You can also highlight blocks of text (which is very useful for my book journal quotes, I just highlight any passages that catch my eye and then when I’m ready to copy them in, I just flick through all the highlighted bits and pick the one I like best).

It’s not backlit, which makes it very easy on my eyes. When I was reading with the lamp off, I just had to grab my little book torch and kept going. Having a backlight on it would definitely not help with my eyestrain.

There’s also an amusing little feature which you can turn on with certain books, you can have the book read to you with the ‘text-to-speech’ feature. Reading Dracula I deliberately picked a page with a man speaking in a North Yorkshire dialect, it did a surprisingly good job of it… even if it did sound rather like Stephen Hawking was reading to me!

Right now I’m planning on alternating between reading one book from whichever shelf I’m on and one book on my Kindle. So far I’ve not actually bought any books, all of the ones I’ve downloaded have been free (I have no idea how many I actually got in the end, but there were so many that I had to learn how to set up ‘Collections’ to stop my Home Page from getting too cluttered). Several of the books I’ve downloaded I actually already have in hard copy. Dracula takes the form of a lovely red book which has a slightly battered dustjacket from the last time I read it and which just isn’t practical to carry around; likewise Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland which I’ve had for years as part of a Complete Collection of Lewis Carroll with beautiful illustrations but which I can’t fit in a bag to actually read it outside of the house.

I’m really enjoying using it and any doubts I had about it are being quickly dispelled, but I’m glad that I didn’t rush in to buying one and that I took my time to figure out exactly which one would suit me best.

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