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21st Century Digital Boy

June 4, 2013

Recently I decided to drag myself kicking and screaming into the 21st century.  I came to the conclusion I could no longer fight the inexorable march of progress and it was about time I renounced my Luddite ways  and joined everyone else in the wonderful digital paradise  of the future. Yep, I finally bought one of them there Kindle things.

Because I’m something of a tightwad who’s only interested in the E reader side of things I got myself a bog-standard model rather than a fancy-dan Kindle Fire or similar.  I also thought this would be a good idea as it’d be easier to use, an important consideration for a techno-phobic chump like myself. Well, two weeks or so later and I think I’m just about starting to get the hang of it. It actually took me about an hour to work out how to make it turn pages, if you can believe it. After all those buttons on the side are pretty small and well hidden.  One of the main problems I encountered with it was that there wasn’t any instructions in the box, rather they came as a file on the Kindle itself.  Which is not entirely useful when one can’t figure out how to turn the bloody screen saver off, never mind how to access a document on the sodding thing.

Anyway, once I’d got my head round the basics I poked Amazon until it made some books magically appear on my device and got down to some reading.  The first book I sampled in the Format of Tomorrow was Doc Savage : Skull Island  by a Mr Will Murray, a crossover tale recounting how one of  the legendary crime fighters of the pulp era came face to face with monster movie icon King Kong. This sort of small-print indie novel was exactly the kind of thing that made me interested in the Kindle format. To order this book in paper format from the U.S. would have cost me the fat end of £15, somewhat more than I’m willing to spend of a slice of light-hearted pulp adventure. The electronic version however is only a couple of quid and so I paid my money and gave it a read.

This one way to get that bloody screensaver to turn off...

This is not the best way to get that bloody screen saver to turn off, but it’s the most satisfying

I intend to do a full review of the book at some point, but in the meantime I’ll just say I spent a couple of pleasant lunch hours in the office canteen as the Man of Bronze came face to face with the Eighth Wonder of the World (and a load of dinosaurs). Add in a bunch of Indonesian head-hunters, some of Doc’s immediate family and a highly implausible giant octopus attack and you’ve got an amusing little yarn that’s pretty well suited to my tastes.  Once I finished it I gave a little consideration to the how the whole Kindle experience had differed from reading a traditional book fashioned from good old dead trees and ink, and came up with the following pros and cons.

The Pros 

1)  As well as the Doc Savage book I’d managed to fill the Kindle with about twenty other books that I’d got dirt cheap or free from Amazon.  This meant if I fancied something different to my current book I had a wide range of options without having to carry a sackful of novels around with me.

2) Ordering a book from Amazon and having it in front of me and ready to read in seconds was pretty damn impressive to a computer-illiterate semi-caveman such as myself.  The ability to send PDFs to it and have them available to view in next to no time is pretty clever too.

3) As I already mentioned the Kindle opens the door to a wide range of independent and self-published books, such as those aspiring authors who give samples away on sites like Goodreads. Electronic publishing has opened the door for so many people to put their work out there and the Kindle is my way of sampling said work. Of course it’ll only take a few bad choices to expose me to some of the god-awful, indulgent  self published junk that’s no doubt swilling around out there before I change my mind and class this as a con.

4) This one might seem like a trifle but I thought it was an excellent little feature – a Kindle, unlike a paperback, rather handily lies flat when not held. If one lets go of it for a second it doesn’t flip closed causing my to lose my place, which often prompts a wee bit of cursing. As I mentioned beforehand I frequently read on my lunch break, and this handy little feature means I can lie the Kindle flat on the table leaving both hands free to attend to my dinner. Some people may find my eating and reading to be somewhat bad manners, but I’ll take reading time where ever I can find it.

The Cons

1) I like books. I like books as a physical thing, with nice cover art. I like bookshelves full of books, with all their spines of different colours and sizes lined up in whatever random organisational system I’m opted to use at the time.  I don’t like the fact that because these books are there on the Kindle they won’t be sitting on some bookshelf  gathering dust and looking all brilliant.  Of course, my wife might argue that this is in fact a Pro rather than a Con given I’ve got far more books than I have shelves, and there are far too many books hidden under tables or in cupboards and so on in our house.  Maybe I’m due another charity shop run to thin them out a bit.

2) Maybe it’s because I’m just not used to it yet, or maybe it’s related to a lack of physical product as referred to in point 1), but the reading of a book in the Kindle format lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. I can’t quite put my finger about it but it did seem to be lacking something. It’s almost as if it was all a bit sterile. Hopefully this is something I’ll be able to come in time.

3) And the number one, biggest con? I find myself constantly terrified that I shall fumble the Kindle with my clumsy, sausage-like fingers and be forced to watch helplessly as it tumbles in some kind of cruel slow motion to the hard concrete floor,  under the wheels of a passing bus or into the toilet or similar.  Dropping a paperback rarely damages it that much. Even if I do manage to drop one into a river or inconvenient  fire, it’s only six quid at worst wasted – not a £75 bundle of delicate electronics.  I appreciate this might not be a concern for those less cack-handed than myself, but I’ve broken enough mobile phones in my time for it to be a very real worry.

Of course I shall persevere with the Kindle – after all, I’ve spent all that money on it now so I’d use it even if I didn’t like it. But I don’t think it’s going to entirely replace good old-fashioned paper books for me quite yet.  But as a means for getting hold of out of print stuff or the indie stuff it’ll be an excellent little tool for expanding my reading options. And should I ever get the chance to go on holiday at some point it will be easier to take along than a couple of novels. I’m not sure this means I’ve totally caught up the wondrous possibilities of technology… I’m still struggling to get to grips with things that people tell me are pretty simple, such as Dropbox, Skype and my new Outlook E-Mail account. And this Windows 8 monstrosity could be written entirely in Ancient Greek and I wouldn’t find it any more baffling than I do already. But I’d like to think I’m slowly getting there, one gizmo at a time.

Now, I need to face another one of my as yet unconquered technological demons and try to sort out my daughters iPod. I may have struggled getting the Kindle working out but that’s nothing compared to some of the epic, swearing-filled wars I’ve had with my Arch-Nemesis, the dark and malevolent entity that goes by the name of iTunes… and now the time has come to lock horns with that fiend once again.

Let battle commence.


From → Musings

  1. Love it! Welcome to the future!

  2. I got a Kindle for Christmas, only because some Thomas Ligotti books were out of print and I could only get the Kindle version. I must say, it took me a bit of time to warm up to it, but now I like it a lot. Another pro: When my wife goes to sleep, don’t need a light on to read, no shadowed words, no complaints that the light is too bright from the wife 🙂

  3. I was actually too cheap to even buy the version with the internal light… at least I think I was. I might find out that it has got the light when I accidentally turn it on in a few months time.

    Hopefully the Kindle will grow on me the same way it did for you. I’ve not heard of Thomas Ligotti before to be honest, I might have to look him up.

  4. I couldn’t understand the appeal of the Kindle until my husband bought one. I couldn’t imagine not actually having the pages in my hands, being able to flip forward to see how many pages I had left in a chapter, or being able to judge how much of a book I had left just by comparing the number of pages on the left with the number on the right. And worse, I couldn’t imagine not being able to put an actual copy of a book I love up on a shelf like a trophy after I conquered it.

    Now, I have no idea how I lived without a Kindle for so many years. No trips to the bookstore, just click a button and BAM new book. It’s almost dangerous how easy it is… at least to my bank account.

    • The not knowing at a glance how long it is till the end of the book or chapter is something else I noticed as being a bit of a pain recently. And like you say, the BAM new book feature is a bit too tempting at times. Still, I’m getting more and more used to it all the time, and it proved invaluable during a recent long train journey – having a wide range of books to pick from without having to lug a big bag full of them around was great.

  5. Well, for a first foray into E-books you chose a fun author and a decent sample of his style. Good stuff~

    I still find I enjoy the experience of reading a book in print, but the reasons for doing so dwindle steadily the longer I use the Kindle App and other PDF readers.

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