Thursday, August 18, 2011

Technology-Enhanced Summer Reading

This summer I have pushed myself to read more books. I became fascinated with Amazon's Kindle a few months back and convinced myself that owning a Kindle would make me a better and more regular reader.

Instead of impulse-purchasing a Kindle, I borrowed three books from Robyn and told myself I could buy a Kindle if I could finish all three books (they were A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Road, and The Lovely Bones - all great reads!).

While I was reading those books I discovered GoodReads, a social networking site for readers. I signed up for it immediately because the idea of tracking my reading satisfies my nerdy quest to log certain activities in the way that last.fm logs the music I listen to.

On Goodreads, you can track the date you start and finish each book, and write reviews and assign 5-star ratings to each title. Each author and book has its own GoodReads page (similar to last.fm's artist, song, and album pages) which are good places to discover previously-unheard of material from familar authors. Although I am not a daily user (I wish I could read so much!), if you've got a membership, add me as a friend.

After reading Robyn's books I placed the order for the Kindle. In a word, this device is impressive. The text on the screen looks just like printed words on paper - there is no glow of an LCD screen or pixelation if you look closely. The device is thin and lightweight and it took less than one chapter of one book to feel one hundred percent comfortable using it.
It's about as thin as a pack of gum.

My pal Derek has a great post on tweaking your Kindle to get it working just the way you want it. I have to say though, you don't really need to tinker with it; it works great right out of the box.

Close-up of the display. 

I saw an interview with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Charlie Rose a while back and Charie asked about competition from other "tablet" makers like Apple and Google (iPad and Android tablets). Bezos immediately responded that they are not competing with iPads - for two reasons. For one, the Kindle is a purpose-built device for people who love reading. It happens to do a few other things, but it's a reading machine. The other reason is that Kindle is not just Amazon's physical reading device, it's a digital store that distributes books through a program/app that can be installed on just about any computer, iPad/iPod/iPhone, tablet, Android, BlackBerry, you name it.

Anyway, I am tagging this post "products that are awesome" because both GoodReads and the Amazon Kindle are really fantastic and have both encouraged me to read more! I think everyone who I've talked to who owns a Kindle is happy with it.