I did not expect to be thrilled when I received an Amazon Kindle 2 for a trial. I’m 81 and have been a print reader all my life. I thought e-book reading would be different, possibly difficult. Instead, I found little to no difference between the printed and Kindle versions. I sat in my favorite reading chair to use the Kindle; absolutely no mental adjustment necessary. Will I immediately or even soon give up my books, periodicals, and newspapers? I must say, I’m seriously thinking about it.
I use the computer, Internet, and cell phone; however, I’m not an expert.
I found the Kindle to be a wafer-thin, wireless, electronic device with a screen measuring about 3 ½ by 4 ¾ inches, smaller than the average book by about one-third.
After reading the brief, printed instruction booklet, I began fiddling with the controls. In 30 minutes, I was searching “Shop in Kindle Store” for a book I had started reading in its printed version: I thought comparing the two would be a good test. That didn’t work, however, because Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago was not among the 275,000 books available on the Kindle.
Then I noticed Philip Gulley’s The Christmas Scrapbook displayed on the Kindle informational screen. Getting the hang of moving the five-way controller button, I hit “buy” at $7.96, a savings of $4.99 from the bookstore price.
After downloading The Christmas Scrapbook, however, it wouldn’t open. I telephoned Amazon’s support line. A person there worked with me. In less than 30 seconds, Chapter One popped up on the screen.
Reading on the Kindle
Turning a page is as simple as pressing the “next page” button. I found reading on the device practically the same as reading a printed book. I checked among the six different available print sizes, but was quite pleased with the factory’s preset size of 10-point type. The Kindle offers six type sizes, the largest being 20-point, which has 12 lines to a page rather than the 20 lines on the preset size.
After reading six chapters—65 percent of the book according to the statistic on the screen—I turned off the Kindle to determine if it would return the next day where I stopped—something I could do with a book. The next morning, turning on the machine immediately brought up the page from the night before. That was a plus.
I next tried a newspaper, The New York Times. I accessed it easily and went to sports where I found the top 19 stories, but no baseball box scores. That’s a minus.
Next I tried periodicals, in this case, The New Yorker magazine. I bought the current issue to compare against the one I had received in the mail. At first, I thought the Kindle version might not display all of The New Yorker’s material, including fiction and cartoons, but I was wrong. They followed last on the screen after the articles.
Then I tried my hand at “Add a Note or Highlight.” It took three attempts, mostly because of my awkwardness scrolling copy. Finally it worked. Another feature allowed me to put material in “My Clippings” file, which I could, if desired, transfer to my computer.
I also tried “Start Text to Speech,” which reads the text aloud—in either a man’s or woman’s voice, regular (default), slow, or fast. It’s one of numerous Kindle features that my print books won’t do. And the Kindle plays music, too, either through two speakers or a provided headset.
In my case, as with my computer and cell phone, all I usually require are basic functions. But when needed, the Kindle’s versatility is a huge plus.
I charged the Kindle after receiving it in the mail. At the end of the week and after extensive use, the battery indicator showed about one-third of the charge remaining.
My Kindle conclusions: If I were on an airplane, it actually would be easier to read on a Kindle—no double page in a book to contend with, rather a single screen. The Kindle’s features go beyond what any book can do, providing an Internet connection at your finger tips, while you’re reading.
Dr. Earl Conn is retired dean of the College of Communication, Information, and Media at Ball State University.