I was a Kindle lover before. As a majority world missionary, it gives me access to books that I otherwise have to pay dearly to ship and wait weeks to receive. Additionally, the price break is usually great, and the digital paper technology is phenomenal–I love reading on the thing. But I was a brain candy-only Kindle user. On one hand, as a bibliophile, I still register principled aegis for the printing of hard copies. After all, “Monasterium sine libris. . . .”On the other hand, my Kindle 1.0 didn’t satisfy when digesting academic works. I make far too many marks and margin notes to enjoy stopping and clicking and scrolling and clicking (not to mention the worthlessness of that inane 1.0 scroll/button system; what were they thinking?). I already hate endnotes: all notes should be footnotes; if they’re helpful then don’t make me work so hard to get to them. EReaders of necessity use a note linking system, and again, it was really clunky in the first Kindle model. Also, I’m a tactile learner, so I tend to find a specific citation or a margin note based upon whether it was on the left or right page and where it was on the page. For a book you want to read straight through without thinking and without the hassle of holding open the pages, Kindle rocked. Otherwise, it was order, pay, and wait.That all changed when I caught up to the technology. The real problem with Kindle 1.0 in Peru was that I couldn’t hit Whispernet. So, I did all my shopping on the laptop and uploaded via USB–no problem, but I was oblivious to the other benefit of connecting to Amazon.com. Recently, I put the Kindle app on my iPhone for reading while out waiting in lines (make the most of every opportunity, for the days [and the lines] are evil). I was very pleased with the app. It is highly readable, and the highlight interface was better than my Kindle. I was done carrying books around the city; I had a whole library in my pocket. Rad. What is more, I realized it was syncing my notes and highlights to my Amazon.com account. No fee, just free data hosting. There was also a page syncing feature for readers with multiple devices. This would have been handy indeed had my 1.0 actually hit a network.I wanted to see these features in action, though, so I downloaded the Kindle computer app. Sure enough, a change on one device immediately appeared on another. And, it turned out, the interface on the computer screen is even more convenient. The full text of a book is easily searchable, notes and marks are complied in an easy reference bar on the side of the screen, and you can copy and paste from the reader into your word processor. This is what technology is supposed to do!
Suddenly, I found my 1.0 broken. The latest version, to my great joy, comes with a Wi-Fi connection, meaning that while I still can’t hit Whispernet, it does still connect to Amazon.com through my wireless router. I am now fully functional.
In the course of these discoveries, I was working on the latest edition of Missio Dei, which required that I read some academic books on Kindle that I simply couldn’t wait for. With the convergence of my three devices, I became extremely satisfied with a fully digital reading experience. I found it to be actually easier and faster to work with the computer app when reviewing notes and marks, looking for that passage that I needed to reference, and quoting. Neither the iPhone nor the laptop are easy on the eyes for the volume of reading I do, but that is what the digital paper is for. I read and mark in the Kindle and then open up the computer, which is where I’m word processing anyway, and make use of the synced info. If I’m out with just the iPhone, I can still make progress on my reading. It’s a beautiful thing.
I still love books. I love the smell and texture of books. I love walking into a bookstore (long live brick and mortar!). I love the experience of leafing through a book. Libraries are places of wonder, the icon of humankind’s greatest feat, the codification and compilation of language as wisdom and art. Yet, digitalization is the extension of that venerable tradition, not the harbinger of its demise. And convenience, I have to admit, is something else I really like.