My thoughts on the Kindle (and E-Book readers)

I absolutely love the convenience of the Kindle. I read Sex at Dawn on my Kindle. In fact, I was able to pre-purchase it so that I’d be able to read it the first day it was released. I also read Outliers,Click, and countless other books on it. With the addition of native PDF reading, I also loaded up a bunch of those as well.

As a “serial reading” device – I made that up – eBook readers are wonderful. If you’re the type to read a book from cover to cover, without stopping in between, without going back to this page or that page, then eBook readers are wonderfully convenient devices. The problem though is when you want to refer back to them.

I have a visual memory. When I read, and something sort of jumps out at me, and I want to recall it later, I have this vague memory of where in the book it was. I sort of remember about how far into the book it was and where on the page it was (i.e. middle of the right page, second paragraph). With eBook readers, recalling a spot in the book in this visual fashion is pretty tough. For one, there’s no sense of progress: the visual percentage meter doesn’t really help unless you’re always checking it. Then there’s the fact that pages are potentially laid out differently: the start and end of a page depends on the “location”. After all this time that I’ve owned a Kindle, I still don’t really know what that location number means (I should just go look it up).Anyway, I was entranced at the idea of reading eBooks for free at Barnes & Noble with a Nook. Prices have dropped to very reasonable levels, and the devices have gotten better since the first Kindle 2 I purchased (and still use). But then I realized that my main issue with eBook reading devices is the slow page refresh time. For browsing and virtual flipping of pages, you definitely need to have near instant refreshing. I imagine that one day, we’ll have a perfect E-Ink screen that refreshes instantaneously. Flipping through a book is as easy as dragging your finger across a touch screen scroll bar at the bottom.Now, one might point out the fact that I can simply use the built-in search function. The only thing wrong with that is that I may not necessarily remember the exact word or words I’m looking for. Searching requires specificity, where my visual memory relies on context. I can browse printed books quickly and easily, something I can’t do on any eBook reader that exists today.

So, for now, since I’ve already got a Kindle 2, I think I’ll hold out on buying any new eBook readers until they’re designed to be easily browsable. It’s not so bad reading the latest pop psychology or pop anthropology book from start to finish on my slow-to-refresh Kindle screen.

  • Interesting. I don't have an e-reader, but was considering getting one. I saw that somebody complained on Amazon that there was no live linking between the endnote indicators and the notes themselves in Sex at Dawn. Is that so? If so, how common is that? I can't imagine you have to page all the way to the end of the document every time you want to read an endnote and then page all the way back to where you were. That makes it highly inconvenient for any sort of scientific book—pop or not.

    • Hey, glad to have your comments!

      Unfortunately, the linking doesn't work. For me, I don't usually look at end notes that much (I think it detracts from the reading experience) but it certainly ought to be in there and working. I suppose it's an issue with whoever did the publishing work for your eBook version. I don't remember it being much of an issue. I just checked Click on my Kindle and it has working links. I'd definitely let the publisher know that they messed up.