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Home » Random

How I re-discovered my love of books

Today we have a guest post by UK based web developer Pete Wiles, a self confessed technology nut who works freelance helping helping people get the best out of their websites and blogs. Pete has recently bitten the bullet and bought himself Amazon’s latest generation Kindle (UK) Kindle (US). Here he shares his impressions of the Kindle. If you want to see what the new Kindle looks like, check Kevin Rose’ of Digg.com fame’s video demo.

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Over to you Pete:

A £100 candle? No, a Kindle – I’ve bought a Kindle! For those of you who haven’t come across it, the Kindle is Amazon’s e-book reader. Quite simply it performs the same function for books that the Ipod does for music. A simple enough purchase I thought, but nothing I’ve ever bought has seemed to polarise opinion in the same way since the days of the PC vs Apple debate. From reactions I’ve had, the love of musty paper and dust jackets seems to run deep in peoples veins and so I thought I would set down the reasons that I finally hit the Amazon buy button.

Why would we want electronic books ?

Well, to me there are some really useful things to be gained from having books electronically. Who would go back to CDs now that we’ve all tasted the convenience of I-Tunes ? The prospect of reducing overflowing bookshelves into a tiny space is an obvious benefit, but what about the times you can’t quite remember which cookbook contained that cracking dessert that you had last Christmas. Or that elusive quote that you thought would be great for your best friend’s wedding, but cant quite remember where you saw it ? The benefits of electronic search really come into their own here.

As a freelance web developer, this is a key one for me. The web runs on a vast range of different technologies (“The wonderful thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from” Grace Hopper famously observed), which means that I have an equally vast range of reference materials. Being able to search for code fragments or specific tips efficiently amongst all this information can make huge differences to personal productivity. Having access to it all when out and about, especially when most reference books run to 500 pages or more, would be untenable without it being in electronic format.

But even if novels are your thing, how about being able to preview a book without making a trip to Waterstones, getting the books you want downloaded instantly or having access to free books (Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page has over 33,000 online). I must admit I was beginning to see the possibilities here.

But why buy a Kindle ?

In terms of street cool, the Kindle is no Iphone or Ipad that’s for sure. In fact quite the reverse ; the screen is black and white and not touch-sensitive, it has no accelerometer or GPS, doesn’t run apps, the web browser is a slightly flaky beta release. And as for composing a presentation, accessing your email, calendar or contacts – well you can forget that.

To top it all, the Kindle reader software can now be downloaded for free on Mac, PC and most smartphones ! So why on earth would anyone be mad enough to buy one ?

Personally I like that it does what it is designed for – no more no less. For me the main barrier to reading electronically has always been comfort. Reference manual lookups in the office chair are one thing, but if I want to read for pleasure I like to do it somewhere more comfortable and the laptop just won’t do. A quick look around the market at the number of laptop trays/tables/coolers on the market makes me suspect that I’m not the only person to find that whoever coined the term ‘laptop’ obviously hadn’t actually used it there ! Find a laptop screen tiring to read from ? So do I. Ever thought you would use this great new wireless technology to work in the garden on a nice sunny day ? Not great is it.

This is where the Kindle really scores. The screen uses an ‘e-ink’ technology which I guess can best be thought of as ‘photocopying’ the image onto the screen. Once a page has been displayed, the screen no longer needs power to hold the image there. This means that the battery life can be measured in days rather than hours and it never feels hot to the touch. Plus,the technology means that it can be read in sunlight. The fact that it is light and a good size to hold with one hand makes it easy to read from for long periods. OK, it’s not colour (which would have been nice), but I guess that will come in time. It all combines to make a device which is makes the reading experience quite similar to a small paperback. Easier, in fact, as you don’t have to hold the pages open.

So have I now got a full e-library of books sitting on the Kindle ? To be honest, not yet as the investment required to re-purchase all my books in Kindle format would be too great. I’ve no doubt that it will come over time though, and my books will follow my CDs and DVDs onto an unbelievably small USB drive.

What I didn’t expect though is that I have rediscovered reading purely for the joy of it. Yes, you are going to have to pay for the latest blockbuster, but equally there is some great stuff available for free. I’ve just revisited my childhood by reading ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ (for free!). Worth the money ? Every penny !!

To find out how Pete can help your business visit his webite at www.pmsolutions.co.uk

Real books or Kindle, tell us what you thimk in the comments below.