Tag Archives: Kindle

Bookstores, yeah, but…

Congested bookshop

I have always loved bookstores. How it feels to be among hundreds, if not thousands or millions (as in very big stores) of books arranged inside various stacks, waiting to be picked. There is a magical dimness and smell between the racks that can only be felt by the real lover of books. When I was in college I used to spend a major chunk of my time in the library, although during those days the only books I used contained mathematical problems. Now that I think of it, it’s a pity that I never really, actually, used my college library to enhance my literary reading. But then, now that I think of it, I wouldn’t have been able to access literature books because they were on the first and second floors and the only way up was the stairwell which I couldn’t use.

This is a major problem for me when it comes to wandering around books in a bookstore or library. In my college days I used to walk with my crutches and it was still possible to squeeze through the confined spaces between racks and almirahs, in the library, but when it came to visiting bookstores, even then it was a problem because there is normally very little space between facing racks and normally there are books spread across the floor. Now that I am on power wheelchair, sometimes it becomes difficult even to enter a bookstore, forget about going through the books.

This is a reason why, contrary to what is suggested in this article, I prefer to buy all my books from either Amazon.com (when I’m buying Kindle books) or Flipkart (when I’m buying paperbacks and hardcovers) because all you have to do is use the search box, find the book that you want, add it to the cart, use your credit card to pay, and there you have it. When it comes to Kindle books, you can start reading your book, literally, within a couple of minutes. This is not possible if you go to a physical bookstore.

Not being able to visit a bookstore does not mean I’m totally against the concept of having bookstores, although it is more emotional and less practical considering how many trees we might be saving by opting for digital books rather than paper books. Even the space. So much space is taken by physical libraries. Instead, all the digital versions of the books can be stored in a publicly accessible server. Great libraries have been destroyed by invading armies because it was so easy to burn them down; had they been digitised their various copies would have been available all over the world. Right now, given the technological constraints, I know this is not possible for everyone to access digital books just the way people can access physical books, but if it can be done, it should be done. There are many books for which there is no other option than reading the physical books because our handheld devices are not as flexible as normal books. For instance, books containing lots of maps and images are normally rendered useless in a typical Kindle reader. They may look good in an iPad or a larger tablet, but I haven’t had first-hand experience in that. It’s no fun going through something like an Atlas on a PC, although it is more interactive and easier to use.

Another aspect is, reading a book doesn’t just entail absorbing its contents, it’s a complete experience. Your environment, your physical position, you’re bent of mind at that time, they all become a part of your reading experience. Even purchasing a book in itself is a different experience when you do it through a conventional bookstore. So many people at the same time are browsing various titles and their common intention is to find the book of their desire, whether they want to gift it or read it. This common feeling certainly has a bearing over the atmosphere of the bookstore.

I’m pretty sure, although I haven’t tabulated my experiences, the way I read a paper book must be quite different from the way I read a Kindle book. Again, personally for me reading a Kindle book is easier compared to reading a paperback or hardcover because I can easily place my device in front of me without having to hold it, which is absolutely the case with a normal book. Perhaps this is the reason why I’m reading more books these days compared to the days when I neither had a tablet nor a Kindle reader.

When it is not advisable to use something like Kindle reader

A Kindle reader is certainly not an all-solution reading device at least in its current avatar. I don’t mean to say that there should be social features or there should be multimedia or other such fancy features. But if you want to recommend a device for students as well as people for all ages, a tablet is far better than a Kindle reader.

First of all, images and graphics don’t look good in a Kindle reader. They are black-and-white first of all. And even the rendering is not as good as it is on tablet screens, especially higher end Android devices as well as the iPads.

Another problem is that if you want to make lots of notes the keyboard is not as good as the one you get with a tablet especially when these days you easily get virtual keyboards with swiping facilities (you simply drag your fingers on the keyboard instead of tapping individual alphabets or numerals). People may not realise it right now, the ability to swipe instead of tap is a very big deal especially when you do lots of typing on the screen.

Am I advising you not to use the Kindle reader or another such device? Not at all. It is definitely a great reading experience because one, you almost feel like reading off a paper and two, there are practically no distractions. The device is just for reading and nothing else and this is a big plus. For just reading text my choice will always be an e-ink reader. But if there are lots of images (for instance, a book for my daughter) or if I need to make lots of notes (for instance, one needs to make notes to review the book later), the tablet would be my first choice.

Reading books on Kindle reader or a tablet – What’s your choice?

These days I have lent my Kindle reader to my wife as she sometimes prefers to read while our daughter is playing in the park or when she’s waiting in the music school during our daughter’s class. So these days I’m reading Pompeii on my Samsung Galaxy tab. For two years I read books – including War and Peace by Tolstoy – on my tablet without encountering major problem.

They say that once you start reading books on a proper e-book reader like Kindle or Nook you totally understand why you don’t want to read books on usual tablets. I don’t have such extreme views maybe because I’m not brand or devise loyal. These days I’m reading on my tablet and I have no problem. It depends on your environment which device you prefer. I lent my Kindle (she strongly protested when I suggested that we should purchase another e-ink reader, maybe a Nook this time) to my wife so that she can read in the sun. I read in the evenings, in my well-lit room, whether I’m reading on Kindle or the tablet.

Reading under the sun’s glare can be a problem when you read from a tablet so that is ruled out with current display technology I think.

Prolonged exposure to the screen’s glare can pose a problem, but this can be countered if you sit in a properly-lit environment. For instance, avoid reading in the dark if you want to use your tablet in order to read long text. You can also go to the display settings and reduce the brightness of the screen. The Kindle software for Android (I’m sure this feature must also be available on other operating environments) allows you to reduce the brightness from within the software interface rather than reducing the brightness of the gadget itself.

There are many benefits of doing serious reading on your tablet such as more tweaking-features that are normally not available in the actual Kindle device. Compatibility with multiple file formats is a big plus – for reading in Kindle you need to convert every file to the appropriate format but since you can install multiple e-book reading applications in a tablet you can read multiple formats from multiple sources. You can use different fonts and even different page colors (a feature that is lacking in the reader). Then of course, you can see colors that you cannot see, at least at the moment, in a typical e-ink reader.

There are many benefits of reading from a dedicated e-book reader. Although it is not as near to reading a paper book but it is almost there. You can read under the sun and the Kindle reader that I have got can be backlit so you can also read in dark.

This is a problem of self-control and not the problem of the device, but when you’re reading on your tablet you have to encounter many distractions, especially when you also use your tablet as a phone like I do. You will get phone calls, you will get SMS messages, you will get Twitter and Facebook notifications and whatnot. Of course you can turn everything off but then turning everything off and on repeatedly becomes kind of a hassle so it’s best to use a dedicated device if you are a serious reader. Many people say that there is no eyestrain when you read from an e-book reader and there is lots of eyestrain when you use a tablet but then again, it is a problem of the environment and not particularly the gadget you are using.

So should you use a tablet or a dedicated e-book reader if you want to do some serious reading? I have got both and I have used my tablet for almost 2 years reading some great books, so I don’t have very strong biases. If you already have a tablet, whether it is an Android device or something like an iPad, and if it doesn’t strain your eyes, and if you read around one book in a month than your current device should do just fine. School and college books that may have lots of diagrams and images look far better on an iPad rather than on an e-ink display. People say that they can even read on their iPhones for that matter, and I do believe them. The screen resolutions of tablets and phones are improving remarkably and they can give you a great reading experience provided you are not using a cheap device which can harm your eyes irreparably if you do lots of reading.

Reading off a dedicated e-book reader like Kindle is an altogether different experience, so I won’t say don’t buy it if you’re planning to buy it. The text is as clear as reading from a printed paper and yes, there is no strain no matter what lighting condition you are reading under. The greatest advantage is you can read under the sun or in a bright environment. It is extremely light (at least the device that I have) so your wrist doesn’t hurt even with prolonged holding. There are no distractions. Various vendors are trying to introduce e-book readers with social features but I think this defeats the entire purpose and they may end up creating another version of tablets. They should keep electronic book readers as simple as possible while improving the existing experience of reading books.

When should you invest in a Kindle or a Nook or a Sony book reader? Mostly when you are planning to do lots of reading under various lighting environments, especially under the sun. You want to feel as if you’re reading an actual book devoid of all human as well as technological distractions. It’s just for reading books, and this is why I like it.

No, Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 is not a substitute e-book reader

I was quite excited when I came across this Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 advertisement

It shows a person setting Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 to “Reading mode” Which basically means that you can read books and novels on this tablet just like you would on any other e-book reader.

For a very long time I have been thinking about purchasing a dedicated e-book reading device like Kindle or the Nook reader but since I keep on purchasing books from different vendors, I don’t want to tie myself down to a single device. A good thing I like about my Android tablet is that I can install applications from multiple e-book vendors and read their books. The reading is not as much fun as it would be if I read from a reader supporting e-ink display, but my reading experience has been enhanced manyfold ever since I started reading e-books rather than paper books. Although most of my purchases are from Amazon.com, I have so far resisted buying the Kindle reader. I want something that would act both as a tablet as well as an e-book reader.

So naturally I was quite excited when I saw the above advertisement. I assumed that with a single tap, you can convert the Samsung galaxy tablet into an e-reader. Now when I talk about an e-reader, I mean a device that can be used under natural light as well as under sunlight. You cannot use conventional tablets under the sun. Suppose you want to enjoy your book in a sunny afternoon sitting in a park, you cannot do this with your conventional Android tablet.

My excitement and research led me to this video:

It properly explains to you what the “Reading mode” is. It is no big deal, and it does not turn your normal screen into an e-book reader. All it does is, automatically reduce the brightness of the screen and change the settings of your tablet so that the screen doesn’t automatically turn off after a set interval. Both these tasks can be achieved in a tablet that you might already be having.

Right now I have Samsung galaxy Tab2 and I do most of my reading on it (I say most of because these days I am also reading plenty of Hindi books and you don’t get good quality Hindi books in e-book formats). When you’re reading a book through an e-book reading app such as Kindle or Play Books the screen doesn’t shut off anyway. I have seen this. Whether you read for 10 minutes or for a couple of hours, the screen doesn’t shut off. And every e-book reader app allows you to alter the brightness of the screen. This is a misleading feature and they should properly explain it to unsuspecting customers.