Tag Archives: Reading

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.

Why reading makes you a better writer

Most successful writers advise you to read as much as possible. They are voracious writers themselves. Why does it help if you read a lot? I mean aren’t there thousands, even if not millions of readers all over the world who read maybe, 10 books in a month with no intention of ever becoming a writer? Why don’t they turn into great writers?

Reading dog

Reading improves your writing

It is very simple. Millions of people all over the world are constantly glued onto their TV screens when the football World Cup is taking place. Are they all planning to become footballers? That’s not the point. Players watch other players playing all the time. An average footballer knows about all the matches that have been played during his or her lifetime. A chess player knows every game of famous chess players. Musicians attend concerts and live music shows.

When you are actually involved in an art, experiencing the manifestation of that art in someone else isn’t just entertainment or thrill. You are constantly learning by osmosis. Even when you’re not learning, when you read other writers, the brain parts that control your writing skills are constantly stimulated.

As a writer, when you read the work of another writer, whether you realize it or not, you are constantly learning. You learn how to express various emotions. You learn to use words in the right context. You learn to explain features and environments. You learn to evoke emotions that can move people to tears. I’m not saying that these skills cannot be acquired in isolation because after all, the classical writers we admire so much didn’t have access to so much literature. Even if great quantities of literature was available, it was very difficult to actually access it. Nonetheless, they are still able to amaze their readers even after centuries. So you also have inbuilt qualities and skills and eventually these inbuilt qualities and skills make you a successful writer.

Talking about classical writers, they had something that we don’t, and this lack of the thing that they had and we don’t, can be compensated by reading. They had lots of time to think. Although every leader in every age has its own share of distractions and disturbances, the sort of distractions and disturbances that we have in the form of the Internet, social media, 24 x 7 channels and mobile technology is unprecedented. We are always in a state of disturbance. This doesn’t give us enough mental space to think about people stuff. No wonder everybody advises you to use smaller sentences and easier words. Look at the way Charles Dickens, Somerset Maugham and even PG Wodehouse wrote. Today’s generation finds it extremely hard to read them simply because it does not have the required attention span. Writers are facing the same problem.

Reading can solve this problem. When you read, you leave the world around you and enter the world of the book. You are totally immersed in the story or the topic. You’re constantly interacting with words, sentences and paragraphs. You’re focusing on a single chain of thoughts.

I’m a big fan of digital books, but if you’re using a tablet to read your books, you’re carrying around a big bag of disturbances in the form of connectivity. That is why it is better to use a dedicated e-book reader rather than an all-purpose tablet.

Although you don’t have to go to the extremes of Samuel Johnson who said, “A man will turn over half a library to make a book,” reading should be a regular part of your writing process. Knowledge gives you confidence. It helps you build your own style.

Rediscovering Hindi literature

In the past couple of years I have read five Hindi books and considering I may have read 10-15 Hindi books in my entire life, this can easily be termed as an impressive number. I am not counting the scores of pocketbooks (remember those detective novels you would get on platforms and but stands?) that I read in my early teens.

I remember we were browsing through a bookshelf in Om Book Shop in NOIDA and just like that we went to the Hindi section. We bought three books that day, all recommended by my wife. One was Karvat (turning over – literally, a change happening over a period of time) by Amritlal Nagar and two additions of Abhyudaya by Narendra Kohli. In Abhyudaya Kohli has rewritten the Ramayana epic from a human perspective – there is no magic and there are no miracles and everything that happens is humanly possible.

Up till now I had read writers like Munshi Premchand and Mahashweta Devi and had also toyed with Agyeya, but I wasn’t much impressed. These writers are basically the vestiges of the socialist era writings in which you are either continuously ranting about poverty, hunger and superstition, or romanticizing these afflictions. There was no sense of pride. A perpetual gloom is always hanging over your head when you are reading these books. Recently I purchased Premchand Ki Hasya Kathain (Satirical Stories by Premchand) from Flipkart and even in that book he cannot shake off the judgmental tone that these writers had. But I must quickly add that Premchand is far better than all those writers constantly peddling India’s poverty and backwardness while writing in English. At least he means what he says. He actually feels the anguish of the rural India. Agreed that more than 60% of Indians languish in poverty and illiteracy, it doesn’t mean that it represents the length and breadth of the country.

This is where writers like Narendra Kohli and Amritlal Nagar differ. I’m not as well-read a person as many people I know, but I can easily say that Amritlal Nagar can be easily compared to the best international writers, both classical and modern. Of course poverty and superstition is a dominant aspect of the Indian society, but they coexist with other aspects. For instance, in various Amritlal Nagar novels his characters go through a multitude of existential qualms with poverty and superstition in the background. They have love affairs, they have fights, they have feelings of jealousy, they are both faithful and disloyal, entrepreneurial and passive and healthy and ill. They are not constantly dealing with their poverty and being hounded by the upper castes and the powerful, although I’m not saying that these things don’t take place. They’re just not at the center of the novel. Karvat, the first ever Amritlal Nagar that I read, is about this young man who leaves home will leave his house to make a life. This story spans multiple generations starting in 1957 and ending in 1947. The other novel, the story of Goswami Tulsidas, is an exceptional book that gives you a clear glimpse of those times. Even the current one that I’m reading – Nachyo Bahut Gopal – is about a Brahmin woman, who in the heat of passion elopes with a younger boy who is the lowest among the lower classes (people who cleaned latrines) and how she deals with the repercussions of what she has done. He has written that even among the poor and the lower castes, given a chance, they can be as cruel and oppressive as the upper castes. These stories I’ve totally changed my view on Hindi, and other indigenous literature. These days I’m constantly seeking new Hindi books to read.