Reading re-defined

Books have been a part of my everyday existence for as long as I can remember. They introduced me to new worlds, fed my imagination, fueled my curiosity and taught me to explore. In elementary school I started speed-reading: I would check out a book and return it fully read the following day, much to the dismay of our librarian who instituted quizzes to make sure that I had indeed read the books I was returning. Languages opened up an entire new literary world, and I remember branching out, usually dictionary in hand,  into English, then into Spanish, French, and most recently Bulgarian.

So here’s  a confession: over the last few years I’ve only read a handful of books: mainly graphic novels, a few O’Reillys and assorted works on art, design and architecture. I don’t buy many books for the same reason I don’t buy DVDs: it would be hard to settle on what to buy and what to skip, since I would inevitably want to own a prohibitively huge number of them. City living with its space restrictions is not really a good friend to collectors, so my coping mechanism has been to abstain from temptation all together.

After thinking through New Year’s resolutions, I bought Kindles for M and me. They arrived within a week of ordering. Within two weeks of becoming a Kindle owner, I was at a dinner party talking about a book I had been reading at the time. I mentioned I was ‘about 16% in’ when one of my friends started laughing and called me out on my perceived geekery (he was sure I was calculating the percentage read based on the book’s total number of pages, when merely I was referencing the progress percentage on my Kindle). In that one sentence I realized just how much the Kindle changed reading habits that I spent the better portion of my life creating. Now, thinking back, there were hints along the way that it was a game-changer: from the wonderfully simple and functional packaging, to the two-step setup process that even the staunchest Luddites would find intuitive. The thought that so many different books are instantly accessible is almost intoxicating and I have to confess that I have spent days simply browsing all the different things I could be reading, without actually settling on one to read.

Rather uncharacteristically, this was very much an impulse buy for me and I did not compare it much to other options in the marketplace (Nook, Sony readers, earlier Kindles, iPads, etc). Now that I’ve been using it for a while, I’m hard-pressed to think of features that I would want to add or that are somehow lacking. I would love to read about the Kindle team’s development and decision-making processes while developing the product since from where I’m sitting their execution is seemingly perfect.

Most importantly, I can now own books again and my entire book collection will be practically weightless. What a wonderful reconciliation of a nomadic lifestyle with the passion for reading.

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