Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wanted: A Waterproof Kindle...

Over the past few months I got used to reading on my Kindle. No, it still isn't the best reading experience. When reading at night - which is when I read most - I'd prefer a backlit screen. The flashing page turns really irritate me, and the page-turn "paddles" are so easy to hit by mistake that I've lost count of the number of times I've involuntarily flipped backwards or forwards (sometimes multiple pages).

But I've been a voracious reader since the age of three. From the age of ten, and during my early teens in the East End of Glasgow, I would check out eight books at a time from the local public library - and I still had to visit it twice a week (My own two tickets would allow me to check out only two books. But I could get six more tickets by enrolling my father, mother and sister...)

I found I was prepared to put up with the Kindle's shortcomings in exchange for the real convenience of being able to carry my library around with me - and especially for the ability to buy books online from Amazon.

The biggest problem I have is that one of my favorite places to read is in the bath. Run a nice hot bath, lie back and relax with a book... Aaaaah!

And that's how my first Kindle died.

Oh, I thought I had the technique down. I never actually held the Kindle over the bathwater. I'd found a way of balancing it against the faucets; only had to reach up and turn the pages.

But, as my countryman the poet Robert Burns tells us, "The best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley" (Translation: No matter how good your plan, Mr Murphy will often get you).

I'd just had a lovely bath and a good read, and slipped as I was getting out. The towel caught the Kindle, and - splash!

I quickly whipped it out, dried it off, hoping that water hadn't had time to reach the innards. But it was gone. Half the screen was solid black, the other half solid white. Taking out the battery, drying the Kindle out, recharging the battery - nothing worked. Dead. Gone. R.I.P.

And of course, my portable library and the book I was reading went with it.

I haven't lost my library. At my home I can't get Kindle to connect wirelessly. So I've been buying my books on my laptop and downloading them to there, then synching the Kindle. So the .azw books are still there on my hard drive. I just need another Kindle, activated to the same Amazon account.

I decided not to buy another Kindle 1. They were not available on Amazon, and anyway the Kindle 2 was on the way. Perhaps that would fix some of my issues.

Once Amazon unveiled Kindle 2 it was obvious they're been listening to Kindle 1 customers. Gone are the horrible page-turn paddles, replaced by page-turn buttons which are still large enough to be easy to hit, but don't automatically turn pages when you pick up the device.

The Amazon blurb for the Kindle 2 says that it now has 16 levels of gray instead of the previous 4, so that should help a lot with photos in books, which were previously awful. I do recollect reading somewhere that page-turns were also less intrusively "flashy", but we'll have to wait and see.

Anyway, I went ahead and ordered my Kindle 2 a few weeks ago. They're supposed to be available for customers on February 24, with preference being given to existing Kindle owners. We'll see. But I'm certainly looking forward to a device that's thinner, with longer battery life (although I never found that to be a problem with Kindle 1).

And I'm really looking forward to continuing the Terry Pratchett novel I was reading in the bath that day...

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