Saturday, 23 April 2011

Kindle and concentration

I recently tried to read a book on a Kindle. I was emailed a .pdf of a book that I'm doing some work for, and I was due to receive a paper copy of the book, too, but I thought I'd have a go at reading it on my dad's Kindle first and see how the experience panned out.

The process of getting the document on the Kindle itself seems fairly straightforward. I didn't do it myself, but I understand that it's much like putting a document on a USB stick or something. The first problem that came up was the page orientation. Putting the page the regular way up meant that the text was tiny, so we tried switching it to landscape, which was better, but it now meant that I had to scroll down several times to get to the end of a page, and that the scrolling was not always as neat as it could be. What I mean is that when I scrolled down, the device did not instinctively scroll to the next line, and so every time I pressed 'down', I found that I was losing my place in the text, which is really distracting.

With e-books, you can also alter the size of the font, and the Kindle automatically re-calculates the page numbers to account for this. On a .pdf, there's no way to do this that we could figure out, so not only did I have to keep scrolling back and forth, but there was no way to re-size the already-small text.

In any case, I decided to give it a go. I was impressed by the quality of the screen - it's not colour and it's not bright, but there is something cool about it. No good for reading in the dark, though. The device itself is light and compact, but I found it a bit awkward to hold landscape ways. It didn't feel intuitive to me to hold it that way.

My experience of actually reading on the device was unsatisfying. As I said, I kept losing my place every time I scrolled down, which was three times per page, so I kept losing the flow of the book. I also felt that I wasn't concentrating as well as I could have been. I don't know if it's something to do with never having used a Kindle before, but I felt like I just wasn't taking anything in. The process felt more unnatural than I had anticipated, and I think that overall this made my reading speed much slower and just generally distracted me. In several days, I had only managed to read about 40 pages of the text, and earlier this week when I switched to the paper book, I read about 100 pages in one sitting.

Perhaps it would have been fine if I had been reading the e-book and not a .pdf, but the Kindle is supposed to be able to handle those kinds of documents properly. A lot of books are sent round as .pdfs nowadays, especially when they are in draft mode, (not that I'm reading millions of drafts) but there's almost no point in having it from my point of view if all you can do with it is read a finished book.

That's all, really. I think I'll give it another try soon with a proper book and see how that feels, but as I suspected, I don't think the Kindle is for me.

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