For a long while I’d harboured the idea of acquiring an e-reader. I reasoned that I would be much more likely to read if I could take books with me in a format that would be more portable and also searchable. However, I could never quite bring myself to pull the trigger because, for many years now, I just haven’t had the compulsion to read books.
The last book I read was On The Road by Frank Skinner, over five years ago. Since then, my mother has bought me Michael J. Fox’s second autobiography (Always Looking Up) and, with grand intentions, I bought myself Richard Dawkins’ Greatest Show on Earth when it was released. I haven’t made it beyond a skim of the first chapter of either, despite the fact I do want to glean what lies between the hardback covers of each. I just haven’t been compelled enough to physically carry them with me on my daily commute when I would have the dead time to read them.
This perceived barrier to entry had also caused me to miss out on a number of technical books that I might otherwise have read and I had become acutely aware that, over the last few years, new techniques were passing me by. I used to jump at the chance of reading about some emerging practices in the Web development scene. If I look back ten to fifteen years on my Amazon order list it’s loaded with technical tomes.
But, somehow, I just got out of the habit of reading and I wasn’t sure that even if I took the plunge and bought an e-reader, I’d be able to sustain the urge to do so. After attending The Future of Web Design back in April I learned of several development books that I wanted to read and decided that I should at least give the e-reader route a try.
I figured the best way to go about it would be to buy an Amazon Kindle when I was in Indianapolis. That way I’d get to try it out at a discount (it’s around £30 cheaper in the ‘states) and if I didn’t like it I could sell it on when I got home, hopefully breaking even. So, early in my trip, I popped into a Best Buy and bought a Kindle Paperwhite along with the official cover/case for about the same price as the Kindle would have cost me by itself back home.
That night I set it up and downloaded a few sample books onto it but, the trouble was, I had no idea what I wanted to read. Looking at the books I’d added to my wish list over the years I thought Colossus: Bletchley Park’s Greatest Secret to give me something deep to read on the flight home. After a quick skim through the opening pages I knew I wasn’t going to get into it whilst I was on holiday, so I figured that, since I was where I was, I should maybe get a book on the Indy 500 to help further set the scene.
Searching the Kindle store I found Tales from the Indianapolis 500 by the highly regarded journalist and broadcaster Jack Arute. Due to the short, concise stories told in the book it was probably the perfect introduction to consuming a book on an e-reader. I’d read a few stories before turning the light out at night and then read a few more when I woke in the morning. Even though I didn’t have a lot of free time for reading over race weekend, I practically romped through the book and finished whilst waiting at the gate for the first leg of my return flight.
Turning my phone into a WiFi hotspot I quickly bought and downloaded two other books before boarding the plane, just in case I couldn’t get into the Bletchley Park one. Those hasty purchases would later serve to highlight the double edged sword that is the ease of buying and downloading e-books and it was just as well the Bletchley Park book was pretty good reading, as the other two have been busts that I’m unlikely to go back to!
It took me a good ten days to get through the tale of WWII code breaking and I have to say that the book maybe stuck around a little longer than was welcome. I was glad to get it out of the way and immediately began reading Stone of Destiny, mainly because Crazy Uncle John had told me it was a must read.
He was right, too. I raced through it in a week and by the time I was done I was completely convinced that the e-reader is the method of consumption I’ve been missing all these years!
Feeling that I should maybe take a break from reading I pulled my PlayStation Vita out on the train and attempted to play a game, like I have done on my commutes over the past three years. For some reason I got motion sickness and, after a few stops, I had the Kindle out again and had started reading The Martian by Andy Weir.
I didn’t think I’d read sci-fi or even fiction, but The Martian was fantastic and I began taking my Kindle to bed with me at night so I could read a few pages before I went to sleep. It took me just over a week to finish and I enjoyed it so much that, after getting to the end on a Sunday afternoon, I didn’t quite know what to follow it up with for the week ahead.
Remembering that my mother had bought me a hard back copy of Michael J Fox’s second autobiography, I decided to buy his first one whilst on my way to work on the Monday morning. By the Friday I had finished Lucky Man – my 5th book in less than five weeks.
So the experiment of getting the Kindle to see if I’d read more has been a complete success. In fact, I’ve now read more books in five weeks than I had in the five years beforehand. The only trouble is I don’t have any idea of what I want to read next. It’s been that long since I’ve read for pleasure that I’m not sure what I’ll like, which is why I’ve made a habit of downloading samples to prevent me throwing money away.
It remains to be seen whether I’ll keep up the same kind of pace after the “new gadget effect” has worn off, but it’s safe to say that my interest in reading books for pleasure has been renewed.