Rhodri Marsden: Kindling an affection for electronic readers

Cyberclinic

It's talked about in the US as the "iPod of the book world", as deeply associated with reading as horses are with riding. And yet in Britain we've not been able to experience Amazon's Kindle without paying through the nose for shipping and customs charges from the States, and then buying ebooks in US dollars. So while the American reviews of what they call the Kindle 3 focus on comparisons with the Kindle 2 and the original, for us it's our first proper look. It's like being shown Return Of The Jedi without having any prior Star Wars knowledge.

Fortunately it's better than Return Of The Jedi, at which point I'll stop attempting to compare an e-reading gadget with a science-fiction film. Its e-ink display is a thing of great beauty; it isn't backlit, so it just looks like a printed sheet of paper covered by a thin plastic sheet. In a good way. One blogger this week subjected the screens of various devices and print formats to microscopic examination, and the similarity between the Kindle and a newspaper was extraordinary. The upshot of all this is that it's easy on the eye, and easy on the battery – one month between recharges if you keep wi-fi switched off. Sure, you'll have trouble seeing the screen in the dark, but your copies of Catch 22 or Delia Smith's Book Of Cakes aren't backlit either, so stop complaining and switch a light on.

Once you have a book opened up, the Kindle does its job beautifully. You flip backward and forward through the pages speedily, add bookmarks, read unencumbered by electronic distractions, and can store around 3,500 books. The only downside is the limited functionality when doing stuff other than reading – like, for example, buying a book. We've become so used to stabbing small screens with our fingers to make things happen, and on many occasions I wanted to swipe or tap the Kindle's screen, but instead had to laboriously manoeuvre a cursor around with fiddly keys, rather like playing a primitive maze-based game on a ZX81. This makes using some of the Kindle's features rather tiresome compared to, say, the iPad – but then again, for a little more than £100, who's complaining?

The Kindle's low price will be a key factor in our attitude towards it. The iPad is unquestionably a beautiful object, but it's pricy. Pricy enough and chi-chi enough for you to think twice about getting it out on public transport, lest you be thought of as a swaggering hipster or compulsive show-off. The Kindle isn't flashy; it's sober, demure, the colour of a civil servant's suit. But the act of solitary reading isn't one that you generally want interrupted by curious gazes or, worse, people saying: "Ooh, what have you got there?" (This is why one doesn't go for an afternoon in the park with a book and a boa constrictor.) Whether, as one American professor claimed this week, e-reading will make "buying literature cool again" is open to debate; Amazon's offering of popular blogs on the Kindle for £1.99 per month when they're already free to read on the web isn't so much "cool" as "confusing". But there's no doubt that its arrival in the UK will prove to be an e-reading tipping point.



***



The news that a Hollywood plastic surgeon died in a car crash last week shortly after sending SMS messages has ignited more furious debate online on the subject of texting while driving. Tech website Gizmodo has no fewer than 11 posts and 2,000 comments on this topic in the last 18 months, with arguments raging between those who admit to doing it while calling for companies to focus urgently on finding a solution to their terrible predicament, and those who rightly say that this compulsion to communicate in a timely fashion isn't just unhealthy, it's downright dangerous.

A year ago today, Gwent police uploaded a video to YouTube which should ensure all viewers never do it again – bit.ly/texting-driving. But while we wait for voice-to-text technology to bring SMS addicts a foolproof solution, an app called Otter – available now for Android, and due imminently on other platforms – neatly senses when you're driving (ie, moving faster than 15mph or so) and auto-replies to any texts, informing the sender that you're currently guiding several tons of metal at high speed down a stretch of tarmac. Please install it, or something similar. Or – and here's an idea – turn your phone off for a bit.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

    £40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

    Recruitment Genius: Partner Manager - EMEA

    £50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Partner Manager is required ...

    Recruitment Genius: Regional Sales Manager - OTE £100,000

    £45000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Sales Manager is re...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company provides IT support...

    Day In a Page

    Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

    ‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

    Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

    ... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
    12 best olive oils

    Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

    Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
    Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

    Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

    There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?