Books Odds ‘n Ends

Hobbies ,Ruminations
December 21, 2009

Books to the ceiling,/ Books to the sky,/ My pile of books is a mile high./ How I love them! How I need them!/ I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them.

– Arnold Lobel

Book's blank stare
Creative Commons License photo credit: quinn.anya

While back home visiting last weekend, I posted a link on Loopt/Twitter/Facebook to the book FU Penguin, Telling Cute Animals What’s What and said someone should buy me the book. Who else do you know thinks cute animals are probably pretty tasty? Three days later a copy of it showed up on my desk at work. Thanks anonymous book fairy who (creepily) knows where I work!

It’s no secret that I like to read. I grew up in a small town and there weren’t a lot of kids around my age in the neighborhood. My older sisters weren’t my first choice for playmates either so I divided my indoor free time between building with Legos and reading books. My mother taught me to read before I was even in kindergarten so I was always read several levels ahead of my classmates in school. I had a book of the month club subscription throughout elementary school and went to the library almost every weekend. I was reading Dean Koontz and Jean Auel in 5th/6th grade, and it wasn’t uncommon to see me on Saturday mornings walking the half mile to the drugstore to stand there reading comic books until they chased me out. As I got older the obsession never waned and one of my favorite (and longest lasting) jobs of all time was working in a coffee shop/bookstore throughout college.

Books as a hobby has a few drawbacks though. Books take up a lot of room especially when you’re talking hardbacks. I avoided hardbacks for the longest time because they cost more and were awkward to hold, but many of my favorite authors became popular and started going from straight to paperback to hardcover then paperback. This could/would make me wait up to two years for the next installment in a series, which was especially frustrating. I’d bought the last few Jim Butcher novels in hardback when the solution came in the form of the Kindle app for iPhone.

I’ve been reading books on it for weeks now, and I absolutely love it. It’s small, portable, and my phone is with me 100% of the time. Now my books are too. While there are still books I’ll buy in physical copies, my standard fair “trash” reading- low end sci fi/fantasy stuff, single books from an author, that sort of thing is all done via Kindle now. Any computer related / howto stuff or series authors I love (Jim Butcher, looking at you here) will still be purchased physically, even in hardcover, because all my other stuff can be snagged on release day for the cost of a paperback or cheaper. The addition of the Kindle PC app turns my netbook into a handy reader as well. The Kindle wireless service auto syncs my place in books so I can swap between devices with no issue. My only complaints regarding the iPhone app is that I had to reverse the color scheme to white text on black to conserve battery and change the font size. All of my casual reading for the last 2 months has been done on the Kindle with no problem.

Interestingly enough, between the iPhone and PC software I don’t see a need for the actual Kindle device itself. I know that Amazon, Sony, and now Barnes ‘n Noble are all pushing their respective versions, but I just can’t see the appeal of a dedicated reading device when we the typical professional already carries at least one of these two alternative “unified” mediums at all times anyway. Why introduce a third? What’s the appeal of a dedicated reader device that you can’t get from software on existing multifunctional devices? I thought the trend introduced by Sony Ericsson and Apple phones over the last few years was to UNIFY mediums not to split them off again? Sony started by including Walkman functionality in their phones, and Apple iPods/iPhones really drove it home to the average consumer. Isn’t this the same stubborn ideology that’s gotten newspapers in the state they’re in today? There definitely seems to be a correlation when you look at the fact that many of these readers are coming with cellular data access to download periodical and newspaper subscriptions. While on the surface it seems to be an interesting idea, they’re once again they’re duplicating functionality that exists in other unified/portable mediums.

I wonder how long it will take for electronic reading material vendors to get on the bandwagon? I have a feeling the improved smartphone/netbook markets will be the winners in the end.

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