Reading.. Electronically!

What’s more relaxing than reading a good book and enjoying a cup of coffee while being surrounded with natural beauty?

In today’s fast-paced world, our minds are constantly shifting between work matters, social media, the news, and other stimulants. To live a healthier and happier life, we are in dire need to slow down, relax, and be more mindful. To achieve that, calm reading needs to be an integral part of our lives.

Traditionally, people have been reading books printed on paper. Holding a book in one’s hands feels special. The smell of the book, its weight, the sound of pages turning, and the view of one’s (growing) library on the shelves add inexplicable sensations. There’s just something about the physical form of the book that is so enticing.

With the advancement of technology, however, another book reading medium is gaining gradual acceptance: the electronic book, or the e-book/eBook.

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Compared to normal paper books, e-books are (usually) cheaper and are easier to carry around. You could also take your complete library wherever you go, all while having each book a couple of taps away. And, as a bonus, you have no worries of the book being physically damaged or lost.

# Discovering e-books

I am blessed to have always been fond of reading books. For a long time, this had meant reading paper books exclusively. However, another great interest of mine was destined to change the way I read books.

As part of my passion for mobile computing, I had started to develop a semi-obsession with Pocket PCs from about 2002. One of my main uses of these devices had been reading e-books. Amongst the major books I read on the Pocket PC were Getting Things Done (David Allen) and First Things First (Stephen Covey).

There was that initial thrill of being able to read a book electronically! However, the experience wasn’t perfect. From the outset, getting ebooks wasn’t easy. You had to find a dedicated ebook store, which for me was FictionWise.come (still available, acquired by Barnes & Nobles in 2009) and (out of business, domain name available as of Feb/2018). Getting the book to your device took a couple of steps and relatively inconvenient compared to the way we do it today.

Once you have the book, the reading experience was good, but not perfect. The screen size, for example, wasn’t ideal for prolonged reading.

Despite these limitations, I enjoyed reading on the Pocket PC and the freedom it brought, especially perhaps that I could read my books almost anywhere I was. I then continued the habit of reading ebooks across the different platforms I transferred to throughout the years (Pocket PC -> Android -> Windows Phone -> BlackBerry -> iOS).

# Best device for e-books?

Today, I read e-books on multiple devices; the iPad Pro, the iPhone, and the Kindle Paperwhite.

Comparing iOS devices, I like reading on the iPhone while waiting in some line/queue or when the iPad is not with me. Otherwise, the iPad provides a slightly better experience granted by the larger screen.

The Kindle app on the iPad Pro 11”

As much as I like iOS devices, however, this is one area where I believe they’re not optimized for. Compared to them, the Kindle Paperwhite (or any Kindle e-reader) is the optimal experience of e-book reading, and even a viable contender for the best book reading experience, period!

E-reading: iPad Pro 11” vs Kindle Paperwhite vs iPhone 8

I believe the Kindle is the optimal device for a number of reasons. First, and in comparison with smartphones and tablets, the Kindle’s screen employes the electronic ink (or e-paper) technology, rather than the usual LCD/LED/OLED. This is very useful if you frequently read for prolonged periods, as the Kindle screen would not cause strain to your eyes. It is somewhat similar in effect to normal papers and do not constantly emit light unto you. This is also useful if you have the habit of reading at night before you sleep.

The second important advantage, compared to smartphones and tablets, is that the Kindle is virtually distraction-free. If you are reading a book on an iPad, for example, you would be distracted by incoming notifications. In addition, your mind would be more eager to wander around knowing that you are only one or a few taps away from your browser, email client, and other apps. You could be reading a book on the effects of the internet, and you then suddenly find yourself Bing-ing (or Googling!) some related information. This, in essence, cancels the positive effects of reading!

By reading from a Kindle, on the other hand, you are much more likely to be focused and relaxed. If I’m reading on my Kindle Paperwhite on my bed, I would be feeling relaxed and would naturally get into a good sleeping mode. If I’m reading on an iPad/iPhone, however, I could go on for hours (reading + other activities!) without noticing how tired my body is.

The third major advantage of the Kindle is the unbelievingly long battery life. It could literally last you 3-4 weeks on one charge! This means that you could go for a holiday/work-trip and leave your Kindle charger at home!

Lastly, the overall design of the Kindle Paperwhite is ideal. It is light, just the right size, and feels very good in hand. You could read one-handed, on the bed, or while enjoying a cup of coffee at a coffee shop. It is a natural enabler of a relaxing and focused reading experience.

In terms of the Kindle app, it has the important advantage – compared to Apple Books – of being truly cross-platform. In addition to the dedicated Kindle e-reader device, you may read your e-books on virtually any operating system; iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, or the cloud using any browser. What I usually do is primarily read from my Kindle Paperwhite, but continue to read anywhere on my iPhone or iPad. The app would automatically detect that I am are further along the book on another device and would prompt me to jump to that page/location.

The Kindle App on the iPhone, with Whispersync feature

# Kindle disadvantages

This is all nice, but the truth is that nothing is perfect. We could start by acknowledging that the Kindle is a bit slow (compared to smartphones and tablets) and is not exciting in graphics use. In reality, though, these are welcomed characteristics since the purpose of the device is to enable calm reading. The one considerable issue here is that the Kindle is not very good in showcasing colors and figures. It is not very good in displaying creatively designed pages and is incapable of employing interactive tools/maps/figures.

What this tells you is that, for certain types of books or content, a tablet or a smartphone would be more suitable than a Kindle. This include textbooks, books extensive on figures, research journals articles, and modern interactive e-books. For all other books, like novels and many non-fiction titles, the Kindle would do very well.

Secondly, one disadvantage of e-readers for some people would be the addition of one more device. If you are trying to minimize the number of devices you use, say to only one large smartphones, adding an e-reader wouldn’t work well for you.

Lastly, and compared to paper books, you sometimes have the feeling that you do not truly own the ebooks! Yes, you could instantly get them on any device you own, but there’s the (small?!) risk of having your books just vanish one day if something happens at Amazon (or any other seller) or the publisher! On the Pocket PC platform, I was never able to transfer all the titles I own to my new devices. In fact, I had to re-buy one important title (Getting Things Done) as I wanted to read it again.

Would such an issue happen with Amazon? Well, you could argue that a company of that size would be considerably more stable in the long term. Nevertheless, that is still a risk that needs to be considered.

# Conclusion

Reading is soothing, calming, and is generally good for your mental well-being. Reading electronically is an option that is being gradually adopted by more and more people. It is more convenient and perhaps more empowering than traditional paper reading, though it doesn’t offer the same physical sensations.

My advice for you is to first download the Kindle App and try a book for yourself. If you like the experience, you might want to then try a dedicated electronic reader from Amazon. That may prove to be the start of a highly impactful journey.

In either case, one thing is for certain: You should get into the habit of reading, whether on physical paper books or e-books.

Go ahead, open that book!



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