Kindle Convert

I have looked at these eReader devices for years, and kept changing my mind on what I thought about them. I love books, obviously, but I also love technology. You would think that blending these two worlds would be so exciting for me, but the truth is that for a long time I wanted nothing to do with eReaders. My hesitance has always been rooted in the fact that it isn't just that I love to read, I love the experience of reading books.

I like to feel the books in the store or library. I like to run my fingers across the front cover, and examine the pages for texture and weight. I enjoy using odds and ends for bookmarks...playing cards, pictures, receipts, actual bookmarks, etc. I like the smell of a new book, and I really love the crrraaack of a new book that has never been touched or opened or held by another person. Books are beautiful. They are my most favorite decorative accent in our home. Books are filled with descriptions of places I'll never see and people I'll never meet. They lead me to reconsider or affirm the way I think about things in the world.

I love the feeling of walking into Barnes & Noble, or a public library, or my school library. Each and every single time, there is a feeling that washes over me and I usually don't think about it but I know that I love it. Do you know what that feeling is? Potential. I love knowing that books change people's perspectives and enable us to evolve and grow throughout this life simply by what we learn from them.

Some impending travels abroad (the length of which we are not entirely certain) led me to seriously consider purchasing an eReader. For at least a year I've carefully been reading reviews, watching comparison clips, and talking to my Twitterverse about their experiences and preferences. Finally, one day it happened. I bought a Kindle. And a screen protector. And a cute little pink case to keep it in.

Here's what I think so far...

The Kindle, even right out of the box, is not difficult to operate. Finding books, buying them (or in my case, downloading the free ones), and reading them is snappy. As a friend put it, it is "dangerously easy" to buy books now.

At first, it seemed that the Kindle was almost too small. Too fragile. Too un-book-like. I missed the comforting swoosh of the turning page. Now, all I get is an ever so slight click when I press the "next page" button. The clicking bothered me at first, but I have grown accustomed to it. About a week into my new life as a Kindle owner, I was uber-excited just to have this awesome new device. About 3 weeks into it I really started paying attention to the bells and whistles of the Kindle interface, and began to have some questions about maximizing this resource as a Mega Reader. We're going on about 6 weeks of our new life together, and I'm ready to seal the deal and get her engraved. :)

My favorite aspects of the Kindle:
-ease in downloading books
-compact size
-l-o-n-g battery life
-easy on the eyes (I held out a long time for the iPad because I wanted a back-lit eReader I could use on the plane, in bed, etc. but I love that the paper-like display is much gentler on my tormented eyes than a computer-like device would be)
-seamless synchronization of my Amazon account across my Kindle, my computer, and my Kindle iPhone app. I can pick up on my phone where I left off on my Kindle, and vice versa.
-easy to search the full text of a book
-physically easy to read; you don't have to worry about losing your place (or losing the bookmark that is holding your place), and you also don't have to worry about propping up a heavy book or having the pages fall over if you're reading in bed
-global wi-fi and 3G
-faster reading
-dictionary reference
-books are cheaper than in print format (a typical new release might be $20 even with a discount in stores; from the Amazon Kindle store it is usually at least half that, sometimes less)
-you can easily view an indexed list of all your notes, highlights, and bookmarks. That is not something you can do with any printed book.
-you can easily share books with a fellow Kindle owner via your Amazon accounts

My least favorite aspects of the Kindle (and possibly of eReaders in general):
-there is no page number! All I get is a percentage, or a position (like 2345 out of 10976...Amazon should know that generally speaking, math is highly offensive to the community of serious readers). There are dots across the bottom which show me how far I am away from the next chapter, and I love that. Still. I want to know how many pages I'm reading. This is the one element I truly dislike, and I don't see myself getting used to it either. Page numbers, Amazon. Page numbers!
-it is not easy to make notes. Possible, yes. Easy, no. You have to depress each letter button at a time (not typing, more like texting), and entering a thought or a note requires some time and effort. I'd rather just write in a book.
-Amazon pushes through software updates wirelessly, and you aren't notified. About a week into it I grew a tiny bit frustrated because I could not navigate back to settings I remembered when I first explored the Kindle. Another friend was checking it out and asking questions that I thought I knew the answer to but suddenly could not find what I needed. I sent an email to the Kindle support team at Amazon, and they quickly responded that a software update had been pushed through, which had altered some of my options on the Home screen. Would have been nice to know...
-twice in the last month I've had issues with the wireless connection. I'm still trying to figure out if that has something to do with my settings or if it is a glitch. It's definitely time for another email to the Magnifico Kindle Support Team.
-when I highlight a note that extends to the next page, the cursor easily runs away from me, and usually only appears to highlight the last few words in the sentence, making me think I've skipped the rest by accident
-no color, no pictures other than black and white cover art
-you cannot borrow books electronically from the local library

The screen protection shield was the only $6 I regret from this purchase. It would never go on without leaving my screen filled with polka dot bubbles (and yes, I did follow the application directions), and I finally chucked it. The cute little pink case I chose is the leather one with a soft fluffy cushioned interior, and I think it grows even cuter and pinker every single day.

I strongly believe that printed books will always be a vital part of our society, but I like the option of having them in digital format. The debate should not be electronic or print. It should be the availability of electronic AND print. More on that another day.

I plan to add posts in the future that deal specifically with the Kindle and its relevance in the reading world.

For now...hi, I'm Michelle. And I'm a Kindle convert. :)


Considering an eReader? These sites helped me make my choice:

Three Cups of Tea (Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin)

Greg Mortenson was a mountain climber. Not your neighborhood outdoor store brand of mountain climber either, a real mountain climber. In 1993 he visited the Pakistan Himalaya Mountains, specifically a summit called K2 in the Karakoram district, and set out to scale K2. Long story short, he failed. He came off that mountain lost and broken and near death, but was taken in by a local village called Korphe. They saved his life, and by the time he was well enough to realize it and head home, he had decided he would come back and help this impoverished group of people who had given so much to help him. That turned into a dream of building a school for the Korphe children. Greg raised enough money (in the most desperate, sad, and interesting ways) and returned to Pakistan to build the school. Long story short, he was able to build the school despite incredible opposition and numerous glitches.

Then, one school turned into another. And another. And another. And eventually Greg Mortenson was in charge of an organization called the Central Asia Institute building schools all over Pakistan. He dealt with many issues along the way, and nearly lost his life numerous times. Eventually he was able to build schools in Afghanistan as well. As far as I can tell, Greg Mortenson is still spending most of his time in Pakistan and Afghanistan, building schools. He learned the process of getting things done (usually the hard way) in Pakistan, and also was fortunate to receive wise counsel from some of his friends in Korphe. One mentor explained to Greg that to thrive there he would have to respect their culture, their ways. The first cup of tea he shared with a Pakistani was as a stranger, the second was as a friend and honored guest, and the third was as family member, for whom any of them would die. Greg Mortenson learned to share many cups of tea with his acquaintances in Pakistan.

Mortenson was in Pakistan on September 11, 2001. He made some foolish mistakes during this time, in my opinion, such as returning several times in the months following 9/11, remained in the country even after he was specifically told it was a very dangerous place for American citizens, and approached the Afghanistan border "just to see what would happen" (what happened was he lost his passport and had to waste weeks getting one back and explaining to the hyper paranoid Intelligence Agency what he was doing there in the first place-he was lucky he didn't lose his life). He had a front row seat to the events that occurred in the Middle East following the terror attacks on America. Soon, the motivation for building these schools evolved from merely wanting to return a kindness to wanting to help promote peace in the world through providing an opportunity for educating Pakistan's youngsters...an opportunity other than the Islamic Wahhabi madrassas, many of which at that time taught (and may still teach) militant jihadi Islam. "The madrassa system targeted the impoverished students the public system failed. By offering free room and board and building schools in areas where none existed, madrassas provided millions of Pakistan's parents with their only opportunity to educate their children." (pg. 243)

 Mortenson believed then, and continues to believe, that the most important and effective way to fight terrorism is to prevent future generations from being trained to hate. The schools built by the Central Asia Institute are traditional Islamic schools which honor the culture of this country, but without the harsh militant agenda. The more schools that are available for children (especially girls) to attend, the better a chance the people have at rising above the hate that spews from some of Pakistan's best-known inhabitants (the Taliban and al-Quaeda).

I thought the piece about how Greg met his wife Tara was super sweet, and sort of awe-inspiring. I was a little concerned that this book seems to imply that Greg was married to building schools in Pakistan and was involved with his family only a little the side, though. I certainly hope that isn't an accurate assumption. It would be sorrowful for a man to accomplish so much in the lives of other families while forsaking involvement with his own.

I learned so much from this book. I had no idea there were so many various people groups in Pakistan, nor did I have a clue about the way most Pakistanis felt/feel about the Taliban. I also learned quite a bit about the Pakistani government, and (from Greg Mortenson's point of view, anyway) the United States's great successes and great failures in the days following the September 11th attacks. It made me remember how scary and broken we all were in America on September 11th, but also to realize a new perspective on the events that took place in the years leading up to and following the attacks on the United States. It made me angry to read that the yellow humanitarian food packets that American military planes were dropping down to Afghan refugees closely resembled the bright yellow pods of unexploded cluster bombs. (pg. 279)

This book has been plaguing my life as a reader for well over a year now. As I have inched through it, it has taken up space in my bag, my laptop case, my backpack, my bookcase, basket of books, and my stack of books on the bedside table. I started it over a year ago, when it was first released in paperback. Everyone was talking about this book, and how I just had to read it. I'm a library girl, not much a book purchaser (except for my children's collection), but in this case I made an exception. I've read it on and off ever since then, frustrated because it wasn't a very friendly read. It was difficult, and sad, and did not truly catch my attention until about 180 pages in.

This is very unlike me. I believe life is too short to read bad books. I know there is great value in seeing a book through to the end no matter what you think about it. In this case, I never felt like Three Cups of Tea was a bad book, it just required a lot of effort to read. More so than just about any other book I've read. The names of the cities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the unfamiliar names of individuals Mortenson encountered, and the ever-changing rules and politics were so confusing. There is a map included at the beginning of the book, and I wish I had remembered it was there to go back and look up the name of each city rather than relying on my mind's very abstract notion of where those cities were in relation to one another. There is also an index provided so that would also be very helpful to readers. Those are some mistakes I feel as though I made when reading this book. I underestimated it, I did not put forth significant effort to keep the people and places straight, and I did not use the index to refer to places, people, and issues. In essence, I'm saying that this book isn't meant to be read casually. It's meant to be studied and discussed. So I'm reiterating that Three Cups of Tea is not a bad book, it's just a difficult one. Approach with caution, handle with care, and for crying out loud, use the maps.

For more info, follow Greg Mortenson on Twitter- @gregmortenson

or see his website: http://www.threecupsoftea.com/ 

The Offensive Third

While in graduate school, I once saw a movie (based on a book, of course!) called The Name of the Rose starring Christian Slater and Sean Connery. Set in Europe in the 14th century, it is the story of two Benedictine monks during the Inquisition who are sent to a monastery to investigate a series of deaths. They discover that the murders are a result of the protection of the monastery’s famous library, which contained a wealth of information on a plethora of subjects.

The collection was guarded at all costs, and the freedom to view the books was limited only to the highest-ranking monk. By controlling access to information, he wielded great power and control.

Cut to present day…

With regard to collection development in libraries, the rule of thumb is that at least a third of your collection should offend you. It is said that if you don’t have a problem with at least 30% of the materials in the library you are managing, you aren’t doing your job. For example, librarians who are card-carrying members of the ACLU should include books about Focus on the Family, an organization notorious for supporting the pro-life movement.

In theory, this seems unquestionable; however, putting theory to practice can be quite difficult when the librarian whose spouse committed suicide struggles with ordering Fixin' To Die: A Compassionate Guide to Committing Suicide or Staying Alive by David Lester. (See review at www.amazon.com.)

Librarians do possess a certain level of power and control because we are gatekeepers of the information to which people have access. When we refrain from selecting certain materials (i.e., those that could be used by readers to harm themselves or others), are we abusing our positions, or are we being responsible citizens?

Another question: should you be the parents of young children in whom you are seeking to instill certain faith-based ideals, would you object to your child having access to books about the practice of witchcraft? (Harry Potter fans, lay off…I’m one of you! Not talking about works of fiction here.)