Tag Archives: Kindle

Why I think many are missing the point of the iPad: it was invented for people like me!

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I was among those waiting with bated breath to see what Steve Jobs would be unveiling last Wednesday morning at the latest Apple event.

I was among those really impressed and excited by what I saw when the iPad was unveiled. I’m not really surprised about the many who are jumping on the critical bandwagon, but I think they are missing something big.

First, about the name. As someone tweeted a few days ago, there are lots of people who still giggle about male and female plugs. Kinda silly, I think. Picking a name is really hard, especially one that’s not already mostly taken. I don’t think the name is all that important.

What I think many of the critics miss is that I believe the iPad is aimed at people like me.

I’m a baby boomer. But I love technology. And I especially love it when it loves me back.

Here’s an example:  For years, I had a cell phone. I could barely use it…I could never remember, for example, exactly what combination of buttons I needed to hit to retrieve a voice mail. I could never remember how to text. And texting was just way too much trouble. And so on. While I wanted to love my cell phone, I felt it hated me and wanted to make my life as difficult as possible.

The Mac Plus (from wikipedia)

Granted, I’ve been a Mac person since 1986. I remember using a DOS PC at work in the mid-80s, struggling to make flyers with Harvard Graphics. OMG, it almost killed me. I could tell it hated me intensely. What took me 6 hours at work, I did in 15 minutes on my Mac Plus when I got home. I felt like my Mac wanted my life and work to be easy. It wanted me to spend my energy being creative rather than wrestling with remembering command lines, trying to change and move text with command lines, etc. I did better work, learned more faster, tapped into more creativity, etc. as a result of my Mac.

My beloved University of Chicago

It’s not that my brain wasn’t capable of doing geeky stuff. I took a computer programming course in 1971 in my last quarter in college at the University of Chicago and got an A. That was in the day when you turned your punch cards in to be run through the mainframe overnight. In that class, we learned several languages and had to invent our own programming language. It was hard, but I loved the hell out of it. (I even remember the error message I invented… I thought it was so cool I figured out to tell exactly what card the error was on, so in celebration, I wrote this error message:  “Roses are red, violets are blue, Card #6 is fucked up, and so are you.” We found way to make everything fun in the late 60s/early 70s, didn’t we??? :))

I loved understanding how computers worked, the whole flow chart binary logic decision tree thing, and so forth. Having that very basic knowledge made me not afraid of technology when it came to every home and workplace several years later. I was a fairly early adopter, especially when the Mac came along because it exactly matched my brain.

But I digress.

When the iPhone came along, I was one of those in line at 6 p.m. on launch day at the Pioneer Place Apple Store in downtown Portland. From what I had heard, I would finally have a cell phone that loved me back. And I was so right! Bascially, in less than 5 minutes, I had figured out how to do the whole thing and do it with joy. It really was that good!

Where I bought my first iPhone

Now many of my more geeky friends have looked down on the iPhone because the “phone” part is not geeky enough for them. But I don’t think Apple was trying to make the geekiest possible phone. They were making something incredibly useful for people like me: people who want their devices to be joyful to use.

My iPhone has made my life more joyful and efficient and less stressful and painful. Mostly because I grokked it immediately and it is just effortless and fun.

About the iPad, I’ve been hearing comments like this: “It won’t replace my laptop.” Well, hello, it’s not designed to do that. I’ll still need my laptop for the geekier stuff I do. I wouldn’t dream of doing without it, I’m not looking to get rid of it.

Also: “It doesn’t have a camera.” So what? I’ll still have my iPhone, and use its camera. Or my Flip video cam. Do I really want to hold up a flat thing that is a little less than the size of an 8×10 piece of paper and use it as a camera. Hell no. I want something I can whip around with one hand with essentially no effort (and allows me to be a little discreet sometimes).

Also: “It’s just a bigger iPod touch.” Uh, no, not really. Having the iWork suite of programs on it puts it light years ahead of the iPod in my book. Do you know what a joy those programs are to use. Let’s just put it this way: once I did one presentation in Keynote, I could not go back to Powerpoint if you sat on me.

Also, it is big enough for practical book and other print media reading. I don’t enjoy that so much on my iPhone because either the font size stays too small or there’s not enough real estate for enough words.  Yes, I have a Kindle (first generation). I’ve loved it, especially the part that makes it possible to download a book and read it immediately. But woe to those of us who buy a Kindle book that has charts, maps or any kind of images. Just an utter fail. Can’t even make them out, and you can’t enlarge them like you can the font text size.

From what I see, the iPad totally overcomes that issue. For magazines and newspapers as well. Have you seen the quality of the photos and images on the iPad. And what you can do to go further??? Looks like it will be another joyful experience! As joyful as reading a dead tree magazine or newspaper, if not more so…

It seems to me that Apple has, once again, found a way to make experiences I like to have more enjoyable. It makes things I love that love me back!

And that’s really Apple’s point, is it not?

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WSBG reviews In the Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron

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512irkfwgml_bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-clicktopright35-76_aa240_sh20_ou01_1To be honest, World’s Smallest Book Group didn’t actually discuss the book we read all that much at our December meeting. Why talk about travel writing when most of our members had been travelling: Reba to Switzerland: Darcy to Switzerland, London, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, etc.: Joyce to Argentina.  Lots of wonderful travel talk.  Didn’t leave much time for the book.

Joyce liked it best because she had actually been to many of the places along the Silk Road described in the book. (She’s easily our most exotic traveller and all my distant travels have been with her!) The book is well written and has fascinating information, especially since he takes the “hard seat” approach to travel in Asia. Interesting juxapositions of yesterday and today in his encounters. But somehow it didn’t really grab us. 

Perhaps there’s been too much going on in the world of late for us to let ourselves be swept away this time. 

One personal note:  this is the first book group book I’ve read on my Kindle. Boy did I miss easy access to a good map. Found myself going to Google Earth to follow along.  Plea to Kindle designers/makers: please incorporate awesome map technology asap so I don’t have to read it at a computer.  Thanks.

How I’m feeling about my Kindle

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As I’ve been reading my first two full length books on the Kindle, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I feel about the experience… does it work? does it feel right? does it change the experience of reading, and if so, how?

Here are my observations so far:

In many ways, it is easier than reading a printed book. By that I mean:

1. It’s lighter and therefore easier to hold. Especially in bed, where I do most of my reading (as long as I keep it in the suede case that came with it…without the case, there’s not enough room to hold it and not touch buttons unintentionally, more on this issue below.) Since the case is very book-cover-like, that works very well).

2. It’s also really easy to carry around, which I find I do more often and catch more moments for reading on the fly. If I travelled a lot, this would be the most important feature, I’m sure.

3. It’s easier to find the place I left off. When I open it, it instantly lands on the last page I was reading, so I don’t have to worry about forgetting to mark where I was, losing the bookmark, risk breaking the spine, decide whether or not it’s okay to fold corners of pages, etc.

4. The ordering and buying process is incredibly convenient. (Maybe too convenient? Will I buy too many books?!)

5. It enables my habit of reading more than one book at a time. (Confession: in addition to the two Kindle books, I’m also reading three other print books I had before getting a Kindle.) If I find it hard to carry one printed book around, imagine if I tried to carry all the books I’m reading at a time? Impossible if I want to maintain my already-listing posture.

Other favorable features:

I love the “get a free sample” of the book feature. So far I ordered sample portions of five books. I subsequently purchased two of them, and am liking both a lot (those are the two I’m reading right now.) I decided against buying the other three, based on the sample. Two of the books I likely wouldn’t have bought in any case, but one I probably would have, based on the book descriptions, reviews and recommendations. So maybe I saved myself some money? Possible, but debatable.

These old eyes love the adjustable font feature. The other day I actually read without my reading glasses! That hasn’t happened in years! (I went back to the next smaller size though, because I found I wanted more words on the screen, so the glasses came back.) But I don’t find my eyes getting tired when I read a long time, like I sometimes do when reading a print book with small font.

I love the fact that I don’t have to agonize over decisions about what to do with the book after I read it, viz., somehow make room on a bookshelf here at home (not easy!) in case I want to read again someday or loan to a friend, take back to Powells, take to Goodwill, etc. It will always be there for me and never take up any space at all. I find this very cool!

I love the fact that I can’t ever lose books, because Amazon will keep my copy on file.

The downsides:

You can’t get every book you might want this way. For example, upon the recommendation of the delightful son of a co-worker, I tried to buy Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close last week. Incredible as it may seem for a newer book that is quite popular, it wasn’t available. After ordering the print book (which arrived within 24 hours from Amazon!), it was clear why: there are very some strange color markups and visual effects in the text, which presumably would be impossible to replicate in the Kindle. Future technology may change this, I’m guessing…

It’s very touchy. You have to work to get the hang of holding the Kindle so you don’t touch something that makes it do something you don’t mean to do. At first, I couldn’t find a way to do that, but then I found using the cover handled the problem for me. I think they still have some design work to do. But that’s the name of the early adopter game!

There are still so many features I don’t know and don’t use yet, and sometimes I feel that makes me a bad person. Right now I’m just happy to read. Once I feel I really get the hang of that, I’ll try to move on to annotating, highlighting, and all the other cool features I don’t understand yet and feel guilty about not using.

There is something different about the reading experience. I’m trying to figure out what this means, and whether it is a matter of habit? For example, and I hadn’t really thought much about this before, but I think there IS something sensually soothing about the feel of a book cover, thumbing through the pages, smelling the fresh paper and ink. I’m trying to deconstruct and parse exactly what the print book experience is for me. I’m still working on it, and will check back in when I have something insightful to say.

I’ve found there are a lot of really interesting discussions on the future of books on the web. I hope to have something to contribute to that discussion someday.

But first I have to find something more insightful to say.

Kindling a gift of the Magi

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The irony of it…. in my last post, I confessed to our excessive e-aquisition, which is mostly an i-aquisition. When I wrote it, I had forgotten about the Kindles.

Yes, Kindles. That would be plural. Here’s how it went down: I bought Ric a Kindle for his 60th birthday. Kindle is Amazon’s new wireless electronic-paper display device you use to wirelessly order books and I’ve heard it’s a wonderful reading experience, way better than any other means of electronic reading (because it’s not backlit, so not the usual eyestrain). Weighs less than a typical paperback. Can download books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, etc wirelessly. Connected to wikipedia. Not designed by Apple (as far as I know), but really easy to use.

People are calling this device a game changer, the future of reading, revolutionary, etc.

Ric’s not a obsessive reader like I am, but he really enjoys reading magazine articles, and I thought he might enjoy reading books this way. And Ric is very much interested in being on the bleeding edge of technology, so I thought this would be a great fit for him.

So he opened it on his birthday and seemed quite pleased. Maybe not quite as shocked as I thought he would be, but hey, it had been a long day and he didn’t open it til 8 p.m. or so. He started using it right away, and was off to the races. (Meaning he started downloading stuff right away)

So when our anniversary rolled around, he gave me a box to open, I noticed it was from Amazon, and seemed about the same size and weight as one I had hidden from him when it arrived in the mail. So I opened it, and guess what…. he had ordered me a Kindle before he opened his. (Because I am an obsessive reader of all things.) Kind of a gift of the magi thing, am I right?

No hair cutting or watch pawning involved, but it did take a while to get it all sorted out because the one I bought had automatically registered in my name and the one he bought was in his, so we had to deregister and so forth. But it’s all cool now, and last night before I drifted off to sleep, I read a few chapters of The Monster of Florence on my Kindle. Pretty awesome experience, I’d say. And the convenience factor is off the hook. Excellent for traveling.

Forgot to take it to the book group meeting on Sunday to let my sistah readers give it a try, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they decide to get them too, given that they are all obsessive readers and inveterate travelers.