Somehow I got hold of a kindle touch. I have never been to attracted by e-readers, but given that one of them was in my possession (long story short, I didn’t buy it for me, but in the end I had to keep it), I thought I should at least give it a try. So, upon suggestion from a friend, I bought Straight Man: A Novel by Richard Russo from the Amazon kindle store. The experience of reading a novel on a screen was a new one for me, and I am very satisfied. No matter whether I was inside or outside in full sun, readability was never an issue. The ease of use was great and I just took and used the kindle everywhere. With the kindle, I didn’t see any problem in reading it on the bus to and from the campus, something I can not do with a paperback, for some reason (I guess I feel embarrassed). I found it quite easy to highlight text, add notes, and type on the virtual keyboard, even if I have clumsy toes. I got the wifi version, and I’m quite satisfied with it too, but I must say that the antenna must have very low gain, as sometimes it does not pick the signal from places where my macbook has no problem at all. Also, it was not able to connect to the wireless network in the computer engineering department here in Rome. No idea about it. I haven’t explored the browsing and mp3 player capabilities yet. I also tried to read scientific articles in PDF format on the kindle, but the experience was not entirely satisfactory. Fact is, that the screen is just too small for single-column-formatted articles. It is ok for two-column-formatted ones, if you zoom to only see one column, but navigation around the page is not the easiest, at least for someone as clumsy as myself.
Friends who know me well were kind of shocked when I told them I was going to give the kindle a try. They well know how much I love books as objects, and claimed that the reading experience would be vilified and watered down on an e-reader. I replied that I still didn’t know whether that was the case and wanted to see what it felt. I also made a promise: I would not read on the kindle any book that I feel I may want to read again in the future. Most people make a surprised face when I tell them that I can read the same books more than once. Of the books on my shelves, I read at least half of them at least twice, but some even more often. There are actually books that I try to read every year: The Name of the Rose, Foucault’s Pendulum, The Count of Montecristo, some Calvino’s novels. When I read a book a second time, I remember of the first time I read it, and the content of the book and my own life mix and this gives me even more food for thoughts, which is what I crave for. I feel that I wouldn’t be able to do this on the kindle, for some reason. It may well be that the experience of reading on the kindle is more impersonal. More immediate but less permanent, as volatile is the electronic ink on the kindle’s rigid page. I suspect that, if I read a book on the kindle and realize that I may want to read it again, then I will most probably also buy the paperback edition. This is one of the dreams of the kindle’s developers, by the way, as I would buy the same book twice.
The novel I read on the kindle, Straight Man, was suggested to me by a dear friend, who read it not long ago. It was good, but I am not sure I may want to read it again, although I felt it subject to be very related to me, as it is the story of a college professor, son of a famous scholar. The father-son relationship, or better, the influence that such a father had on the son, is present throughout the book although it has only little to do with the events in the book. I liked it, not only because, given the subject it gave me the chance to think about life (which is usually what I look for in a novel) but also because the plot has unexpected turns, although the end does not seem as well developed as the other parts. I just hope I won’t end up being a professor in an institution like the one in the book (the fictional Western Central Pennsylvania State University).
Posted from Rome, Lazio, Italy.