A friend writes me from time to time about her beloved Kindle. Of course it didn’t take long for her to order the “new and improved” version, the Kindle2. Today she informs me that it is now possible to receive The New Yorker wirelessly on the new Kindle. At $2.99 a month, that’s a bargain compared to the weekly newsstand price. And the fact that is sent early each Monday allows a reader on a remote island in the Pacific to receive it eons before it is seen on the newsstand and several eons before a subscriber receives it in the mail.
I have resisted the Kindle ever since it appeared. There is, of course, my long history of reading the printed page with the covers of the book held between my hands. However, I imagine in time one could get used to the new routine, leaving open the question of how long that would take.
I had always assumed it was impossible to place marks in the margin or its Kindle equivalent next to the noteworthy passages a reader might want to record. This was the central concern I had about every ebook. And I had also assumed it was impossible to save the passages so marked and then eventually transfer them to a Word document on a computer so that they might subsequently added to the reader’s commonplace book.
I have now been duly informed I was wrong on both counts. It appears that it is not only possible but rather than the cumbersome process I imagined it to be, it is, in fact, unbelievably simple. At least, that is what my friend says and that is what is confirmed in the Kindle2 manual.
In response to my doubts, my friend writes: “Why is it cumbersome? It is better now because the manual says you can save starting from a single word and go from page to page (rather than having to start at the beginning of a line and start the highlighting over again on the next page). But it was never difficult—you just clicked to highlight a passage and then clicked when you reached the end of the passage. You just hook it up to the computer and copy the file. A lot easier than typing everything all over again.”
Well, it is true I spend a good deal of time typing the passages I mark in a book or periodical. I have rationalized this by saying it gives me a chance to review the passages and give them further thought. Of course, I could do that anyway, without having to spend all that time typing the passages on the keyboard.
And the Amazon website makes this quite clear: “By using the QWERTY keyboard, you can add annotations to text, just like you might write in the margins of a book. And because it is digital, you can edit, delete, and export your notes.” And that’s not all.
“Using the new 5-way controller, you can highlight and clip key passages and bookmark pages for future use. You'll never need to bookmark your last place in the book, because Kindle remembers for you and always opens to the last page you read.”
This is all pretty amazing. Can it be this simple? Does it really work so easily in practice? Can I ever get used to it? Understand that I am no longer a young, electronic wizard.
A couple of other features appeal to me. I understand there is a built-in dictionary. What a good idea. How often have you come across an unfamiliar word that you want learn its meaning? And how often has this happened while you are lying in bed with the dictionary on a bookshelf two floors below? At least, you thought it was there but come to think of it, you can’t be sure now. The word remains a mystery, unless you make note of it in some way and then remember to check the dictionary when you eventually find it somewhere downstairs.
Again, from the Kindle2 website: “The New Oxford American Dictionary with over 250,000 entries and definitions, so you can seamlessly look up the definitions of words without interrupting your reading. Come across a word you don't know? Simply move the cursor to it and the definition will automatically display at the bottom of the screen. Never fear a sesquipedalian word again--simply look it up and keep reading.” Another miracle of sorts.
Finally, the gadget offers wireless access to Wikipedia, a feature that is less interesting to me but I imagine can be useful in a pinch. Amazon informs me that: “With Kindle in hand, looking up people, places, events, and more has never been easier. It gives whole new meaning to the phrase walking encyclopedia.” Can you believe that?
To be sure, I do often have a question about someone or some book or some issue and more often then not Wikipedia gives me a provisional answer. Usually I go to the computer to get the information. Now I need never get up out of bed or leave my poolside lounge chair with “latest generation” of Amazon’s new super-thin, wireless, “reading device.”
In the old days we used to read books. Now we read, if we read, “reading devices.” What could possibly be next?