goldkin: i has book (goldkin bookly)
[personal profile] goldkin
While not as revelatory as my last post, I've quietly been making changes to my reading habits to better suit my time and needs as I crawl back into the working world. One of these changes, re-adopting my hitherto forgotten Kindle 2, was one of the best decisions I've made in recent years.

Tersely, there are three reasons why I've returned to using my Kindle 2 as a main reading device: organization, ease of accessing syndicated reading like newspapers, and text-to-speech when my eyeballs are focused elsewhere.

My Kindle 2 saw no love for the past year and a half, as I tinkered with newer technologies to adjust to a kleptomaniacal pattern of picking up and reading new books. The evident problem, though, became finding and finishing what became a worryingly large backlog of books and media that I'd started on a whim, put down, and never quite got back to because it would rapidly get piled ten books deep in sales and promoted "free" books the next evening.

This isn't a problem for me with physical media. When I buy books printed from dead trees, I naturally organize them into book stacks by category, adding the newest thing to the top of each stack as space allows. Occasionally, I will dig into one of these stacks -- by popping all books off the top to reveal the target one, taking the desired book, and replacing the remainder -- but again, no big deal. Each category in my mind maxes out at one to two dozen books in my backlog, so forming these physical pylons to my luxury reading isn't that ominous a proposition.

Interestingly, my Kindle 2 supported this reading model well in digital form, which made me quite happy. Its display model has a setting that pushes elements accessed or purchased most recently to the top of each stack, recurring forward as new items are purchased and read. It also supports folders that ascribe to this model, allowing for multiple, distinct virtual book stacks. As a bonus, books could be added to multiple folders if there was ever indecision as to which stack they should live within.

This works extremely well for me. Foregoing the discussion on why stacks work better than queues in this scenario, the organizational control of folders with a naturally ordered pattern in time and virtual space made for easy flow and low-stress management of what I was reading at any given time.

In addition to proactive organization, any new reading material that I have serialized for me -- for example, newspapers, Calibre feeds, and items from Instapaper -- would naturally appear at the top of my home screen with a clear label defining it as new. This made reading in my mornings especially easy: turn on my Kindle, wait for its screen to (briefly) refresh, then proceed to read the Seattle Times and "The Daily Nibble", my custom selection of RSS sources rolled into a tidy little personal newspaper.

Bizarrely, this organizational layer did not repeat itself in the Kindle Fire or Kindle Apps for iOS or Android. Those applications use different organizational models (and in my opinion, not for the better), balanced with good features that support rapid browsing of books-at-a-glance. The Fire's Carousel is a cute model reminiscent of Apple's take on the same, with favorites and enqueued reading placed just below the One True Stack, but it just doesn't work for any sane reading plan threaded through multiple topics or subjects of interest. The Kindle Apps eschew folders and stacks entirely, instead assuming that the reader immediately knows what they wish to read and can select it from the contents of their device or their entire library, which is always a chore when I just want to resume reading where I left off. And both of these models live within devices that are inherently noisy ("Play this game! Read this email! Hey! Hey! Listen!"), such that uninterrupted reading and flitting between books is not elevated especially well.

And then there is Kindle text-to-speech, this wonderful invention that allows me to listen to books while I spend my time whittling away at household chores or driving around Seattle.* Research indicates this is actually provided by Nuance technologies, and hearsay indicates... only for e-ink devices. So, even though I have this wonderful Kindle Fire that should be able to dictate books to me, and despite the fact that the TTS service can be clearly seen living as a background task on the device... no reading function exists. Thus, another point in my Kindle 2's favor.

I admit frustration that Amazon, in a rush to make new features available and sell all of the ebooks (all of them), has forgone some of the fundaments that make reading so enjoyable for me. I believe there's lots of opportunity here for Amazon's competitors to catch up... and if they do, I will have no regrets switching allegiances.**

* Piped through my car stereo, such that I'm not inhibiting my ability to drive or breaking any state laws.

** Subject to DRM restrictions and license portability, which is still the elephant in the room for digital media.

Date: 2012-07-12 05:16 am (UTC)
ext_324991: >.=.> (MacBook)
From: [identity profile]
I mentioned it to you on Twitter (as @roguecnidarian), but I think I like my Kindle for reading too, more than the iPad or other devices.

I have the kindle 3 (the one with the keyboard and the 3G), and have had it for about a year and a half. A christmas gift. I think I like it as a reading device for different reasons than you — of course the daily digests I get from Instapaper are nice, as is the clear "New" indicator, and it has better battery life and is lighter than, say, an iPad — but I like it beacuse it's distraction-free.

Now, I actually did get a Kindle fire back in November to see what it was like, and to play with Android some. I liked it, but was not really sure what to use it for, and ended up giving it to my parents (they love it, and that makes me glad). I actually did regret giving it away, because it was nice for watching netflix, reading RSS feeds (though I never found an app for that I liked as much as Reeder on iOS/OSX), and textbooks because the search function was so much faster than the e-ink Kindle. But overall I felt like it was redundant with the Kindle 3 I already had.

I also recently got an iPad as a graduation present, and it's really nice. I can finally see one of the things that Instapaper is good for, and really like the way a lot of things are done, but apart from comics (which it does better than the Fire due to the screen size and resolution), I don't know if I'll be reading a lot of text on it apart from text books.

The biggest problem is notifications. I've got Tweetbot and email and all those things on the phone, the iPad, even the Kindle Fire. The e-ink Kindle has none of this. It knows what it is and does it well: a text reader. I can hold it with one hand. It won't make noise and tell me someone's tweeted at me. There's a lot to be said for that, and while not slavishly emulating the physical form of a book (or doing so skeuomorphically like iBooks), it actually emulates the idea of the book: text on a page, easy page turns. It's nice for longform text that runs linearly — like novels or long articles.

It's actually been one of the things that's been on my mind a lot lately: how does this Kindle fit when I have an iPad? Do I need both? No, I don't need both, but I like both for different reasons, and they have different strengths and weaknesses.

Date: 2012-07-14 10:37 pm (UTC)
terrana: (Default)
From: [personal profile] terrana
I have the question for you: Why do stacks work better than queues? I'm unforegoing the discussion.

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