Wednesday, April 29, 2009

BOOKS: Sitting, Soaking and Reading

I love to read. In bed. In a good chair. At the dining table. While standing in queues. And in the bathtub.

But the latter requires good old-fashioned pulp between two covers. I will not take my precious electronic book reader, my outdated Sony Clie, into that most horrid of all environments for an electrical device. It's not out of fear for my own safety. I doubt I could fry much more than a nerve or two by dropping it into the drink. I'm fearful for my Clie, which they don't make anymore.

Books can get awkward to handle no matter where you read them. Some are heavy. Some are bound such that you have to constantly shift the book to read into what should be a much larger uncluttered gutter. And mastering one-handed page-turning is a task all children should master. Alas, I didn't. At least for bigger books.

That's why I like the feather-light Clie. I can read at a consistent 50 pages an hour with it. Bookmarking is not an issue. I turn off the Clie. I turn it on. I am right at the place I left the book. I can read in the dark and this past weekend's mini heat wave reminded me that my little 7-watt reading light STILL gives off SOME heat, however little. It's nice to sit in the dark and stare at this little screen and continue on my little adventure wherever else my reading takes me. And, if I go overboard and turn the reading session into a marathon, the battery limitations of the device force me to take a break before becoming permanently zombified.

The Clie also works with either hand, preventing the cramp that most people envision having with electronic readers. That's good, because I shift around a lot when reading. I squirm. I'm not proud of it, but sometimes it's the only exercise I get all day.

I've basically run the Clie into the ground once before (It's also my personal digital assistant, holding the usual contact info and a game or two, while also being a database keeper of things like passwords, lists of gifts given and my current book wants). It actually fell into disuse for about three months. But I finally replaced the battery and have since gone back to having five hour reading sessions, if I want to.

Which I do, except for in the bathtub.

There will be a time when I can't breathe life back into the Clie. When that time comes, I will be faced with better choices than what I have today. Sony has a book reader that's so-so from what I hear. Amazon, of course, markets the Kindle. Version 2 of the device came out recently and it's hailed as another step on the road to ubiquitousness for electronic book readers. Too expensive by a factor or two, the Kindle is still too pricey to give my mother as a present. And I love my mother a lot. It's even too expensive for me to buy as a toy (purchase in Canada being a whole other issue).

But there will come a time, say version 5, where a Kindle might just be good enough to replace my trusty old Clie. That's when we will see if it can survive a little water damage.

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