Saturday, October 12, 2013

E-reading Devices - Update

I've had access to an iPad through work for the past year, have had my Kindle-DX break, and am now using my Kindle Paperwhite regularly.

Kindle Paperwhite - E-ink
I love the iPad for e-mail, social media, newspapers, and web-surfing, which makes sense, as that was the key reason for design.  For reading, I like the iPad for comics - it is the killer device for e-comics reading.  I purchased an inexpensive app to allow me to connnect to my home network and access my comics wirelessly, which removes my biggest complaint of the iPad, which is the need to use iTunes to transfer stuff - a very clunky alternative to direct access (I'd love a media card option for the iPad - put on a ton of comics, magazines or music and play accordingly).  I still prefer hard copy for magazines, though I do surf magazines that I don't normally buy and they are good to read on the iPad.
For books, though, I still like the Kindle (Paperwhite is my current version).  It really is a different experience reading on the Kindle vs. iPad/tablets or PC/Laptops.  The "feel" is much closer to books, and with a leather cover, is even closer.

Battery life for the e-readers is still astounding - maybe 10 or 20 times as long as a tablet, which means you are very rarely interrupted from a reading jag to plug in your device.

Years ago I sat through a motivational speaker (I think I wrote about this elsewhere on this blog) who's main point was authenticity - being "in" the events you are participating in.  With respect to equipment, the dedicated e-readers are authentic - they are the digital equivalent of paper reading to a much higher degree than other devices.  Other devices have much more generalized functionality (e.g. music, video, high end graphics etc.) but the e-readers represent the written page much better than the other competitors. They don't do much else - you may be able to access books on wifi and/or 3G, but the devices are really suited to surfing due to slow refresh rates and lack of color.  You can e-mail books to yourself, or access your home e-libraries (thanks Calibre) which is an excellent advance.  Most allow you to listen to MP3s, but this tends to drain the battery, so you lose as much as you gain.

iPad - LCD
What e-readers do give you is the abilty to read books, keep track of where you left off, allow you to read multiple books at any time, carry a library with you, bookmark important passages and highlight.  Sound familiar?  Sounds like a backpack full of books, but much lighter.

I'm not advocating e-readers over iPads - both have a place, and the iPad is a much more functional tool - if you can only get one device, get a tablet.  However, as e-readers drop in price, they become much easier to afford - if you like to read, get an e-reader.

Finished (E-Reader) - "Looking for Alaska" - John Green

"Looking For Alaska" was recommended by my 14 year old daughter, and was actually a pretty good story.  The main character is a high school boy who is a loner, and transfers to a private school in Alabama.  His roommate is close friends with a girl named Alaska, and the three form a close friendship.

What is nice about this book is that the characters are well thought out, yet are not all perfect - all have "normal" flaws, and nobody is extremely anything.
The story deals with lots of issues facing mid-teens, including drinking and smoking, and runs into drunk driving and an entire controversy about whether a death is suicide or an accident involving alcohol.

The book is good in that the characters do drink and smoke, but it is certainly not the standard behaviour of the school, and is kept appropriately hidden, which probably casts it in a realistic world-view.  The death of a classmate is surrounded by grief, guilt and feelings of responsibility and loss, and launches all the main characters down the path of trying to understand what happened, and what role they played in the tragedy.

It is good that the book doesn't end with all the laces tied and i's dotted - real life doesn't give you those complete closures, it often leaves lingering doubts and questions.

The book does deal, though only in a few places, with sex, and the title character, Alaska, is certainly experienced in this area. I'd have preferred this to be toned down a little, but in the context of a drunk-driving death story, it might be a little odd to single-out the infrequent sexuality as a main issue.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Finished (E-Reader) - "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" - Jonathan Safron Foer

I hadn't heard anything about "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safron Foer, other than it was a movie dealing with 911.

911 certainly provided a backdrop, as the young main character's dad was killed in the World Trade Centre.
The story is much more about the effect the loss of his father had on the boy, and his need to try and re-connect.  The grandparents' story was odd, but fit into the book well.

I liked it and really wanted to see the end of the boy's quest.  Foer did well to not make a fairy-tale ending to the book, but make a positive ending, though realistic - the father didn't miraculously appear after recovering from memory loss...  the family just made another of several levels of peace moving forward with their lives.