In the late 1990s I began to yearn for a device that would let me read books electronically. The advent of the iPod meant I no longer had to lug CDs and a bulky player plus spare batteries with me on holidays or business trips. I could now carry thousands of songs in the palm of my hand but still had the weight of many books in my suitcase. I discovered that an electronic book reader was something the big technology companies were working on. It it seemed a long way off before they would ever get anything to market. And then a solution materialised from an unexpected source with Amazons launch of the Kindle.
I wanted one immediately but couldn’t really justify buying one at around £400 for the UK version. I waited and waited for the inevitable price drop but it was very slow to materialise. In the meantime Sony launched their own device at a much more acceptable price. It was light but not that easy to use since downloading books involved complicated manoeuvres. Still it was a big advance and I enjoyed using it for about six months until it badly malfunctioned and had to be replaced. (To their credit, the service from Sony was excellent). But I’d seen a Kindle in action and it was definitely superior to the e reader. The price came down, I went for it and enjoyed another year without the risk of excess baggage charges from too many books in the suitcase. My Kindle proved ideal when I wanted to sit in a park since I could easily fit it into my handbag and was discrete enough I could read while in a restaurant. I proved to be a fickle user however because as soon as an iPad came my way one Christmas, my poor Kindle became the unwanted child. Soon it was the IPad that traveled everywhere with and the Kindle became relegated to a dark shelf somewhere.
And that stayed the case until just a few weeks ago when I was packing for a holiday in Spain and remembered that the one big drawback of the iPad is that the screen becomes unreadable in bright sunshine. Not much use then for reading on a Spanish balcony or in the piazza. I began to think that maybe the Kindle was a better option after all. It was more lightweight than the iPad, the screen technology worked significantly better in bright light and I could easily download any new books as long as I had an Internet connection.
The upshot is that I ended up bringing both devices with me. I can carry the Kindle in a small backpack during the day for the occasional opportunities while sitting at a pavement cafe for example but I still have the iPad for emails and webs surfing. Neither device is ideal in itself but I’m hoping one day soon some techno experts will be able to combine the benefits of both these approaches.