My history with the Kindle
I remember the early days of ebooks, back when I read PDFs of bestseller novels that fell off the back of a truck on my 14″-inch CRT monitor. When the original Kindle came out, I really wanted one, but I was young, out on my own, and broke most of the time, so I stuck with library books, used paperbacks, and additional PDFs that fell off of trucks on my lousy monitor.
I eventually bought a Kindle Touch in 2011 and fell in love. I bought a handful of books from the Kindle Marketplace, and soon had a Kindle app on my PC and smartphone. I began liquidating my dead-tree books and was glad to get rid of most of those doorstops.
After another year or so, I mostly read on my smartphone app and put the Kindle away in a drawer somewhere. For the most part, I continued to read ebooks on my phone.
When I went back to college in 2017, I read How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler, originally written back in the 1970s. His advice for absorbing information through markup and marginalia made a lot of sense to me, and I once again began to prefer paper books. The experience of writing in a paper book is so much nicer than trying to badly make annotations within an ebook Kindle. On my phone, I can add annotations without too much trouble, but I would still prefer to just use a pen to highlight, circle, draw exclamation points, and write notes in the margins.
See the post on Marginalia and the Yin-Yang of Reading-Writing on Brain Pickings for more excellent thoughts on the subject.
I found a workflow of obtaining pdf copies of various books I needed for my courses and using my iPad Pro with Apple Pencil stylus to mark up the pdf as I saw fit. I very much liked this solution, but I have the big iPad which is bulky for travel, and I can’t easily export highlights and margin notes from my iPad like I can within the Kindle.
When I started traveling regularly for work in 2018, I once again found my aging Kindle Touch, recharged it, and loaded it with a few books. I really like the size of the Kindle for reaching on planes, on the subway, or eating alone at a restaurant. It is lighter than most paper books, can hold many volumes, and the e-ink screen is great to read and still has great battery life even after eight years.
How to improve the Kindle
I’ve thought about upgrading to newer Kindles–honestly, I bought a 1st-gen Kindle Paperwhite a few years ago and I’m not quite sure where it went. I don’t think I ever read more than one book on it before it disappeared.
I’ve been reluctant to buy another Paperwhite for several reasons.
- No stylus – now that I’m used to making annotations and highlights on my iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil, I never want to go back to using the Kindle’s touch interface keyboard again for making annotations. I will admit that highlighting text is pretty simple, but every other interaction is horrible.
- I only have two gadgets left that use Micro-USB charging cords, my Kindle Touch and my Plantronics ANC headset. I don’t see myself upgrading until Amazon upgrades the Kindle to USB-C.
- No options for color – don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for a Kindle Fire. I want a Kindle with an e-ink screen, but it would be nice if it could support a handful of e-ink colors for highlighting in multiple colors, basic illustrations (look at the style of Gray’s Anatomy or early naturalist guides – you mostly have hand-drawn or woodcut illustrations with a touch of color.
I don’t see Amazon adding an option for a stylus anytime soon, which is a shame. I spent a week with the reMarkable tablet last year and found that it was brilliant for taking notes but was horrible as an e-reader. Jeff Bezos could easily buy reMarkable and integrate their technology into the Kindle Paperwhite.
If it worked well and allowed me to take notes that synced with third-party apps and cloud services, I’d happily pay $300 for just that capability. Especially if it had a USB-C charging port. If it also had a limited color palette e-ink display, I’d probably spend $400.