Thursday, August 14, 2008

Better late then never

I am back! After another hiatus I shall begin blogging faithfully once again. I realize that regularly updating a blog is one of the Golden Rules of Blogging, so sorry readers.

What has brought me out of my blogging coma? I was having a tipsy conversation with one of my intellectual friends about reading. I know he's an intellectual because he is more than 600 pages into a 1256-page history book called Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer, and he still wants to keep reading it! He lamented that he is always reading last year's fiction hits and cannot catch up to what is happening now. I always feel slightly behind the latest wave myself, so we discussed this at further length than was necessary. So because I am not the only one who is behind, I have more courage to reveal just how far behind I am by giving you all a run-down of the latest books I've read:

The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa (short stories--the last one in the collection was my favorite)
The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (the story "Mrs. Sen's" was a highlight)
The Girl on the Fridge by Etger Keret (lonely stories that made me a bit melancholy)
Ferdydurke by Witold Gombrowicz (you can become a fan of Mr. Gombrowicz on Facebook)
Close to Jedenew by Kevin Vennemann (haunting and stark)

Up next (unless someone has a better suggestion for me):
The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Kindle Review

Remember that horrible picture that was floating around the internet before the Kindle came out? Well happily, the designers have chosen NOT to use that circa 1989 gray-yellow plastic from the Macintosh Performa. More of a gray-white tone, the body of the Kindle looks decent but feels slightly flimsy. Also, the "Next Page" button, which is located along the entire right side of the device is too easily pressed. Whenever I showed the Kindle to someone, they would inevitably hold down the "Next Page" button while looking at it and get confused (and lose my place in the book I was reading). Amazon should redesign the next generation of the Kindle, in my opinion. This is a good place to start, but the aesthetics not quite there. Gadgets have to look cool, ya know?

I liked the scroll wheel for navigation and the full keyboard is definitely necessary. The e-ink was amazingly sharp and easy on the eyes. The display performed well in bright sunshine and in lowlight situations, like the subway. Some people are disconcerted by the screen flash that occurs every time you "turn" the page, but it really doesn't interfere much with the reading experience. I can't wait for color e-ink to come out! It will increase the multifunctionality of this device a hundred fold. Imagine browsing the internet on it, reading picture books to your kids, storing your photos and videos on it. Maybe someone should just make a tiny computer with an e-ink display. We are headed that direction, I think.

The Kindle's interface with the Amazon store was incredible. Amazon did a smart thing there by providing free internet access for purchasing books. You can also email documents to your Kindle, but you have to pay a small fee for each email the Kindle received. The device is also limited in the kinds of documents it can read, so most of your office documents will not work. I have faith that Amazon is working to improve these features. They'd be dumb not to.

I did not get a chance to test the internet connection outside of New York City, but most books downloaded in about a minute. The Amazon store keeps records of what you purchase (commence with conspiracy theories) in case your Kindle is lost, stolen, or breaks. The store also features bestseller lists by genre so you can stay up-to-date on the coolest books that all your fellow Kindle-readers are reading.

Overall, I found the Kindle experience quite enjoyable but not worth the price. Most of the books cost between $7.99 and $9.99, which is definitely cheaper than the printed versions but not cheap enough to justify the $350 price tag. However, older books and classics can cost as little as $0.99! On a recent vacation, I selected three books to take with me. Unfortunately, my selections were not very good ones. I was longing for a Kindle, stocked full of literary treasures and trashy entertainment. Alas, I had to send this Kindle on to its final destination, where it will no doubt be loved and appreciated by its bibliophile owner.