How I read

in books kit

After listening to The Incomparable #116 (“Very Well-Read Hobos”) I was surprised that the panel did not mention — what is to my mind — the greatest appeal for reading digital books: guilt-free, searchable annotations.

While toiling away on my master’s thesis I had to travel to and from Japan (for family reasons). I did not want to shlep all my source material (stacks of books, journals, photocopies, printouts of articles and the like) back and forth over the Pacific Ocean. So I tried my best to keep all my research digital. It was brilliant. eBooks have a distinct advantage over paper books: they have no margin. You can scribble as much as you like in the virtual margins of an eBook — write a whole other book there if you like! Plus, and here is the best part, it is all searchable! I watched my fellows at the university scrabbling through piles of paper searching for that one footnote. For me, it was a short, typed query away.

I still annotate books all the time. If there is ever an interesting fact, or a clever turn of phrase, whether the book is fiction or not I highlight away — guilt free.

It was also during my time as a graduate that I discovered audiobooks. Hour long commutes and the self-doubt that accompanies writing a thesis (“I don’t know anything!”) made me want to pack every minute of my day with research. A couple of years later, while on paternity leave taking care of my newborn, I found another good use case for audio. So: washing dishes, gardening, commuting… and parenting. My Audible library contains 135 books.

Paper books I barely read anymore. They are far too inconvenient. Not only do I have to be careful while making notes (not to mention the limited space and that they are unsearchable), I need to create the right reading ambience to make any headway. I much prefer an eBook.

Serenity Caldwell reads many of her books on her iPhone (cf. #117: Intergalactic FedEx). I used to do that, but after reading on an iPad I began to appreciate having a larger screen. It is one of the reasons I bought a Galaxy SIII (and one of the few positives of owning an Android). The large display is great for reading. The iPhone 5 did get a longer screen, but I find it is still too narrow for comfortable reading. Hopefully the next version widens out a bit, or I might have to go for an iPad mini.

Yes, I have a Kindle. I got the first batch of international ones to Japan (see my original review here). But the convenience of my phone has relegated my Kindle to the old junk tech pile. It isn’t only the portability, I often read at night in bed and a book light it too clunky.

To sum up: mobile phone or iPad plus audiobooks — that is how I read. Soon I would like to post on what I read, and how it will change in the year 2013.