Sunday, January 13, 2013

Indefinite Subway Reading Commitment

2013! A year far in the future!

One of my more makeable new year's resolutions is to start reading more. Specifically, I mean reading more while I'm on the subway, as opposed to doing the NY Times crossword puzzle app on my iPhone with my left hand while hanging onto the overhead bar with my right hand. I got hooked on this commuter behavior shortly after purchasing the iPhone. Then I looked up at Christmas and realized I'd only read like two books since springtime, and I got sad.

(Noted in passing: one of my other more makeable resolutions is to start writing more again, which means writing at all, and which means here on the blog. Hello again!)

Anyway, I of course immediately adjusted my behavior with no difficulty. Since I got a Kindle for Christmas (thanks, parents!) I can impulse-buy reading material now. I've been skeptical about the whole Kindle thing, basically on account of being old-fashioned about books, but I like the impulse-buy angle. For example, all the political blogs ran obituary appreciations of Richard Ben Cramer a last week, who I'd never heard of, but I could immediately impulse-buy What It Takes, which I'd just learned was a classic account of the 1988 presidential primaries. Just a couple of screen taps, and boom, I'm into the Amazon store and automatically charging ten dollars to Maddie's credit card somehow.

So that's one aspect of Kindle book buying. Another aspect is that it's not extremely apparent how long a book is. For example, I got about five chapters into What It Takes (which starts out with a kind of intertwined biography of George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole, which is a lot more absorbing than it might sound) before getting curious about its length. In real life, the book is famously long, 1,072 pages long; the paperback edition weighs a pound and a half. Who knew!

I'm enjoying myself with it immensely, so no complaints (I'm into the initial encounters now with the personages of Michael Dukakis and Gary Hart), but it's funny to only catch on to an Indefinite Subway Reading Commitment well after that commitment has been made. And it still doesn't feel like physical size, just an endless procession of page-turning screen taps.

Meanwhile, Maddie goes on standby this week and she gets the Kindle, since I told her back when I was still skeptical about the whole Kindle thing (i.e., sometime before a week ago) that she can take it any time she wants. So I guess I'll pick up a New Yorker or something? I dunno, man, resolutions are hard.


Anonymous Barnaby said...

Your first sentence reminded me of this:

> my iPhone

I was going to ask if you play Letterpress, but then realised that you would crush me, so thought better of it.

> So I guess I'll pick up a New Yorker or something?

Orrrr, you could read in the Kindle iPhone app. It’s not as book-like, but perhaps good enough for a Subway ride.

1/14/2013 2:57 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

I guess if Facebook has a Twitter feed then Kindle can have an iPhone app. I'm not sure if I feel up to reading the largest book I own on the smallest screen I own.

And yes, that Flight of the Conchords song is one of the defining references to our current millennium.

1/14/2013 11:21 PM  
Blogger nate said...

Oh, right, the blog. And the future!

I, too, got a Christmas Kindle Paperwhite, and I've been applying it so far to the easier-with-electronic-books task of alternating between stories in Ursula Le Guin's new anthology The Unreal and the Real and in George Saunders' latest collection, Tenth of December. Which delivers close to my maximum possible dose of short-fiction bliss.

There is no easy replacement for the fan-the-remaining-pages-in-the-book-through-your-fingers test for how much of a physical book remains, but if you tap the position / percentage read indicator in the lower left corner of the page you can cycle through a couple of different, marginally helpful metrics, including the percentage of the whole book you've covered.

Tech advice buried in a Blogger comment! This is not the future.

I expect the device will be good for one-handed streetcar reading, once I'm going to or from work that way again, but so far in 2K13 I've been walking and biking, since I want to get exercise instead of a norovirus.

I have something of a vested professional interest in not publicly declaring new year's resolutions to be bullshit, but they mostly are. Nonetheless I've been focusing on some food and physical activity self-discipline to re-gather myself after a long holiday break and burn off the annual Xmas pudge, which is as close to resolutionary behavior as I'm likely to get.

1/15/2013 12:49 PM  

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