Oh Kindle My Kindle
I have always loved my gadgets. Whether it was the football handheld by Mattel, Atari, the Passport radar detector or my portable video camera from the 80s, or one of the early Apple laptops, Sanyo electronic address book and calendar, and eventually the Palm Pilot in the 90’s, I’ve always loved being an early adopter.
Until the last 5 years.
Being one who seems to be naturally distracted by nearly any new feature, in other words by any interruption to the ongoing flow of productive work or activity, these days my gadgets are often my worst enemy. I love (but really hate) my iPhone and iPad. My ringer is off, my notifications have been disabled for years, and yet one tracking app shows I pick my phone up dozens of times a day. No notifications needed apparently. I find meditating for 30 minutes these days to be incredibly challenging, the time moves so slowly. I’ll look up after what seems like 15-20 minutes and 8 minutes will have lapsed. Sometimes… I’ll break all the rules and pick up my “timer” (iPhone) and just take a teeny tiny peek at something other than the stopwatch, and wouldn’t you know it? 15-20 minutes passes by in a snap, and while I dashed around the news cycle, an article I saved in Pocket, an email or two, or scroll the Norwich Listserve, my opportunity to actually meditate has long since passed. No, these gadgets are not my friends these days.
Except for one. One gadget never changes, it’s still clunky, does only one thing, and I love it more than any other. Most importantly, it makes me feel good about myself afterwards.
Yup, I’m talking about the Kindle. Not the fancy Fire one, I mean the standard Kindle White. I think I use the one that is 7 inches (might have to correct). The user interface is gray and white, the touchscreen doesn’t really love to be touched, underlining is an effort, taking notes even more of an effort, and sharing a quote or paragraph with others is very limited (to a point where I nearly always abandon the effort to do so)
But all of that means I do only one thing with my Kindle… and that is read. “Curling up with a good book” is great unless you are traveling and want to bring multiple books. Or have to turn on a bright light at night to see the pages. By now my back-lit paper white Kindle has a few hundred books in “there”, always available. I “curl” up with my Kindle almost everywhere I go… the doctor’s office, the T in Boston, in bed in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep (the dimmer light allows me to feel tired quickly, unlike the iOS screens which if checked during the night spells the end of any hope of sleep).
I also find I read faster using a Kindle than a regular book. When I decide to move to skimming mode at various times throughout most books, I focus my gaze on the center of the screen and essentially screenshot in my mind whatever I can see in the middle of the page, using my right thumb to force a quick page turn. It works well enough. With books perhaps the minor disruption of having to physically turn pages causes me distraction and slows me down.
Finally, where technology is helpful, Kindle has adopted it extremely well. I have used the highlighter since it became available and whose under linings and notes remain available to me at any time. At last count, I had nearly 400 pages in underlines from the books I’ve read on Kindle over the past 12 years or so.
Amazon may have blown their phone launch (which I did buy), and Alexa may be invading our homes in ways we stil don’t understand, but the Kindle is the kind of gentle, useful technology that I wish others would emulate to give us back our ability to focus and commit to fewer things, perhaps giving us our sanity back in the process.