Trying to turn the page on a Kindle

CNET News reporter Daniel Terdiman, trying out the Kindle DX for the first time, discovers that reading a book will never be the same.

TOOELE, Utah--The first time I tried to physically turn the page of the book I was reading on my Kindle DX , I realized the mistake and chuckled at myself.

The second time I did it, I chuckled, too. But a little bit less.

And the third time? I thought to myself that perhaps I have a problem.

Exhausted after 12 nonstop days of Road Trip 2009, I decided Wednesday evening to lie low and read a book. But rather than pull out one of the three or four actual paper books I'd brought with me, I thought I'd try, for the first time, the Amazon Kindle DX I'd also brought with me to road test.

The Kindle DX has a bigger screen than its predecessor, but still doesn't allow readers to physically turn the pages of the book they're reading. For that, one would need an actual book. Amazon.com

And my initial conclusion: When you try an entirely new way of doing something you've done all your life, it can really mess with your mind.

I turned the Kindle on after returning to my hotel in this little town not far from Salt Lake City, having checked online for a title that looked interesting to read. I'd settled on Christopher McDougall's "Born to Run," a nonfiction tale of a writer who went to Mexico in search of a people known as the fastest and sturdiest runners on Earth. Having already set up the Amazon account, and being connected to the Internet, I found that downloading the title was a snap. Even with no instructions, the e-book was available for reading within what seemed like a minute.

So rather than waiting, I plopped down on the bed, loaded up the book, and started to read.

And at the end of that first full page of text, that's when I discovered how hard it is to break years and years of conditioning--at the end of a page, you flip to the next one. It's just what you do. Except that on a Kindle, the paper has this hard, thick plastic feel to it. And it doesn't flip, no matter how hard you try.

Instead, you're supposed to click the "next page" button. And, it's true, that works perfectly. You click the button, and in an instant, the next page of text is there for your reading pleasure.

As I said, however, I couldn't shake the conditioning. Again and again I reached for that corner of the page, trying to flip it. Maybe it was because I was so tired. Or perhaps it was because Amazon has done a really nice job of making the digital text look like what you'd find in a real book.

I began to think that was it: While the screen is smaller than a normal paperback, it's not that much smaller, and they've chosen a font and look-and-feel that truly conjure up the sense that you've got a true book in front of you.

That sense is compounded by the leather case I've got the Kindle in, meaning that, as with a book cover, there is a left side and a right side to what I'm holding up in front of me. But here, I decided, was a tangible flaw: Given that I was holding something with two sides, it was nagging my subconscious to not have a page of text on the left side.

And then, even as I got further and further into the book, I was still trying to flip that piece of paper.

All of this, of course, is my way of saying that the Kindle DX is a really nice piece of technology. It's easy and quick to use, offers an appealing presentation of a book and, while it doesn't have access to all the titles I might like to read, it seems to have a fairly sizable library.

Before cracking open the cover of the book, as it were, I'd only seen a few Kindles in action. As a device, I don't think it's anywhere near as elegant as, say, an iPod. But functionally, it is a piece of cake, and that, ultimately, is the point, right?

Literary purists are always going to hold out for the true book they can hold on to and read in front of the fire. But for folks who want to travel light, yet have access to a number of books, or for those who aren't purists, I can see the Kindle being a fine answer.

I just wonder how long it will take me before I get used to not being able to flip that corner to the next page. Of course, that brings up another problem. When I pick up my next real book, how long will it take me to stop trying to click the "next page" button?

For the next several weeks, Geek Gestalt will be on Road Trip 2009. After driving more than 12,000 miles in the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest and the Southeast over the last three years, I'll be writing about and photographing the best in technology, science, military, nature, aviation and more in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and Colorado. If you have a suggestion for someplace to visit, drop me a line. And in the meantime, join the Road Trip 2009 Facebook page and follow my Twitter feed.

 

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