Me and my Kindle

Published on January 7, 2012 by in E-readers and tablets

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By Santie Pretorius

Soon after we got together in 1986, my partner bought me David Attenborough’s Life on Earth (The Reader’s Digest augmented and enlarged edition). I was bowled over. It was undoubtedly my best birthday present ever. Better than my first little radio, my bicycle and my Volkswagen Beetle.

It went deeper and further into that wonderful world that Attenborough was bringing to South African TV audiences just then, opening up and explaining the biggest topic of all – from the Big Bang all the way to me, right here, right now.

After 20, my partner has bettered that gift. For my last birthday I got a Kindle. I am in love. My Kindle goes with me – everywhere. I read more than I did even in my teens, when I huddled up with my book and a torch under the blankets after lights-out. And I read what I want to read, instead of what is available in the bookshops.

Even while I was waiting for the arrival of my little package from Amazon, I Googled and found the best novels of the century, the best fiction ever written, the best novels in English, all the Pulitzer Prizewinners, the winners and shortlisted authors of the Booker Prize for Fiction, and I created my ideal reading list. When my Kindle arrived, I had already downloaded the greatest part of my reading list, partly from Amazon on my Kindle account, but mostly from Project Gutenberg (a group of volunteers who make electronic copies of public domain books available for free).

Having been educated in an Afrikaans school and university, I am seriously under-read when it comes to great classic literature. I am now diving into Jane Austen, the Brontës, Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, Joseph Conrad, Henry James, Edith Wharton (don’t you just love The Age of Innocence?) and more in a feeding frenzy. For light relief I charged through the latest John le Carré, because waiting for me was Mary Glickman’s Home In The Morning and Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss, which everyone’s been telling me to read.

I am also reading deeper. With Wikipedia and a dictionary just a click away, I easily find information when I want to understand where this town is, what this word means, what happened in history at this time. Why is the author so derogatory about this character who has decorated his home with this artwork?

Why, let’s click and have a quick look at the painting on Wikipedia. Wikipedia also offers me comments, criticisms and backgrounds to the author and the books. All on my Kindle. I love reading in coffee shops. Whenever someone at a table close by irritates me, I pop in my earphones and have my favourite jazz or a bit of Mozart to enhance my coffee and Conrad.

A man walked past one day, studied me for a moment, and then crinkled up his face as if in a moment of exquisite enjoyment, clutched his heart and smiled at me. Yeah, that’s the life… Criticism? Just that copyright laws prevent me from getting some of the books I want from Amazon.

But then I can get them from other suppliers, and use free software from the web to change the format from ‘epub’ to ‘mobipocket’. Some people tell me they would never adapt to an e-reader. “I just need the feel and smell of a real book,” they say. I say, hey, read on your Kindle, and keep a book next to your bed for an occasional sniff.

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