This has been a summer of e-reading for me. A combination of being away from Cambridge with too few books alongside, receiving the Amazon Kindle as a birthday present from my wife, and the upgrading of iPhone software has meant that I have spent far too many hours reading electronic books--first on the iPhone and then on the Kindle.
The experience was surprisingly positive. OK, the iPhone has a great screen, but it was still a surprise to find out that it can be a good medium for reading for hours on end. I use eReader, which makes it easy to download books and has a simple interface. The limitation is that there are far too few books for download. The non-fiction collection is especially poor, unless you are looking for older books with expired copyrights.
The Kindle of course gives you access to a much larger collection of books, and has the great virtue that you can download books directly onto the device (in the U.S.), and do so within a few seconds. You can browse the Amazon bookstore on the Kindle, and download whatever grabs your interest right there and then. This instant gratification is quite unlike any other shopping experience. With one-click shopping, it can also be quite expensive. I am carrying many many more books on the device than I can possibly read. I think Jeff Bezos somehow knew this...
But the ergonomics of the Kindle are a disaster. It is awkward to hold, with or without the case, and it is virtually impossible to use without pressing on the wrong buttons. The screen also took a while to adjust to. Not being backlit, it is obviously not as bright as the iPhone, but it doesn't quite feel natural either. And tables and figures are virtually illegible on the Kindle, as they cannot be enlarged (unlike the text size).
So what did I read? The book I enjoyed the most was Netherland: A Novel by Joseph O'Neill, even though I know even less about cricket than I do about baseball. I also liked Martin Amis' House of Meetings, which is a couple of years old. I had sort of given up on Amis after finding his other recent stuff close to being unreadable, but this one is really good. My Name Is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare by Jess Winfield was also a lot of fun. Being restricted to the fiction available on eReader (before I received my Kindle) meant that I also read (or re-read) some old favorites from John Le Carre and Martin Cruz Smith.
Orhan Pamuk's latest novel came out the day before I flew back to the States. Alas, it is not available electronically (nor has it come out in English as far as I know), so I had to lug it along with me. And it is a big, thick book--the longest to date among his novels. But I don't know what it is with his novels. I just cannot finish them. I really enjoy reading the first half or so, but then I feel like I am being led in circles, over and over again. At some point, I give up and stop reading. This one was no different. It is probably more a reflection on me than anything else... (His book of memoirs on Istanbul, by contrast, was quite different: I read it in its entirety virtually in one sitting.)
On the non-fiction side, this summer's reading included a good doze of common sense (some written really well, some less well, some oversold, and some written too hastily), along with some of the scariest, preachiest, and cheekiest stuff I have read in a while. And now it's on to the catchiest...