When I was growing up I had a near obsession with reading. I loved to read and constantly did. Sometime in high school I began reading less, and during my time in college my reading turned to heavyweight theological books. As a graduate student, I have a huge load of academic reading which is a part of my job as a researcher. I have still managed to read a decent bit of nonfiction over the last 10 years, but to be very honest, the actual reading aspect of this season was far from enjoyable.
The end result? An aversion to the idea of reading for fun.
About a year ago, I had the idea to try the Kindle app for iPhone. I thought this would never really work for multiple reasons, but I surprised myself and read 5 novels over the course of a month or two. I found myself engrossed in a book and not at all feeling the stress I previously felt when reading. After a few months, I upgraded to a Kindle and my progression back to regular reading has only accelerated. I thought this was really fascinating and I began trying to figure out why I was suddenly reading so much.
Here are the reasons why I think the Kindle saved me as a reader:
(a) Through my reading choices over the past ten years, I have conditioned myself to dread big books. The physical thickness of the book is a constant, psychological reminder how far I have to go, screaming that I’m only on page 35 of 500. In contrast, on the Kindle I see my progress in terms of a percentage. I obviously understand mathematically that 7% means the same thing, but for some reason it doesn’t feel as discouraging to me as a page number. I find myself approach the end of long novels without having ever given the length more than a cursory thought.
(b) The Kindle is a really clunky piece of tech in comparison to Apple products. It only does one thing. Page refreshes are slow and the menus are awkward to navigate. But something magical happens (hey Jony Ive!) when you start reading: the device seems to disappear and the text emerges. Without physically turning pages, I find myself slipping into the zone clicking next-page, next-page, next-page. I find myself simply enjoying the story or content and not even worrying about whether I’ll finish the book, get distracted or discouraged, etc. It’s just me and the story.
(c) The best time for me to read is usually at night after getting in bed. The Kindle is way lighter than most longer books and the added convenience of not having to physically turn pages just makes this experience exactly right. My arms don’t get tired from holding the device over my head, and the display works great with my lamp. All these factors together mean that I can read for a much longer period before giving out.
So, that’s a first look at why I think the Kindle saved me as a reader. At the end of the day, I bristle at the idea of a technological device being a catalyst for personal change. My experience has often been the opposite. But I have to push back in this case and admit that the Kindle taught me to love reading again.
I’d love to know if anyone else has experienced this or the opposite?