I finally got a chance last night to try my Kindle out in earnest. One thing I’m hoping it’ll help me do is (if I can get over the urge to skim because its being a device makes me feel as if my reading of it can be perfunctory) to do a better job of taking notes. When I’m out and about with a book or am just bumping along reading casually, it’s easy to forget to make annotations. With the Kindle, I can make notes or highlight things any time I want; if I have the device on hand, I can add meta-data to my reading. For example, I sparked up Tom McCarthy’s Remainder last night and right away started noticing that he’s playing with boundaries and a sense of interiority and exteriority. From the moment I noticed the theme, I was able to add a note or a highlight any time I noticed a relevant bit. If I had been reading in a book without a pen to hand (or in a book I didn’t own), I might have made a mental note but forgotten it. Now I have breadcrumbs on my Kindle for when I wish to go back and reconsider my initial reading of the book. This is very handy.
The problem with annotations and highlights is that they’re kind of a pain to add. Using the tiny little arrow buttons to scroll to my place in the text is less than pleasant, and typing a quick note (for this non-texter) is arduous as well. And I sure wish there were a comma button among the default buttons; I’d gladly sacrifice a quarter inch of space bar for a comma, but I now have to take notes in short, clipped sentences and separate lists with periods or no punctuation at all (or figure out what button sequence will cause a comma to be inserted). Taking notes, in other words, is pretty slow going.
The dream experience would include a tactile screen that I could touch, tap, pinch, or whatever to highlight or insert an annotation. I could then speak into the device and have the audio note saved. Voice-to-text software would then attempt to transcribe my audio note into a text annotation that I could correct after the fact (which would then feed back into training the device to understand my particular accent). Of course, there are barriers such as storage size for audio files and just the computational bits needed to accomplish such a thing. I’m sure the price point for the device would skyrocket with such things added. And I’ll bet the iPad or other devices have such features or have a roadmap that includes them.
But I have a Kindle. Still, I like the thing so far, and I’ve trained myself to some degree not to read perfunctorily. This could turn out to be a very good device for me, if not for my wallet.