Sunday, November 21, 2010

Electronics, Part 3

This so far doesn't have so much to do with medicine. When my birthday came around this year I suggested to my wife a Kindle, and she agreed, no doubt happy to be off the hook figuring out what to get me. It took a while to get it, since they were on back order.

Now I've had it for a couple of months and it's cool. It's the Kindle 3, with just the wireless capability, good enough for me. Although I've used it a fair amount, I haven't bought much, just a German-English dictionary (two English dictionaries come with it), and one other book. So am I a slow reader?

Amazon has some free ebooks you can download, but they aren't so easy to find – takes a bit of searching. What I've found out is that you can download Kindle-compatible ebooks from Project Gutenberg, which is a project in the process of making available for free a large number of out-of-copyright books.

I've read Samuel Johnson's "A Tour of the Hebrides" (along with Boswell's "Journal of a Tour of the Hebrides"), written in the 18th century, and "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville. The latter was quite a surprise, as someone who had never read it, but thought I knew the story from the Hollywood version with Gregory Peck. For one thing, the book is BIG, and it takes quite a long time indeed to actually get to Moby Dick, with variably interesting diversions into whaling (a pretty gruesome thing in the 19th century). It occurred to me that if this book just came out, there might be compliments, but overall it would probably be panned as being bloated, with some contrasting styles of narration that don't necessarily go together. It's also said to be written by this Ishmael character, who alleges to have little education, but somehow spins a complex linguistic yarn with all sorts of references to classical and other literature.

I can recall from the movie version the scene where Ahab is pulled into the water by Moby, then resurfaces attached to the whale, his arm flapping as if beckoning the ship. Great scene, but not a part of the book – Ahab gets rather ignominiously yanked into the water, and that's the end of him. There are also very detailed descriptions of Queequeg's appearance and behavior that are nothing short of amazing.

Interestingly it was quite easier to read and understand Johnson's 18th century British English than Melville's 19th century American English. To say that it is flowery and obtuse is an understatement.

I took my Kindle on a trip lately, and tried out the idea of putting various reservation information on it, and it worked quite well, and so I had all of that in one place. When you don't need it anymore you just delete it.

I like the lightweight feel of it, and the physical size is about right. The battery life is great. They have what is said to be an "experimental" feature of a browser, but rather difficult to use, and legibility can be a problem, but browsing is not why I bought it, so for me not a big issue – after all, I have my smartphone now.

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