Monday, April 06, 2009

The Kindle iPhone App and the Return of Reading

Here is a picture of good intentions.

It's my little bookshelf of mainly technical books, right next to the big desk in the basement. And I regret to say, I haven't gone through even a few chapters of most of these books. Some of them are just odd choices, what was I thinking buying Linux Device Drivers? But, most are in domains either interesting, or profitable to know and yet they sit unread. The fact of the matter is that books are inconvenient and they require concentration. I'm a busy guy, and what free time I have ends up in some combination of web surfing or watching TV, usually both at once.

But like everyone, I find myself in the odd 10-20 minutes here or there. Lying in bed after the babies finally nodded off, waiting for the dentist, in a meeting starting late, etc. where I could be reading if I had a book at hand all bookmarked and ready to go. And here is where the Kindle App for the iPhone comes into play. It's always available (pockets in my PJs), no worries about lighting, always on the right page. If I activate my iPhone looking for something to do, the icon is right there on the main page. Basically, a low impedance situation to encourage me to read, and I do. I read the inspiring Clean Code cover to cover in the first week, and am halfway through Working Effectively with Legacy Code.

Not that reading a book on the iPhone is perfect. Code listings tend to be littered with confusing hyphens, and are generally hard to read. I'm sure a real Kindle is a better pure reading experience. But the thing is, I am not going to be carrying another device bigger than an iPhone on my person, ever. I'm certainly not keeping it in my pajamas. The iPhone is a good enough reader, and it's there. I could see buying a Kindle for my bedside, and relying on the automatic syncing with my iPhone, but that is way down on my spending list. What is important is that I am reading and getting the personal and professional growth which comes from reading.

Give a person a book and you change their lives.