As I mentioned in my previous installment, I had quite a few apps for reading e-books on my iPhone – until I went to to search for a book and – hey, they have free Kindle apps for iPhones AND for PCs too! I should try it one of these days…

You already know what I just did right after that thought, don’t you?

It was November 21, 2009. I downloaded and installed both apps. The first book I bought was one that I’ve been wanting to read for a long time – Aegypt by John Crowley. (I wanted very much to read this book, but what I really wanted to buy then was Little, Big, which made quite an impression on me when a friend loaned it to me on my early twenties. Sadly, he had to take it back because he was moving to another city and I never finished it – still haven’t, by the way.)

The next day I bought two more books – Gladiator by Philip Wylie, and a brand new book, that would be the first book I would read on Kindle: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Galileo’s Dream. An excellent novel, which I loved. I remember that I found the experience of reading in a e-reader made for the iPhone exhilarating. (I finally felt I was living in a SF future, as corny as it may sound.)

It wasn’t bad using the phone to read. As I said before, I was pretty much used to reading from a computer screen — from .txts to .PDFs — so what was one more format to me? So I welcomed the Kindle for iPhone.

I also remember it took me at least as much time as I would take to read a paper book.

I wasn’t counting – but I could easily notice that my speed wasn’t increasing at all. Maybe it had to do with the sheer size of the device – the screen is too small for you to feel any difference in the page-turning, for instance. And in that first version of the app you couldn’t tell in what page of the book you were in relation to the paper version – all you got was those reference markers (they are still there) which, on the Kindle device, you can use as a search function. But I was not using the device yet – all I could do in the iPhone was tap the center of the screen and a sliding bar appeared on the bottom in case I wanted to fly across the pages. Clumsy, especially with a screen so small; you almost never end up exactly where you want.

After a brief spree using the Kindle app on my iPhone and on my PC, I decided it was finally time to buy the real thing. In fact, I had made up my mind since had first launched the device – but it was not available outside the US, so I had to wait and use the iPhone instead. And use it I did.

When the Kindle 2 was launched and finally opened its sales worldwide, I bought mine…and counted the days until I got it in my hands. When I finally got it, in July 2010, I already had 65 books in my iPhone Kindle app. They were automatically transferred to the device, as promised. What I had in my hands wasn’t snake-oil, no: it was the real deal.

Although I have a few complaints (about which you’ll read soon), I must say I have been a very happy reader of e-books since then.

I just finished reading the three Dunk and Egg novellas in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire universe, and I’m reading Dan Simmons’s Flashback. My reading speed when using Kindle is, as of this moment, at least three times faster than when I’m reading a paper book.

I know there are some stories that beg to be read slowly – and I can do that with the Kindle just as I do with paper. I have the complete stories of Joseph Conrad (one of my favorites authors of all time) in a Kindle edition, but I will admit I bought it just because it was dirt cheap (99 cents) and it allowed me to re-read the stories over and over and consult it whenever and wherever I needed. But I enjoy better my Conrad on paper editions. (As my Balzac, my Conan Doyle, and other classics – but that’s my personal quirk.)

But the Kindle was a major landmark in my life as a reader. Never before had I owned a portable device with a decent screen size with no glare at all, nor the possibility of carrying so many books – and of alternating between several of them just punching two or three buttons. That’s what I usually do – I’m reading a novel and then, at some point in the story where I’m starting to get bored or simply want to get something new and fresh, voilá: push a button and I’m reading a short story in an anthology or collection. (Sometimes I alternate between two or even three novels, preferrably of different genres, but sometimes not even that.)

Today, I have 393 books in Kindle format, plus 86 PDFs. All the PDFs are e-ARCs, and a few of the books in prn format as well. But most of them I bought. Which will take us to the frightening next installment, in which there will be a caveat emptor: beware of digital bookstores! They will suck you dry!

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