Archive for January 7, 2010

Food Notes

January 7, 2010 2 comments

[Photographs by Michael Hansen for The New York Times]

I have several different items to write about and limited time, so I’ll collect them all in one post and write briefly about each.
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Categories: Food, Restaurants

Book/Kindle Update Update

January 7, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m reading Liaquat Ahamed’s Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World at last. I have mentioned this book many times, so I will say little here. First I wanted to read it, then I expected to get it for my birthday (or the closest approximation to my birthday, at the end of last February) but didn’t, then I finally bought it in August but didn’t want to carry such a big book to Nantucket with me so didn’t take it, then I realized in October that I certainly didn’t want to carry it to Europe but was tired of postponing my reading of it and so I bought it yet again for the Kindle, but then I loaded more books on the Kindle than I could possibly read while away and Ahamed’s book didn’t get read, then I got home in mid-November and read other books, and so on. In my New Year’s Day post about my latest reading, I talked about how some books, such as Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, are unsuited to the Kindle because of front matter or back matter that is not easily accessible. In contrast, William Langewiesche’s Fly by Wire, which I had just finished reading on the Kindle, was perfect.

And that brings me to Lords of Finance, which I’m now about 75 pages into and enjoying even more than I anticipated. The heart of the book, or so I understand, is a recounting of international banking issues of the 1920s and 1930s, as seen through the lives and actions of four bankers, the head bankers of the US, Britain, France, and Germany. But I’m still in the first part, in which each of the four bankers is introduced and his life described up to the summer of 1914, at the onset of World War I, along with the story of the banking crisis that ensued. It’s a gripping story.

What I want to talk about isn’t the book but the experience of being able to read it either on the Kindle or in actual physical book form. To my surprise, I seem more inclined to go for the Kindle. I forced myself to take the book to bed with me last night and was able to confirm that I simply like holding the much thinner and lighter Kindle when I’m lying down. It’s easier to hold, the pages are easier to turn, and this more than makes up for the lower level of contrast between the print and the background. One annoying feature of the Kindleization of this particular book is the large vertical space between paragraphs. I haven’t seen that before. My first night reading the book, I thought Ahamed was breaking his chapters into a surprisingly large number of sections, until I realized that those big skips were happening every paragraph and were just the Kindle’s rendering of the standard space before a new paragraph. It’s not really a problem. It doesn’t distract from the reading. It’s just incredibly inelegant, something I would think unacceptable in a printed book, but something one quickly gets used to.

My procedure, then, seems to be to read the book on the Kindle when I’m in bed and in ordinary physical form during the day. This brings me to the real inconvenience. I can’t sync the two! Thanks to the magic of Amazon’s Whispernet technology, if the Kindle’s wireless connection is on (at the cost of significantly shortening the time the Kindle runs before the battery needs re-charging), it tells the Amazon’s cloud server where you are in a book. Then, if you pick up the book on another platform — your iPhone say, or another Kindle that someone else in the family has on the same account — you can turn to the book and it’s at the right page. This turns out to be a great feature, one I’ve used more than I would have expected. And one I am now so accustomed to that on some unconscious level I expect the physical bookmark in my book to move to the appropriate place after a reading session on the Kindle. Maybe Amazon can work on this. In the meantime, this problem highlights one drawback of reading a book on the Kindle: the total lack of physical awareness of where you are in it. There are location numbers, but these are a by-product of the Kindleization process and don’t correlate with page numbers. That’s not even the point, though. The point is that there’s no immediate intuition about how far along you are in a Kindled book similar to what we experience unconsciously just by holding a physical book.

By now I have probably exhausted every thought I have on the Kindle. I’ll stop writing about it and focus more on the books in future posts.

Categories: Books, Technology