On using a Kindle

A question du jour: Has the Kindle been revolutionary (and if so, how)? Whatever the macro answer is, I know it's been a revolution for me:

  1. Highlighting is easier and vastly more effective than with paper books. Searchable, automatically-online highlights are invaluable, and I'm vastly more likely to retrieve useful information from something I read on my Kindle than from elsewhere.
  2. Relatedly: Kindle + Anki is a lot more efficient than basically any other reading platform + Anki. If one of your primary goals in reading is the retention of factual information, I don't know of a better choice than the Kindle platform (whether or not you're using Kindle hardware).
  3. I read myself to sleep most nights in a way that would not be practical otherwise (I want the lights to be off, not to be looking at my phone's screen, and not to be managing a heavy physical object). This means (i) more time for reading and (ii) fewer barriers to reading exactly what I want to read right before sleep--there are specific categories that are best for the combination of learning and sleep-readiness.
  4. I sample lots of Kindle books, partly because Amazon's "send a sample" flow is so low-friction and partly because it's a useful reading list. I don't know of a better way to get into so many books efficiently. (You can't highlight without buying, but by the time I'm highlighting something, the purchasing decision is usually very easy--and, again, low-friction.)
  5. And in the case of long technical books, often most of the content that would be intelligible to me without a serious course of study is available for free. (That was my experience, e.g., here.)
  6. I often retrieve specific factual information from my e-book library, especially for parenting and software architecture information. That is, my Kindle is often the best channel to virtual versions of Emily Oster and Martin Fowler.  (Arguably this is a failure, indicating that I'm not good enough with DEVONthink and/or Anki yet. But as long as there are questions for which it's easy to correlate it to a specific book, and for which full-text search is useful, I expect to keep this habit.)
  7. It's not always easy to predict what book I'll want to read at the RMV. Much better to just bring along every book. (The predictive decision is more stressful than the in-the-moment reading decision.)
  8. I change the font size pretty often.
  9. Speculative: my experience of a given book has much less to do with a publisher's choice of cover art or font. I don't know what effect this has, but I suspect its magnitude is large. (I think a lot about what Jhumpa Lahiri said about covers, and specifically about the benefits of uniform-cover systems; being a Kindle-first reader gets me more of the way to the Italian convention.)

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