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Senior Correspondent

My new Kindle Touch e-reader arrived last week. After using it for a week, I’ve discovered both its pros and its cons.  Even before purchasing the e-reader, I understood its fundamentals, so I already had some preliminary pros and cons in mind. I’ve since discovered others…  

Perhaps the most significant benefit of e-readers is their ability to electronically store an enormous number of books. I see the number 3,000 mentioned in some of the ads, but I’m sure that number is an approximation based on the size of the “average book.” Even if that number is three times an e-readers actual storage capacity, that’s fine. I’m sure that not many of us are interested in storing 1,000 books on a digital reading device.

If you couple the e-reader’s storage capacity with the ability to download a book from “just about anywhere,” in a minute or so, this is a pretty handy tool for even the occasional reader. I recall that when we lived in the Peruvian Andes a few years ago, my wife, Wendy, was especially hungry for English language books. An e-reader with 3G capability (ability to download from a cellular phone tower), if available at the time, would have been the obvious solution.

The e-reader application about which I’ve been enthusiastic is subscription to periodicals. If we’re away for a couple of weeks, we come home to two or three issues of Economist magazine. I then get to play catch-up. Were I to subscribe to a daily newspaper, I’d then return home to fourteen or so issues. Catching up would then be overwhelming. With a digital reader, I could download each issue from wherever I happened to be each day.

Twice I borrowed Wendy's Kindle Keyboard e-reader and used it to download The Wall Street Journal (99 cents for each daily issue). It took just a bit of to get comfortable using the digital device instead of spreading the newspaper out in front of me. Honestly, if I had the choice of having the digital copy or the paper copy each and every morning at 6 a.m., I’d opt for the paper copy. But since I live eight miles outside of a town of 2,000 people, there’s no way in the world The Wall Street Journal would arrive at my home that early. As I travel frequently, receiving the paper copy each and every day isn’t a reality. A digital subscription to a daily newspaper offers a significant advantage.

On the other hand, I recognize a disadvantage to a digital reader’s use in reading periodicals. I like to clip articles and mail them to family members and friends who I believe would be interested. I can’t do that with a digital reader. Yes, I understand there’s a way to upload an article (or a portion of an article) onto Facebook or Twitter, but I’m not at all interested in doing so.

I opted for the Kindle Touch 3G. With that device, I can download books and periodicals either by Wi-Fi or via a cellular connection (downloading is free and it doesn’t require a cellular service subscription). Amazon claims that the e-reader’s battery will keep an adequate charge for up to two months with a half hour per day reading time (with the wireless off). I’ve not had the device long enough to put this to the test. However, according to the battery icon on the screen, I still have about 75% battery charge remaining. I've been reading perhaps an hour and a half per day for five days. Seems OK.

Wendy’s Kindle, which I had borrowed, has a keyboard rather than touch controls. While I didn’t use the keyboard very much, I did use the scroll control (in the lower right of the device) and found it to be a bit awkward. Scrolling is performed using a square control button which the user presses either, up, down, right or left. Because the control button is so small, I had to use my fingernail to press it, rather than my finger tip. I figured that the Kindle Touch would offer a more convenient method of scrolling, and it does.

Scrolling on the Kindle Touch is accomplished by sweeping a finger in either an upward or a downward direction. When reading a book, sweeping up takes the reader to the start of the next chapter; sweeping down takes the reader to the start of the current chapter.  When reading a periodical, sweeping up takes the reader to the next article; sweeping down takes the reader to the start of the current article. The sweeping function works great.

To turn to the next page, the reader simply taps anywhere in the lower right area of the screen. As turning to the next page is the most frequently used function, Amazon made this screen area quite large — perhaps half the total area of the 5.75 x 3.5 inch screen. To turn to the previous page, the reader taps in a significantly smaller (though still adequate) lower left area of the screen. Tapping near the top of the screen brings up the menu. From there, the reader can do a word search, turn the wireless function on or off, change the font size, plus more. 

I found tapping to turn the page to be both convenient and problematic. Yep, it’s easy to do but, at times, I found myself turning two pages rather than one — with what I insist is a single tap. Perhaps this function takes more than a week to get used to.

OK, so here’s my biggest frustration. At times I read in low light.  nd when I do, I simply enlarge the font size. But charts and graphs are what they are. Their size is not variable. Since the Kindle’s screen size is smaller (5.75 x 3.5 inches) than a soft cover book (most often 9 x 6 inches), charts and graphs are, of necessity, smaller. This makes the text within charts and graphs pretty small — thus tough to read in low light.

Also, the explanatory caption accompanying a chart or graph may not fit onto the same page as the chart or graph.  So I find myself taping back and forth to alternately read the chart and its caption. Those who read fiction won’t be bothered by these issues — as novels are generally absent graphs and charts. I just happen to be a nonfiction reader, so I’ve quickly discovered this drawback.

And, oh yes, one more thing — the dictionary. I love the dictionary! If, while reading, you come across a word for which you’d like the definition, all you have to do is hold your finger on the word for a second or so. The word is then highlighted and a dialog box pops up offering the definition plus a couple of sample sentences demonstrating the use of the word. It’s great!

All in all, I’d say “so far, so good.”

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