Jun 16, 2014

The one thing no expat/bookworm should live without

Believe it or not, I was once a technology hater.

I was anti-eReader, to be exact. I scoffed at the preposterousness of a "pageless" book. If I still lived in Canada, I'd have the same opinion today. But if you, too, are a native English-speaking bookworm living in a country where English isn't the first language, your opinion will change. You start to miss not being able to browse through a vast array of glossy new bestsellers at the local book store. After a while, that one measly shelf devoted to English novels just doesn't suffice. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading the latest issues of Jamie Oliver's magazine in German. But sadly, neither a German nor an English version of Saveur (or Monocle or Bon Appetit, for that matter) can be found in any of the book stores here.

Good news: there is a bright side. Nowadays I can conveniently find almost every book I'm in search of on my eReader, which happens to be a Kindle Paperwhite. What's more, e-books are usually less expensive than their paperback counterparts. Bad news: most of the aforementioned magazines aren't offered on the Kindle Paperwhite. But on to more advantages... in theory, thousands of books can be stored on this sleek, light, portable device. No more lugging around 3-4 books in my backpack on vacay!

Even in daily life, the eReader is anything but cumbersome to carry around. Just like my wallet, cell phone and Swiss Army knife, I never go anywhere without it. The reason is not because I'm always in the mood to read, but because as a freelance English teacher, you're bound to have no-shows every now and then. What to do with one's time when a lesson is cancelled on super short notice? Whip out one's eReader, of course! Would-be 90 minute holes in my schedule become opportunities to immerse myself in the world of words, which is never a waste of time.

Now I know what you're thinking. What about the joy of reading back covers and being enticed to purchase books with convincing blurbs? If you are one to spontaneously purchase books based on their blurbs, I'd find it hard to believe you've never been disappointed before. In contrast, the chances of this happening with a Kindle are slim. If an e-book interests you, you may download a free sample of it (usually the first 1-2 chapters) prior to purchasing it. So far, this feature has meant that I've never been able to put down any of the e-books I've bought. And to think that I'd always incurred charges on overdue library books that I hadn't even read! Let's just say that since I've had my Kindle, there's been no need to renew my membership at the Stadtbibliothek.

Obvious fact: I am pro-eReader. That's not to say that I don't read classic paperbacks anymore. I often borrow novels from friends and admittedly revel in the feeling of being able to flip actual pages. Truly, the printed page has not died. Yet, that is.

Aside from their physical differences, there really is just one defining feature between the paperback and the Kindle that I believe puts the latter on a pedestal. Every Kindle comes equipped with a built-in dictionary. Whilst reading, one need only select a word (i.e. touch the word on the screen) before being instantaneously given its definition. Gone are the days of underlining unfamiliar words in pencil, sticking Post-its on the page and vowing to look up the words later (which, let's face it, you never did). The e-Reader has changed the way we read, my friends. There's no looking back from here.

Let's not get carried away, though. The Kindle is not without its disadvantages. I should be allowed to share my e-books with other fellow Kindle users. Despite all the websites and forums stating how one goes about doing this, I've deemed this impossible presumably because my Kindle is signed up with an amazon.de account. Furthermore, the Kindle's responsiveness to the finger's touch could be much faster than it is. Whenever I touch the screen, it feels like there's a nano second delay before the screen realizes that I've touched it. Hardly comparable to the speed of today's latest Smartphones.

Without a doubt, there are kinks the Kindle needs to work out. Still, as an expat abroad and avid reader of English books, it's become a product I cannot live without. I've chosen to live in Germany; I've accepted the fact that I have to find alternative ways of quenching my thirst for the things I took advantage of being surrounded by before (namely, books in English). Ordering books online would've been another alternative to buying a Kindle, but since I plan to move to another country next year, what would be the point of accumulating more stuff? It seems to me the Kindle is the perfect companion for every late cancellation sufferer/expat/bookworm/traveller out there. Naysayers may comment below.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree. I never leave home without my e-reader.