I have always loved reading but I spend a lot of time on public transport. Isn't there something odd about this statement? Surely public transport is the perfect place to indulge in hours of uninterrupted reading? Not for me it isn't (or at least it wasn't until recently).
Reading in public is something which I used to find very hard to do. The glasses I use for reading mean that I have to hold books extremely close to my eyes. They almost completely block out my peripheral vision and make me feel both isolated and vulnerable. My reading glasses are unusual enough to attract (mostly unwanted) attention and unsightly enough to highlight me as an object of scrutiny, pity, or horror. But four months ago I bough a Kindle. I was going to a conference in the States and wanted to be able to read whenever and wherever I wanted: at the airport, on the plane, over breakfast, in the queue for coffee. I didn't want to have to fumble in my bag for my book and my glasses, clumsily take off one pair of glasses, replace them with the other pair, and then take up an uncomfortable position (back hunched, arms bent, head down) before even reading a word. By the time I'd done all that I would have got to the Starbucks counter or check-in desk and the moment would have been lost.
With my Kindle I can increase the font size so that I can read comfortably and for long periods of time with my everyday glasses. Sure there aren't many words per page but who cares when turning Kindle pages is almost effortless? Suddenly I can sit unobtrusively on the metro, in a cafe or in the park without feeling like I am on display. I no longer have a handbag stuffed full of different pairs of glasses and I can carry a much lighter (and more stylish) bag now that all my books are stored on one incredibly slim, light and portable device.
I had no idea how much changing the way I read would change the way I feel. I have become a much more confident, independent and purposeful commuter since starting to carry my Kindle everywhere I go. I seek out comfy seats and coffee opportunities in order to be able to lose myself in my latest book for a few minutes and have even stopped minding so much about the inevitable delays which occur on the Oxford-Reading-Egham journey.
But it turns out that Kindle reading isn't just for fun. Last month I gave my first Kindle conference paper. This was a complete revelation. Even when I used to print out conference papers in 20 pt bold I would still have to hold them pretty close to my eyes to read them out. And I'd frequently get lost in my wad of 60 or so sheets of paper and fail to acknowledge my audience at all. But reading my paper from my Kindle was a completely different experience. I finally felt like I was communicating with the audience and not just reading my paper to myself. Next I'm going to try giving all my lectures and seminars by Kindle. I'm looking forward to seeing how my Kindle will change my teaching as well as my students' experience of learning.