I have been pushing and shouting and struggling for eBooks for a long time now — well over ten years — but now that the Kindle has caught on and eBook sales are going through the roof, I find myself in a rather embarrassing position. Because I don’t have a Kindle.
Not only don’t I have a Kindle, I don’t have a Nook, or a Rocket eBook, or any of the other glossy e-reading devices that are currently or were recently on sale. I read eBooks, all right, but I read them on a second-hand Hewlett-Packard iPaq RX-4540 Pocket PC. And although there are times when I feel like Jack Benny puttering along in his old Maxwell when everyone else is whizzing past in Chevrolets, I think I have made a more rational choice than they have. And here’s why:
- A second-hand iPaq is cheap. That means it’s replaceable. I can get another one for about $80 at any time, so I don’t have to worry too much about leaving it on trains, keeping it dry when I go out in the rain, buying protective cases, taking it on holidays. If I lose it that will be a minor annoyance, not a major financial disaster. I don’t have to worry about notifying insurance companies or filling in police forms. I can use it up and throw it away. If I had a $350 Kindle I would be too scared to take it anywhere remotely interesting or slightly risky. Because shit happens to stuff you use: I’ve already dropped one of its predecessors in a creek, and written off half-a-dozen MP3 players in various ways.
- On a related note, I can leave the iPaq aside for a few weeks without feeling guilty about wasting money. It’s already paid for itself several times over.
- The iPaq can double as an MP3 player when I lose or break my MP3 player. It can double as a calculator, or a movie player, or a Word document editor, or a dozen other things. I don’t have to use these functions, but they’re there when I want them. But when you’re not reading a book with it, a Kindle is just a doorstop.
- It’s small — it fits comfortably in a shirt pocket and leaves space for a mobile phone. It goes with me wherever I want to go — bushwalks and all — and I never feel resentful about lugging its bulk up hills or down ladders.
- The software is free: if it goes wrong I can download it all over again for nothing from Microsoft and Mobipocket.
- It takes a standard SD card that I just have to plug into a computer to transfer files across. If the iPaq runs out of charge I pull out the card and put it in another iPaq, or in the PC; the information is all there.
I’m sure I will get an eBook reader some time, just to see what all the fuss is about. But I’m not in any hurry; and I suspect that for heading out and travelling around I will stick to the iPaq or something similar until e-reader prices drop to the same level or below. The iPaq does so much of what I need so well.
Update: as at the end of May 2014 I now have two seven-inch Android tablets and a Kobo Mini — all highly recommended.