In 2008, I broke down and finally bought an e-reader, in my case it was a Kindle DX. At the time these were expensive, and I think I paid around 500 dollars for my Kindle DX—this is the large one, with a greater surface area, so I could use large fonts without having to turn the page too often. They are much—much less expensive now.
Up till this point, I’d avoided even thinking about an e-reader, but my lifestyle, that of a voracious reader and someone who was spending months at a time on the road for work, drove the decision. I was conducting a series of flight tests for a system my team had designed, developed, and built. We would alternate flight testing between Hampton Virginia and Houston Texas, using NASA facilities and NASA aircraft. Each set of tests lasted between 2 and 3 months, thus we’d be living in hotels, although spending most of our time at the flight hangars—flight testing days are usually 12 to 16 hour days and my team worked 7 days per week. I tried to give the team a break by dividing them into two teams, then rotating those I could back home for a week and then in the field for a week, when possible, but not everyone could rotate. Whenever I wasn’t working, I was reading.
Reading takes your mind away from the world for a while and puts you in a different reality. It’s a great escape, and I managed to read a different book every day or two. That winds up being a lot of books, more than you want to carry in suitcases. The other important feature for me was that I could wirelessly buy new books whenever I wanted. I often can’t find what I’m looking for in bookstores—if you can find a bookstore. In the year 2000, I was in Italy most of the year—this time setting up and testing a brand new astronomical observatory and it’s laser system, used to measure distance to different objects in orbit, or on the moon. There, it was very difficult to buy what I wanted, when I wanted. And since I keep on traveling to Italy and other places even now, I like to be able to buy books. I can with my Kindle—anywhere, any time. All I need is a 3G wireless signal.
E-readers are great. Mine has a built in dictionary, so I can look up a word I don’t know, or highlight a passage. It remembers where I was in every book—if I stop— and I can even ask it to read aloud, although my older one doesn’t sound great. My computer is very good at reading aloud, and I use that to read articles to me while I do housework.
All told, I’m glad I made the jump to an e-reader. It holds thousands of books, the charge lasts a week—even for me—and I can read mine in direct sunlight with no problem. Also, the books are cheaper. If you buy a book per day, this matters.