Monday, July 19, 2010

choice choices

I love book reviews.

Not in the same sense some readers of The New York Times Review of Books like reviews -- as fodder for faculty party banter.  But as a source of information.

Reviews should not be an end in themselves.  With the possible exception of Florence King's reviews that almost always excel the books she reviews.

A good review should be the equivalent of a suggestion from a friend.  Someone you know and trust, who can give you compelling reasons why you should trade hours of your life to read the recommended tome.

Of course, there is often a gem buried here and there in book reviews.  I ran into one Sunday night while reading The Economist's review of Renata Saleci's book: Choice.

The subject of the book is obvious -- choice in modern life and how they enrich and bedevil us.  The reviewer shared one of those common sense ideas -- an idea we ll know, but often respond with  knowing nods when we hear it: "She shows that in large chunks of life, the simplistic search for the perfect choice is not only impractical, but leads to misery."

That was merely the introduction to this little gem.  Just a diamond chip, but worth noting.
Marriage is one example  The search for the perfect partner is likely to leave you lonely in old age: violence and resilience are better bases for a happy companionship than trying to maximize your utility..

I will save all of you my parade of disappointment that stretches to the horizon by not comparing the observation to my benighted love life.  But the reviewer's point is certainly good advice for anyone considering a move to Mexico.

I receive several email each week asking me how to choose the perfect spot in Mexico for the writer.  Usually, topped off with a request to find paradise in retirement.

My answer is the same.  There is no perfect place in Mexico -- to retire or to do anything else.  Just as there is no perfect place in Oregon, Alberta, or Sussex.

But there are numerous places that are good enough.  As long as you are willing to exercise large measures of tolerance and resilience.  If patience is not buried in those attributes, I would add it to the list.

And I am about to use those traits in resolving an issue that has long plagued me in Mexico.

My part of Mexico is not well-known for its interest in books.  I have found that a bit frustrating because I love books.  During the past year, I have flown to and from The States about five times.  On each trip, I load up on books to take south.

But technology may have come to the rescue.  Several bloggers have been singing the praises of their Kindles.  Not Barbie's boy friend, but a small computer that downloads books and magazines, to be read on a paper book size screen.  No more book importing.  No more book toting.  No more missing magazines.

I should say I have been looking at a Kindle -- and its competitors.

As a service to other book-starved expiates, I am going to start looking  at each electronic reader in the hopes of, at least, giving you my review of each..

Because this is a matter of preference, I am certain the posts will engender some comments.  At least, I hope so.


Calypso said...

I see little advantage - actually none - to the Kindle or iPad. Just buy a small laptop or even a mini laptop - these specialized marketed devices are a gimmick in my opinion - you can get the same books to play on a more useful laptop. IMHO

I suppose if money is no object get both.

Steve Cotton said...

Calypso -- That is one of the points I wanted to cover. Price has been a factor in my decision to hold off buying a Kindle.

Darrel said...

You have discovered firsthand what happens to electronic devices when used in high humidity and salt air. I wouldn’t consider a Kindle if you are going to stay in Melaque. If you wander off to the Highlands, maybe. Even in Salem the Kindle won’t work to well reading in the hot tub. Use your laptop to read some eBooks and see if you can get used to the digital format (some people don’t like it). Fight your NOB consumerism.

Nancy said...

The E-ink technology that kindle uses (and others have their own) causes way less eye strain when reading than a normal computer screen.

Anonymous said...

A person with choice but no criteria is akin to a speedboat lacking a rudder. Both are an accident waiting to happen.


Jonna said...

Nancy is right, in my brief examination of an iPad the difference from a computer screen is huge. I could, but don't, read books on a laptop - well, except for that week on a liveaboard in Palau with a full set of the Dune books on my laptop.

It hurts my eyes, it isn't easy to hold, it doesn't even approach the experience of reading a book. I didn't go for the kindle because I also want magazines and color photos - so it may be that an iPad is in our future. I am happy you are reviewing all of these for me :)

Elke said...

Vern and I both have SONY E-readers, love them, we download books from our library in Colorado Springs for free. My friend Loraine has a Kindle (the newest one). Even tho they don't have phone/internet service at their house in El Ranchito, she picks up a 3G signal somewhere around there with her Kindle and can read and send e-mails, which I think is pretty cool...

Anonymous said...

You don't need a Kindle to enjoy Kindle books. You can download free Kindle readers for PCs, Macs, iPhones, iPads, and possibly some Linux platforms.

Also, there are many FREE books on Kindle, typically titles whose copyright has expired.

So download the Kindle reader and a few free books and see how you like reading books on your laptop/PC.

If you like it, well, then you can consider a Kindle, the cheapest of which was just marked down to $189 from $259.

Or, if you don't like it and are forever wedded to paper, well you learned something without spending a dime.

Low risk proposition.


Kim G
Boston, MA
The perfect place to live.

For now at least.

Steve Cotton said...

Darrel -- I talked with a friend in Melaque who has had a Kindle since they came out. She stores hers in a computer bag with gel packs. Of course, I doubt I could be that disciplined.

Nancy -- The screen apperars to be one of the Kindle's best assets.

ANM -- Some criteria are self-evident.

Jonna -- I doubt I will look very seriously at an iPad. I want something that makes reading books easy on the eyes. My brief look at iPads confirmed they are snazzy. But I could not read very long with a screen that bright. We shall see.

Elke -- A mutual friend of ours has a Kindle in Melaque. She loves it. Especially the connectivity.

Kim -- The problem is reading books on a laptop screen. I have tried it. After an hour or two, my eyes are blurry.

Leslie Limon said...

I downloaded the Kindle for PC almost a year ago, along with a couple of free books. I loved that I was finally able to read a book in English, but I hated having to sit at my computer desk while reading. (I don't have a laptop.)

Now that I have my Kindle, I can read anywhere I want, whenever I want. The only downside, is that I do most of my reading at night. The Kindle doesn't come with any type of light, so I sit in bed with one of Hubby's cycling lamps strapped to my head while reading. (At least my hands are free to hold my Kindle!)

Today, I learned that the Sony e-reader comes with a backlight for night reading. (Something to consider if you like reading at night.)

And to answer your question that you left on my blog, I haven't had any trouble downloading books to my Kindle. :)

Nothing can ever compare to holding and reading a real book. But since we live in a place where English language books are hard to come by, the Kindle is the next best thing.

Judi said...

I have a Kindle app on my iPod Touch and love it. Many people don't. They think it's too small for comfortable reading, but it's perfect for me.

I can take it with me wherever I go, pull it out and read whenever I have a spare minute, play music on it at the same time. It has other apps that can be used as I read as well.

I love that I can read in bed without the light on.

Anonymous said...

I have had a Kindle since it was available, and enjoyed reading books and newspapers on it. When the iPad came out I got one, mainly for the magazine apps. I have since abandoned the Kindle. I find reading books on the iPad no problem on the eyes, and it is so much faster than the Kindle. Page refresh on the Kindle is slow, on the iPad it is like a blink. I enjoy magazines with bright colorful photos, National Geographic, Smithsonian, Vanity Fair, all these look great on the iPad. Plus right there is your email and browser. I have been using mine in Cancun since June and see no problem from the humidity. I would not take it to the beach and read, but at home in the garden I see no problem. It is just so convenient to see or hear about a book and get it within 5 minutes. Granted, some books are not now available either from Amazon or iBooks, but I have no doubt that will change as e readers become more popular. Another advantage to the e reader is that books published only electronically are available. I just read an e published book from an author in Merida.
Tim P

Steve Cotton said...

Leslie -- Good points. I am not too worried about night reading. I do most of mine during the day. Often, in the sun. If I read at night, I use a light.

Judi -- Another option. But I do not have an iPod. I try to avoid earphones in Mexico. Too many sounds to listen to and for.

Tim P -- The iPad still fascinates me. If I could produce my blog on it, I would probably buy one. But the keyboard is simply too restrictive. I will stick with my laptop for the blog and probably get a Kindle. But I am still looking -- and thinking. You have added some very good points for thought.

Jonna said...

I just saw this review of the iPad on a travel blog I read and thought you would be interested. She's a pretty good reviewer but her point is always how it works for a traveler who works online.