Your e-reader is spying on you – sort of…

That, at least, is what the Guardian is trying to convince people of, ramping up fear of their e-readers, especially the Kindle which, frankly, is despicable. Not least because the information gathered is so trivial that it’s not remotely worth worrying about.

My Kindle isn’t telling anyone anything particularly useful or marketable –  what value is there in knowing that I tend to read a particular author’s books in one session, for example (which isn’t recorded accurately anyway, as every time I break off to do something else, like eat, it turns itself off after about 20 minutes)? Or that I might abandon the book I’m reading in favour of something different, and then go back to it? And they don’t know, when  it turns off automatically, whether I’ve dropped off, watching TV, eating, gone for a pint, or switched to print.  All are possible, as are many other scenarios, rendering the information that my Kindle has turned itself off of zero value.

I’m at a loss to know the Guardian’s motives for this article, as the fact that Kindles, and doubtless other e-readers, gather and disseminate information about your reading habits isn’t exactly a secret.

You also, should you have an exaggerated sense of your own importance, have the ability to input comments as you read and have them broadcast. I can’t imagine why I’d ever want to do that, not least because my opinion of a book can change while I’m reading it. Some, for example, pretty much need a crowbar to get into, but are, subsequently, deeply rewarding; others can draw me straight in, but yield little satisfaction. In both cases, posting interim comments, which are likely to be proven wrong, is a waste of everyone’s time. If I want to review a book, I’ll do it properly, on my blog.

The Guardian comments are interesting, too, starting out mainly along the lines of this post (which started life as a comment of my own, yesterday, which I forgot to publish and have only just done so), before moving to outright paranoia.

And for anyone worried by this tripe, don’t be. Turn off wi-fi by all means, though it’s possible, even probably, that data will still be uploaded next time you buy a book over wi-fi but, as I said, that data will be extremely trivial and essentially useless unless you choose to engage with the system by inputting information yourself. If you resist that temptation (and unless you’re the sort of numpty who scribbles in the margins of print books, resisting the temptation isn’t hard?), what it uploads is of no real value to anyone, and is certainly not worth worrying about.

For spoonies…

On a slightly different tack, one Luddite demanded to know what the point of an e-reader was – the sort of attitude which, if widespread, would stifle progress in any field – the point is, for me, that it’s light and holds loads of books – what’s not to like?

My Kindle has several functions. It holds many books in one place, as I said; it enables me to have several books on the go at once, without clutter, but it’s the spoonie aspect that I find most appealing, and the reason I bought mine in the first tranche, without a second thought.

Why? Because I’d just finished Stephen King’s Under the Dome, a grossly over-written doorstop of a book that should really have been a short story (indeed, the underlying premise was lifted entire from a short s-f story from the fifties – the concept being the Earth, or in this case a small New England town, as an ant-farm for aliens, since you ask).

Apart from the fact that it was overblown tripe (the editor who used to exert control over King’s excesses died some years ago, sadly), the damned thing was heavy, and reading it caused me considerable pain, so I promptly ordered a Kindle the moment it was offered, and I’ve never looked back. I still buy print books, even ones which are too heavy to hold, like Claudia Roden’s The Food of Spain, and until e-readers with colour screens** come along, that will continue to happen.

**I have an Android tablet, which would display colour content very nicely, but the battery life is that of a mayfly – literally – compared to the Kindle’s.

Kindle is a brilliant, and brilliantly simple, device which really didn’t need complicating with a touch-screen version  (I also have Kobo Touch, I’m not impressed), and for any spoonie for whom holding books is painful and/or tiring, I’d have no hesitation it recommending a Kindle.

Sadly, the only version with a keyboard (really essential, trust me), is the Kindle Keyboard 3G, at £149 but, frankly, any Kindle is well worth having, and is  streets ahead of the opposition. Treat yourself if you can, you won’t regret it.

7 thoughts on “Your e-reader is spying on you – sort of…

  1. never having seen one even, i wonder if you can tell me, what about print size .is it like reading on a pc screen? reason for asking is, i cant seem to read for very long on a pc screen .after a while my eyelids just droop and i start to nod off, no matter how interested i am in what i am reading, doesnt happen as much on a cream background screen or with bold type.

    i.e. the type on here. especially bits that are done in a fainter the bits just above where it says Comments RSS

    • You can set the font size to what you want it to be, from huge to small, on the Kindle. Others, too, I’d guess. And the experience is exactly like reading a book – even after 2 years I still find myself trying to turn the page occasionally! The screen background is the very pale grey of book paper (a lot of people think book paper is white, but it’s really very light grey), and the print is very black, so contrast and readability are excellent. Easy on the eyes, too.

      On the computer, hold down Control (Ctrl) and hit + to make text bigger (do that as many times as you need), and Control plus – (minus sign), to make it smaller.

      • thanks for that Ron. maybe i will ask for one for xmas or buy my own xmas
        i use a scroll on my mouse with the control key for making print bigger though you can only do it so far really or you miss stuff off the edges and have to scroll side to side but its the colour more than anything i think. the background white on most pages. you can set your theme so that background colour is cream which is much better but it doesnt work on all white backgrounds on other web pages.
        book page colour sounds much better.

        • When I used XP I had it set to render white as a pale blue – to mute the glare – and it worked very well, even for websites. Can’t do that with Windows 7 – just one of the many conveniences that MS has decided we can do without.

          It sounds like the scroll wheel zooms the whole screen to make it larger – Control+ just enlarges the text, leaving everything else unchanged.

          And, of course, you can set your browser to display your preferred font and font size. Go to Tools – Options – Content in Firefox. IE and Opera will be somewhere similar.Some websites will overrule that, but it works for most.

  2. gotta try this in my vista on laptop now. pity about win7s though. specially as,if this one becomes irreparable its insured for full my next one will be probably be win7 or 8 if it gives up anytime soon.

    • Dunno how 7 compares to Vista, but it’s a huge change from XP. Not hard to get the hang of though, it’s just that it appears to be change for its own sake, which is rarely a good idea. The big problem was moving from Office 2003 to 2007 – the changes are massive and takes weeks to figure out where everything is.

      As for Win 8, the cost to upgrade from Vista or XP is $40 – except in the UK, where they haven’t yet decided by how much they’re going to rip us off.

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