Sometimes when I run out of available possibilities for my weekly Kindle Chronicles interview, it generates an unlikely conversation. That’s what happened this week when I ended up sitting down with my father, who is in his 90th year, and my grandson James, who is 10, to talk about the Kindle.
Dad began reading on an $80 Kindle five years ago and now prefers the Kindle app on his iPhone 6. James has been reading on a Paperwhite for two years. They are both voracious readers and strong partisans of digital reading compared with paper.
“I remember when I used to only read books that were not on Kindle,” James told my father and me. “Back then I was very interested in the Boxcar children series.”
He switched to Kindle in the middle of that series, which comprises 19 books by the original author, Gertrude Chandler Warner, and another 126 by subsequent authors.
“Sometimes when I’m reading paper books now, I touch the page to see if it will turn instead of actually flipping it,” he said, laughing.
James’s great-grandfather, a retired banker, said, “I almost never read print books anymore. I read practically everything on the iPhone.”
He recalled that when he was 10 years old he loved reading cowboy stories by Will James and rags-to-riches tales by Horatio Alger. James currently has on his Kindle The Hope Chest by Karen Schwabach and Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo, among others.
They share a preference for keeping a manageable number of books on their Kindles, as opposed to letting the Kindle home page grow to dozens of pages of books on the device.
“Sometimes if I think the book is really good I just keep it on, because I don’t really want to move it off,” James said. “I just like seeing it.” Eventually he moves even favorite books back to his Kindle archive in the cloud.
When I asked each of them for ways the Kindle could be improved, James suggested more memory, because he likes to read comics on his e-reader, and they take up a lot of space. He also said he would like to see color on the E Ink Kindle, especially for pictures.
My father, not knowing the big news that Amazon had announced that very morning, made this prescient suggestion:
“I wish that it were possible to flip from one page to another,” Dad said. “You know when you have a regular book you can flip the pages, and you can spot the thing that you were looking for—it’s not possible to do that. My way is to go back to the Table of Contents, go to at least that chapter and then look around in that.”
“That’s one of the things that I find is quite different,” Dad said, “and I can’t really imagine there’d be a way to do it.”
He was flabbergasted when I told him about the new Page Flip capability coming to the Kindle platform by over-the-air software updates. I wish his iPhone was the larger Plus model, because the thumbnail views of pages look pretty small on his iPhone 6. But I think he will still enjoy flipping through pages, just as he imagined.
Families are remarkable vessels for transmitting human values and passion. I found myself watching and listening to Dad and James with a tenderness based on the sheer number of years between them and on the remarkable similarity of their seriousness about books and digital reading.
James is an author himself, the creator of a highly imaginative world that I won’t describe in any detail before its time. He said he would enjoy publishing his fiction on Kindle, and Dad said he would love to read it on his iPhone. When that happens, I’m sure we will return to the book-filled library at my parents’ home for a follow-up conversation.
My guest on next week’s show will provide background and details about Page Flip. He is Mike Torres, Amazon’s director of product management for the Kindle.