Information Dieting with a Kindle

I got a Kindle a few months ago, and it has completely changed how I read. It’s yet another example of trivial inconveniences affecting behavior.

Before, my information diet consisted of countless hours reading short, forgetful pieces linked from IRC, Twitter, Google Reader, or Hacker News. I would try to read longer articles on my laptop, but it was hard to avoid distractions such as e-mail and IM clients.

Reading full-length books was also a hassle, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I’d order a book from Amazon and wait two days. Then I had to carry a chunk of dead tree around. When travelling, I usually took multiple books with me, since I’d finish more than one on a trip.

Right after I got my Kindle, Ryan Phillips told me about Instapaper. Now I skim or ignore short things, and use Instapaper to mark a couple of large gems for evening reading. Instead of habitually refreshing Hacker News, I load it maybe once a day.

Fan fiction such as Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality have fan-created .mobi and .epub files, but many stories aren’t popular enough to warrant such devotion. Fortunately I found FanFiction Downloader, a semi-automated way to get FanFiction.net stories onto my Kindle. The app isn’t perfect though. It runs out of memory on longer books.

The only major annoyance I’ve encountered is from flight attendants asking me to turn off my Kindle during takeoff and landing. I smile and wait for them to move on, then continue reading. Flipping the power switch wouldn’t do much anyway; Kindles don’t really turn off. They wake up to check for new content periodically, and there’s no way to remove the battery. I’m surprised the “no electronic devices” rule has lasted so long. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d rant about Amish Illuminati controlling the FAA. Googling for that idea doesn’t return much. I guess conspiracy theorists aren’t very creative.



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