So I’m going to be travelling a lot over the next four months – three or four work trips to Spain and two to the US. And as you know, I love to read. I have a long history of schlepping piles of books across international borders (you have to take a lot because you never know what kind of reading mood you’ll be in when you get to wherever you’re going, OBVIOUSLY) and then hitting a bookshop on the first day and leaving my carefully-chosen piles completely unread. It’s a pathology. I’m chronic. And I’m usually very close to my budget airline luggage limit…
And so, after much to-ing and fro-ing, and with enthusiastic encouragement from Mr Booksonspain, who is nothing if not a pragmatist when it comes to the need for books (*because it wasn’t the cats who ordered the 35 mystery novels by a single author that have appeared in our house during the last 6 weeks*), I have finally acquired my first Kindle. And you know what? I *adore* it. I have the 3G version, which means free international web access, which means, yes, I have been able to download stuff on it from here in Spain even when there’s no WiFi available. It also has a rudimentary web browser (currently under development, not sure whether it’s permanent) which has been something of a lifesaver when circumstances have required emergency email access.
I bought the Kindle last Sunday. In a week, I have downloaded 132 items. Of those, six are paid for and the rest are out of copyright books sourced from OpenLibrary or the Internet Archive. You can organize the items into collections for easy navigation, and as you can see, mine are mostly related to particular projects. CSS is From Cervantes to Sunny Spain, the book I’m writing right now, and most of the downloads are of historical fiction from before 1920 – about half of the texts in my bibliography of historical novels.
The rest of the novels are not yet digitised (or if they are, I haven’t found them), so the Kindle certainly doesn’t mean I won’t have to visit libraries and archives. It just means I can read The Far Horizon or The Romance of the Fountain from a sofa here in the Balneario de Mondariz, and The Tangled Skein or The Chronicles of Don Q from a chair in my back garden, not to mention themed reading experiences, such as The Travelling Thirds on the train or With Moore at Corunna in, well, Corunna (although without Moore, obvioiusly). And this, my friends, is a Very Good Thing.
The other advantage of the Kindle, of course, is that nobody can see what you’re reading. Why is this a Good Thing? Because I can pursue a particular thread of Project Bestseller that has fascinated me for a long time and pretend I am doing it purely in the interests of research, viz., the representation of the Spanish male in contemporary romantic fiction. And so, concealed under the collection heading ‘Project Bestseller ENG’, are A Spanish Awakening, Crazy about her Spanish Boss, The Spanish Pearl, and The Spanish Duke’s Virgin Bride. There are many, many more novels with similar titles (thank you, Kindle Store!), though my favourite title so far, to be purchased in the next round of downloads, is The Spanish Billionaire’s
Pregnant Wife. Actually, there are quite a lot of Spanish Billionaires in this genre. Also Spanish Physicians and Spanish Bosses. Will report back once fieldwork complete…
So, in conclusion, my Kindle is a Good Thing. Elderly books I previously had to read on my computer are now portable and – even better – searchable, annotatable and bookmarkable. Preparing for a paper this week, I was able to pull up quotations, do last-minute searches for contextual info and download additional titles all within seconds. Downsides? The quality of digitised text from out-of-copyright books isn’t always great, especially when foreign words are involved. Sample opening line from El centenario del Quijote en Galicia (1905):
‘L j/. ./ más adecuada /- mejor manera de honrar cada cual de por sí el centenario del Quijote, será, si cuadra, que cada cual quiera leerle con so-siecro, único medio de hacer la lectura aijrovechada’
Of course, in cases like this I can just go back to the original digitised image – and in the meantime, my capacity for translating gobbledegook has rocketed. It’s a small price to pay. And now, the Kindle and I are going to sit in the sunshine and continue our campaign through Badajoz, Salamanca and northern Spain in the company of Georgette Heyer’s Spanish Bride. Onwards!