Friday, January 21, 2011

The Amazon Kindle

Before flying to visit family for the holidays my wife and I got an Amazon Kindle e-book reader and we’ve since thought about getting another one. We own the Wi-Fi-only edition but the 3G edition’s expanded capability is tempting, especially when the other one of us is using ours. It is not exaggerating to say that the Kindle has changed our lives, or at least our reading lives.

For starters, it has motivated us to limit ourselves to e-book purchases only. Since getting the Kindle, we’ve downloaded about a dozen sample chapters from books we considered buying and have bought four of them, largely based on our ability to sample them first. And the cost savings has been amazing. For softcover books whose retail prices each average about $15, we only spent about half that.

Another big benefit of the Kindle has been the ability to order books whenever the mood strikes us [within distance of a hotspot], including at Starbucks, our office, the bedroom, and yes, even the bathroom! It is awesome to be able to download a full-length book in less than a minute and start reading it immediately, no matter where you are.

And with our move to digital reading, we are maintaining the mobile lifestyle by donating hundreds of little-used books left over from my days as a book review editor. With fewer books comes less need for bookshelves, so we sold most of them, downsizing from a total of 30 to 13. Even before getting the Kindle we cut back on traditional book buying, but if you’ll pardon the pun, it is “fuel for the fire.”

Monday, January 03, 2011

Radical Sabbatical

As we enter the New Year, my wife and I are preparing to embark on what we are calling a “radical sabbatical.” What that means for us is a move toward concentrating on what feeds our souls as we strive to make a life and not merely a living. For example, we are conscientiously trying to say “no” to the good in order to say “yes” to the best, both personally and professionally.

For my part, I mean to gradually quit doing the type of work I don’t enjoy and more actively pursue work that adds meaning to my life and not merely money. Part of my plan includes creating a “life list” of activities to do before I die, including visiting places I’ve dreamt of.

Also on the agenda is quitting things that no longer make sense for us or that we’ve done simply out of a sense of obligation. For far too long we’ve both found ourselves guilty of doing stuff just to be doing it, usually because it was a pattern of behavior proscribed “by the book.”

The older we get the more we realize that life is too short to live according to other people’s prescriptions for living. We are each given one life to live and it is a shame when we squander ours trying to squeeze into a mold that doesn’t fit. Tragically, many of us are born originals but die copies instead.

A year from now I hope to be able to report that my life has radically changed to the point that I barely recognize the person I am today. To quote the immortal words of T.S. Eliot, “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”