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30 Days With: Amazon Kindle 4

30 Days With: Amazon Kindle 4


    I’ve always loved reading but the thought of holding a book was a barrier to entry for some reason. Then when I would delve into a book I would always lose my place in the book constantly. I’m not sure why the act of reading a physical book was a challenge to me but it was.

    When Amazon released the Kindle I was very much uninterested at first. Why would I want a device that does one thing? The iPhone does almost everything I need it to do — and then some. Working at a library for nearly 5 years has made my passion for books much more intense. It is really easy to want to read when you’re surrounded by books all day. I found myself reading a little bit of a book and then returning it because the book as a form factor simply did not work for me.

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    What Kindle to Buy?

    First of all let me back up, the very first thing I had to do was decide that I want a Kindle. We’ve given you a guide in the past about what options you have for e-readers. I decided the Kindle had the best online store integration and the best reviews.

    When I started my hunt for a Kindle I had to decide which one I wanted to buy. There are quite a few different “flavors”, so I had to go through and decide what was important to me:

    •  I’m always near wifi, so I did not need the 3G version.
    • I did not really think I was going annotate anything so the keyboard was not an issue for me.
    • I did a little research to figure out if the special offers would bother me. Then I found out that if they did, I could buy my way out of them if they did end up bothering me. I decided to give special offers a go.
    • The Kindle Fire was a non -tarter for me, I want an e-reader, not a tablet.

    So, I finally settled on the Kindle 4 Wifi with Special Offers.

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    Setup

    Unboxing the Kindle gave me the same warm and cozy feeling that unboxing an Apple product does. Much like Apple, it was very clear that Amazon was thinking when they designed the packaging. Instructions for setup were clear and easy to understand. But I still couldn’t help but think that I would need to sync this to a computer.

    (I think I have to work on my “post-PC era” way of thinking.)

    Once I turned on the Kindle I ran into the “I really wish I would have bought the keyboard version” syndrome because typing my wifi password was a real hassle. Also, typing my Amazon account and password was about the five worst minutes I’ve had with my Kindle. After typing all the information in I decided that the buying of content would happen on my computer and not on the Kindle.

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    Uses

    Of course, buying and reading books was the main thing I bought the Kindle for. The day I bought the Kindle I went through the free public domain books that Amazon has created for the Kindle. I picked up a few Sherlock Holmes stories and started reading them right away. One thing the Kindle does well is allow you to save highlighted portions of text from books and then upload them to kindle.amazon.com. You can choose to make those portions public or private, and you can even share them on your social network of choice.

    Amazon has gotten the buying of books down to a “search and buy” process. To buy a book, I simply had to search for the book and “Buy and Send to Kindle”, and it would be there in a matter of seconds. There was no lead time waiting for a book to show up, no more tracking numbers, no more finding a more interesting book while I waited for the first one to arrive.

    Sample chapters are also a great way to figure out if you want to buy the book or not. When I delved into purchasing content on the Kindle, I decided to read the sample chapter(s) before actually buying the book. I have been burned by a really good sample chapter and a not-so-good book a few times, but for the most part I’ve done well finding books that are good for me.

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    Long-form internet articles have always been something that I would lose my concentration on when trying to read. Kindle It from Five Filters is a great tool to capture long-form articles to send to my Kindle for later reading.

    In Conclusion

    The Kindle 4 has reignited my love of reading. In just 30 days I’ve been able to read more than 4 books.  That is something that would have never happened before I got my Kindle.

    Photo credit: Roberto Ventre (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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