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Sunday 17 November 2019
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A reading life: The new world in locations

There comes a point in everyone’s life where they must either re-examine an opinion or simply fight the change that has occurred so as to continue along in their rightness. That day has come for me, and my approach is the former. I must now retract my mild distaste with the digital world of reading. A world that I had initially loved, now opens itself to me again on account of a small bit of information that led to a major change that occurred earlier last week.

I continue to hold the opinion that the sensory nature of the physical book, for a generation of readers that has grown up holding, smelling and turning pages, is still an important part of the reading experience. But digital reading is yet another experience and I begin to see it in this way.

I remember the excitement with which I received my first Kindle, the Kindle keyboard, in 2011. I loved the device. It travelled with me to the bank, to the grocery, to meetings, earning me the annoyance of friends who thought me rude (but this was no different to the paperback days anyway). I sold it to purchase the Paperwhite in 2013. The Paperwhite would rectify the need for a book light with its built in backlight and technology that allowed for reading outdoors.

But alas! My excitement soon faded. The Paperwhite version failed to feel as good as that first Kindle. I bought a case thinking that perhaps I would like it better in a case. No luck. I bought a sleeve. Still no luck. And so, the e-reader remained relatively untouched until last week. I possessed over one hundred titles and had managed to read only about seven since 2013.

Last week, I received a new case for the Kindle. After almost four years of working without one, the immediate feeling was that I was now holding a book in hand. I was admiring the device with the new teal and grey case on it, when a friend took it from me.

"Look, you can adjust the font size, the font," I said, showing her how it worked.

“You know? I like the sans serif fonts,” she said, looking at the Palatino font I had applied.

"Blah! I hate those. They are too straight-jacketed for me," I replied, thinking about the Arial font.

She clicked on Futura on the Kindle and the page came alive. I stared.

"Do that again," I said.

We changed it again to Palatino, then Baskerville then back to Futura.

“The sans serifs are supposed to be easier on the eye for digital platforms,” she said smiling.

"Well look at that, I never knew that!" I said taking the Kindle from her to stare at the page.

My sore eyes (my eyes were actually tired and sore) felt comfortable now.

I sent my younger sister a Whatsapp message the next day with a photograph of my kindle and a dancing lady emoticon.

"Why so excited?" she replied, followed by a raised eyebrow emoticon.

“Because I got a new case and changed my font to a sans serif one so I feel like reading again!”

"Ah, makes sense now. Yes, that’s the core of instructional design. Fonts to optimise reading," she replied.

“Well I didn’t even know this. Paradigm shift!”

"You could’ve asked that before. Sans serif, Century Gothic, they are the ones to use for online," came the Whatsapp messages.

“Well I didn’t even know that was a question!”

A lack of awareness certainly leads to years of distress. Knowledge expands our world view but for this, we must also be able to ask the right questions. The right questions can only come about with a willingness to accept that there are alternative realities to our own.

I shook my head thinking about my experience and how deficiencies in knowledge can often lead us to present one-sided stories. But I also celebrate the fact that stories can be expanded and reworked in the face of new knowledge. I think of this in the context of independence and the nurturing of an independent spirit. The independent spirit is secure enough in itself to accommodate alternative views. It allows itself the freedom to revise.

I had not thought about the importance of fonts until my friend pointed it out. So here I was, standing on the edge of a whole new world, breathing in the fresh air of new discoveries.

As of the last week, I am a reformed reader, enjoying the best of both worlds. My imagination is having the time of its life. So, it is with great satisfaction, I wish all readers an enjoyable start to September and a very reflective Independence weekend.

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