While I'm not a total techno-dunce, I've never been a major adopter of gadgets. I think it's partly due to my age and partly because I just don't have the time or inclination to learn how to take advantage of all the new technology can offer.
So I deliberately don't own an iPod, an iPhone or, naturally, an iPad. I have a Creative Zen mp3 player which serves me perfectly and cost less than an iPod of similar storage capacity. I don't have a smartphone of any kind, because right now I couldn't afford the monthly cost, so I use an ancient Nokia with a cheap sim-only contract. After all, I only need to be able to call and text, anything more would be icing on the cake.
Aside from the cost, one of the reasons that I've never been seduced by Apple products, despite their sleek good looks, is that I didn't want to be tied into iTunes. With my Creative player I can buy mp3 tracks anywhere and just drag and drop them into the player. Perfect for someone as technically challenged as I am and I really don't need the other apps offered by Apple.
So I've just done something which surprised even me. I've raided my savings to pre-order one of Amazon's new Kindles. And yes, it does mean being tied into a propriety format, something I never wanted to do. So what changed my mind?
Until now I've been sceptical about ebooks, but I've only tried to read them on my laptop. I have an increasing collection of pdf books which I rarely look at, because I don't like reading that way. I've previously looked at ebook readers and decided I couldn't afford the cost. But something is different this time, it feels as if, with the expansion of Amazon into the UK ebook market, this attractive new Kindle may just change everything.
For me, one of the selling points of an ebook reader is the size of the screen and the ability to adjust print size, while still having a gadget small enough to fit comfortably in my handbag. When my eyes went loopy last year I was unable to read normal books or newspapers, I struggled to make out the letters even with a magnifier, although I could stll read on screen. I don't know if the improved contrast on this Kindle would be readable if my eyes go wrong again, but it's a risk I'm prepared to take. Yes, I could also read ebooks on a smartphone, but I think I'd find the screen size challenging at the best of times.
Add to that the ease of buying books in a second (which could be dangerous!) and the ability to hold lots of books and documents, including my pdf books and my own writing, in one place. When I go away nowadays I have to travel light, as I find it difficult to carry luggage. I already have a collection of Audible audiobooks, another format now owned by Amazon, which I listen to when my eyes are tired. These can be played on the Kindle, as well as on my mp3 player. Then there is the included browser and free 3G web access. This will no doubt be very limited and basic, but could just be useful when visiting my parents, when I have no internet access.
For me the Kindle could never entirely replace printed books and there's a risk that it won't meet my needs at all. But right now I think that's risk worth taking. And I still have time to cancel the order if I change my mind before the end of this month...