Oct 19, 2011

Kindled spirits

It was during discussions in the breaks at the recent TM Europe conference in Warsaw that I began to think the previously unthinkable. Later, as the son of a conference organizer showed me his Amazon Kindle, shortly before my dog knocked it into a pond and stole the boy's lunch, and others present told me how well the device worked for them, I decided to go against my grain and get the gadget to celebrate the old GDR's Day of the Republic.

I'm glad I did. I used to be quite a gadget freak in my younger days, an early adopter of generations of electronic organizers before the Sharp Wizard was a twinkle in a corporate marketer's eye. But the volumes of electronic junk to be disposed of in my various moves, as well as the grinding pace of 'e-progress', has made me deeply skeptical of the value of most technology.

The Kindle has made reading easy again for me. I was very surprised to find that no one was deluded in telling me that the screen contrast and reflectivity are much like paper, and with my little leather case and its integrated reading light, I can even enjoy a quiet read in the dark of night up in my loft. I can adjust the size of the fonts to read comfortably with or without my glasses. On my most recent excursion to escape intrusive neighbors and veterinary horrors to get a bit of recuperative quiet and perhaps accomplish some work, I carried a small library of dozens of classic literary works, some familiar, some not, my favorite newspapers, dictionaries, a few blogs and a vampire novel all in my half-pound Kindle, and I enjoyed more relaxed reading than I have in the past six months. It's a godsend.

I've found a few freeware tools for converting documents to readable formats for the Kindle, and I plan to convert some of my important translation glossaries for reference purposes. I have a notion that this little piece of technology might assist me in taking more of certain kinds of translation work off the technology grid to savor it like a fine wine in a more traditionally influenced but integrated working mode. I'm quite a late adopter in this case; when I ask, it seems that quite a few translating colleagues have such devices. But do they use them in some way professionally? Do you?


  1. I do not think the current generation of ereaders are prepared for proofreading work. Everyone's needs are different, but I think that a device capable of reading and commenting PDF in its native format is pretty much required. Use a pen directly on the screen, make comments (with a soft keyboard) and annotations as required; then, open the PDF on Acrobat and all the comments are there, inserted within the file.

    Kindle 3+ can annotate PDFs, but it does not hold the annotations inside the file, so they are "lost" when opened in Acrobat. And anyway, you would need a screen closer to A4 (minimum 10" 4:3, ideally 14").

    I have an ereader since 2006 and my current one is the Kindle 3 Keyboard and, as far as I know, no eink device can do this properly. The next best thing is a tablet (they say GoodReader for iPad is perfect), which can do PDF annotation properly, but you lose the good screen there. I tried proofreading A4 technical manuals back in 2009 with a TabletPC, but it was too bulky and hot, and Windows Vista did not help matters. iPad and Android tablets are better at this.

    It would appear that it is easier to sell devices for mainstream reading than for a niche industry.

  2. Thank you for the insights, Jordi. Being rather allergic to proofreading work myself, I hadn't thought of such a use for the device. My thoughts run more in the direction of lookup tools and reference texts to support translation.

  3. I guess you can give them a similar use to that of a separate monitor. You know, in one vertical monitor you have the original document (or additional reference, I guess) and in your main (horizontal) monitor you translate away.

    Anyway, you can also proofread your own work. You receive a Word file, translate in memoQ, recreate the file and open it in your ereader (minding the format!) to do a final reading. Some people like to do revision AND proofreading. I myself prefer to do revision and QA, but…

  4. I used to use mine to read interesting work-related PDFs when I was AWAY FROM MY DESK, a place I don't spend nearly enough time;) It saved me a lot of printer ink! However, I recently gave my Kindle to my mother (who uses it to read actual books on), and am thinking of getting a tablet PC for the same thing. Basically, because I want something that has a touch interface for quicker navigation.
    I think I will also be trying what Jordi suggested: using it as a second monitor to display the source document on while translating in memoQ. I could also just get a bigger screen, or use two (which I have done in the past, and generally hated), but I think the idea of having the source document on a separate device – and one which I can take with me to the living room or kitchen – sounds like a clever idea.

  5. I got a Kindle for my birthday in August in preparation for my trip to Europe this past month. I have about 20 books on it and really enjoy(ed) using it. I love being able to download a book I want to read in a couple seconds. That said, if given the choice I will go with an actual book every time.

  6. I keep coming back to that font sizing thing with the Kindle. It's very important to my reading comfort. When I showed it to a friend tonight, however, her first thought was much the same - except that she was thinking of a mutual friend who is nearly blind and for whom this feature would be even more important.

    @Michael: I like the idea of AFMD use. Printouts are just too hard to read sometimes, and juggling the pages can be a nuisance.

  7. I have a 7 inch Android tablet, and while I can't find any uses for it for my translation work, it's a fantastic reference device.

    I'm learning another language and it's pretty much all I use, because in addition to text, it handles audio and video.

    Apart from that, it's also a pretty decent note-taker and organizer in general.

    But for actual translation duties, it's not for me. Good companion for other duties, though.

  8. Hi Kevin,
    I have a Kindle, too, and although I originally got it to keep my bookshelves from overflowing in this too small house, I have recently started to read work-related material on it, too, which comes mostly in pdf format. One thing the Kindle can't deal with is password protection, so protected pdfs cannot be opened on it. You mentioned some tools to convert pdf into rtf (or similar) - could you please give some insight on that, which you think works best etc.? Thank you!!

  9. I have been a very avid user of my Sony PRS-650 ebook reader for over a year or so, it's an absolutely gorgeous device, let alone I'd rather deal with epubs, not mobis, though the format probably doesn't matter a lot (use Calibre to convert your files if you need another format). I also have a few dictionaries and bilingual texts which I produce with Abbyy Aligner.

    @ Anke Wiesinger
    I tried all kinds of pdf converters (except Acrobat X), my current favorite being Abbyy PDF Transformer 3.0). Nuance does quite a nice job too...

  10. Hi Kevin,

    I bought my Kindle a few months ago and I love it. Apart from not having much room for books anymore, I wanted a device to read lots of pdf and materials but not sitting in front of the computer (after so many hours working on it, there comes a time I can't stand it anymore!).
    I use Calibre to convert books to other formats (PDFs are not great in Kindle), and I've recently added the Send to Kindle plug in to Google Chrome, so anytime I found an interesting article or blog post while I'm working, I send it to my Kindle to read it later.

    It would be great if you can share the other freeware tools you find useful. Thanks!


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