On Progress Bars and Persistence


I recently bought a Kindle Paperwhite after years of saying I probably wouldn’t replace my Kindle until it broke. The old one still works just fine, but I found myself with a sizable gift card balance burning a hole in my digital pocket thanks to a bonus from work, so I gave in to gadget lust and upgraded.

So far I love it. It appears Amazon has fixed the previous generation’s issues with backlighting, and I have to say that the reading light is indispensable. The contrast is so much better, and the page turns feel more responsive. I thought I’d miss the hardware page-turn buttons, but I’ve gotten used to swiping and/or tapping in no time at all. My favorite feature, though, is displaying your progress as the estimated time left in the chapter or the entire book.

As I’ve mentioned several times before, I’ve been ever-so-slowly reading Anna Karenina since late last year. Most of that time I only read a chapter or two when I picked it up, and generally felt like I wasn’t making any progress because the overall percent read never changed, and the version I have doesn’t support page numbers. The “location” numbers are essentially meaningless, so it was always pretty easy to get disheartened after reading for what felt like a long time.

However, I’ve managed to make a huge amount of progress in the last few days, and I would definitely chalk it up to the estimated time remaining feature. I’ve got it set to display the estimated time left in the book, and for whatever reason just seeing a reassuringly small amount of time remaining – around five and a half hours as of this writing – is all I need to keep pushing through and making progress.

It doesn’t matter whether the number is entirely accurate; I’m sure the Paperwhite is still getting used to my reading speed, although it was pretty close when I read most of Fangirl in one marathon session. All that really matters is that I can see myself making progress in a measure that makes sense to me. I think that measure of tangible progress is one thing I miss the most when I read a digital book. There’s nothing quite like holding the weight of a thousand pages in your left hand as you finally wrap up the tail end of a book in your right. For whatever reason, measuring my progress in time comes closer to that sensation than measuring progress with a percentage.

2 thoughts on “On Progress Bars and Persistence”

  1. Jeff,

    Another great post. I’ve been debating about getting an eReader, since my first gen iPad is feeling like a guillotine / suspended piano every time I read in bed. Don’t…get…drowsy…

    If you wouldn’t mind, could you please post a future update as to how the backlight is holding up?


    • Thanks! I think the only way an iPad tops the Paperwhite as a reading device is when it comes to comics / graphic novels and screenplays. I also have a few books in PDF form that I’ll end up reading on my iPad, but not because I want to.

      I really love the backlight, but it definitely drains the battery. I got maybe 8-9 hours of reading time on one charge before it was close to dead.

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