Can you proofread an article or an entire book on a Kindle? Why would anyone want to do that? I gave myself this exercise recently because I was tired of spending long hours sitting at my desk in front of a laptop screen as I scrolled from page to page searching for errors, missing words, wacky fonts, and so on in a Word file of a book I was proofreading. So I thought to myself: I wonder if I can do any of these tasks on a Kindle? Wouldn’t the reading experience be more like that of reading an actual book, and might this help me to spot errors and infelicities in sentence construction better than if I were staring at a computer screen and reading in a more deliberate and conscious way?
It was just an idea. But I persevered. I emailed the Word file I was proofing to my Kindle account, and then downloaded it on my Kindle device. Its smaller screen (I use an old Kindle Paperwhite) allowed me to focus in on smaller chunks of text while also simulating an actual reading experience, which meant that I was paying attention as a reader while also wearing my proofreader’s hat. As I read, if I noticed something wrong, all I had to do was pause and add a note with the details of the error. Kindle allows a minimalistic typing capability, and it also allows you to view all your notes at a glance, so once I was done reading the book, I went to the Notes view on my screen and could see all of my annotations, along with the location and a snippet of text where I had added the note.
After I finished reading the book, I went back to my laptop, opened the file I was working on, and proceed to enter my comments and changes manually in Word, with my Kindle screen open next to me. It was a bit laborious and time-consuming to do this, but I felt that this process offered some advantages as well:
- It allowed me to read an entire book manuscript as if I were reading the actual book. This was an already copyedited manuscript, so it was close to being a final proof. Reading a manuscript in smaller chunks on a Kindle helped me focus on the text better and identify awkward expressions as well as overt errors more seamlessly.
- It forced me to make two distinct passes through the proofs: the first one as I annotated the file on my Kindle, and the second one as I entered the corrections manually on my laptop. This allowed me to review, revise, and edit my changes a second time.
- It replaced the very mechanical approach to reading that one adopts when reading off a computer screen with a more enjoyable interface that I could carry with me to a comfortable chair instead of being confined to my desk.
Some caveats, however:
- You can’t really mark up a proof on Kindle with proofreading marks, so if you are working on a PDF and need to use client-approved stamps and markup tools, then a Kindle is unlikely to be helpful to you.
- Spacing and font issues might not show up on a Kindle screen the same way they show up on a laptop screen, so using a Kindle for proofreading could actually mask some errors that would be more obvious on a larger screen.
- Searching for words and using Find and Replace is not possible to do on a Kindle the way one can in Microsoft Word.
In sum, if you want to simulate the reading experience and trigger your brain to respond to a proof as a reader, it might be worth spending some time viewing the proof on a Kindle screen. Along the way, you can certainly highlight passages or words and add notes that will help you when you input the final changes on a laptop or desktop. And you can do this in the comfort of an armchair with your favorite beverage at your elbow instead of hunched over in front of your laptop!