Preaching off the Kindle

In the last nine months I have preached approximately one hundred and forty-four times and for all but one of them I spoke using Amazon’s Kindle DX for my message notes. The one time I didn’t was a fluke, the screen on my Kindle broke and Amazon had a new one (for free I might add) to me in 24 hours, but I actually had to speak at Skull Church using paper notes one night. I totally felt like a cave man.
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I have been meaning to blog about the pros/cons of the Kindle for public speaking for a while. I regularly get emails from other communicators who have seen me using it and are wondering: whether I like it and is it hard to get used to? and which size they should get? and how to get their word docs onto it et cetera. So here goes…

Let me give a disclaimer–I teach using a manuscript style of notes and although I totally have mad amounts of respect for those who can charge it with one page of handwritten notes (James Macdonald) or commit their messages to memory (Louie Giglio) that isn’t how I roll (but I secretly wish I was skilled enough to try it.) So this concept certainly won’t be for everyone. I am also a big fat nerd and love new technology and finding ways to use it to the glory of God.

Having gotten all that out of the way I will say that I was pretty freaked out by the thought of actually doing it at first–what if it turns off halfway through a message? what if the screen saver engages and I look down to see a picture of Edgar Allen Poe instead of my next point? what if Y2k shows up 10 years late and the robot overlords secretly warp my doctrine? Also there was the loss of color formatting which I used in my paper notes to quickly distinguish a quotation from Jesus (red) to an illustration (blue) with just a glance.

The day I tried it for the first time it was the fall of ’09 and I was speaking on the East Coast and I had forgotten to bring a mobile printer with me (I used to lug around a small Canon inkjet to print my notes on the go.) I went to the hotel’s business center and the printer was black and white. It hit me that if I was going to be speaking off black and white notes anyway I might as well give the Kindle a try. At that time I had the 2nd generation kindle with the 6″ screen so getting a word doc off my mac involved emailing it to Amazon and having them pipe it to me for a charge of ten cents. The way they stripped my document of formatting in the process wasn’t ideal but it worked.

I was so freaked out that I brought my paper notes up to the platform with me as a backup plan but didn’t ever need to use them as it worked ok, my biggest complaint was that the screen was too small and so I had to change pages way too often. I went back to paper. When they released the Kindle DX in May, in addition to the 9.7″ screen, they added some great features made it a great prospect for preaching. For one thing, the DX could handle PDF’s so I didn’t have to email and pay to send my docs to it. All you have to do is have Word kick out a PDF and after connecting to your computer via USB drag the file to the Documents folder on the Kindle’s hard drive and voila–it shows up as a book.
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my Bible and Kindle side by side before a recent message.

Secondly, the DX’s screen is more advanced, while it is still black and white, it can display thousands of shades of grey so you can use that in formatting your notes and it registers it on the screen as dark or lighter text. And because it is not turning your notes into an e-book you can use all the underlining, italicizing, bold type, and even boxes to give your eye key words to grab onto that you want and these rich elements aren’t stripped as they are kindle-ized.

I have been asked a lot about battery life and let me say this, the Kindle battery is a freak of nature that amazes me everyday. It only uses power to change pages and so it lasts forever. The only power guzzling feature is the wireless 3G which if you live in a remote area like Montana it roams while searching for legit service and kills the battery faster, but that can be easily turned off. I also turn off the accelerometer so my notes don’t accidentally switch over to landscape if I am walking around with it and it senses the movement.

I made a Word template that is exactly the size of the screen and found that I have to bump my font up one number from 12 to 13 font for ideal legibility. Since the first message using the DX in June of 2009 I have never looked back. The ability to tweak a message in between services without reprinting is great, on the road it is unbeatable and the type on the screen is so crisp I don’t notice any difference from paper. Not to mention the money I have saved not buying color ink cartridges and the absence of stress that comes from dealing with printers/finding printers on the go.

Some Kindle cons: you can’t handwrite a quick thought in the margin of your notes if something comes to you right before you speak.
you can’t disable the screen-saver.
you can only advance the pages with the one button on the right side–we all know swiping is so much cooler! not to mention that if that button were ever to jam during a message, you would be bummed.
the keyboard is clunky and is wasted space, couldn’t there be a way for it to be an on-screen keyboard that showed up when you needed it then disappeared?
also–grayscale is nice and all, but this is the year 2010, I’d like to see some color, baby!

In short, while I have definitely enjoyed rocking the Kindle, let’s just say I am stoked that April 3rd is only a week away. I think the iPad could be the ultimate preaching machine and I am excited to give it a whirl on Easter Sunday. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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the Kindle DX in action at Skull Church