The pocket notebook

The advent of technology means that you probably use a smartphone daily. And if so, you use it for more than texting and calling. As it were, it could be argued that the ubiquitous smartphone has made the telegram, the letter, the radio, the telephone and a host other devices and channels of communication obsolete. Add to it the debate that smartphones, smart devices and online publishing will eventually phase out the printed book… a debate proven false time and again as the two have come to complement each other. Which means that you can probably see where I am going with this.

I use a smartphone. And on this smartphone, I have more than gaming apps, which means that I use it for productive pursuits as well (my mother thinks games are a waste of time though I have tabled evidence/research to the contrary). One such pursuit is reading. With the reading content packaged mostly as PDFs (Portable Document Format) as these readily adapt to the screen size of my smartphone thus not leading to eye strain. And for articles found online, there is Pocket where I save them for offline reading. So far, so good.

So, December had me travelling quite a long distance – 11 hours on the road – for a family function. I was travelling by public means, which means that I had to keep my luggage to a minimum. What with the commotion that is public transport in Kenya, more so, during the holiday season. Then, to get a ticket, board the bus and secure a seat, you have to jab a rib here, step on some toes there, engage in a shouting match with a fellow passenger or an official from the bus company, and so on. Which means that you have to keep your luggage to a minimum so that it does not get in the way of securing a seat in the bus.

The essentials: a change of clothes, toiletries, wallet, house keys, smartphone and phone charger. Now, I had just bought a bigger smartphone with a bigger battery thus I was assured that the smartphone would not go off in the middle of the journey. Plus, I had saved tens of articles for offline reading and a few books. There is only so much of staring at the scenery (and capturing it on camera), gaming and the quick nap before boredom kicks in and I start reading. Then again, long distance journeys in our highways are fraught with danger. I would rather be doing what I love best should, God forbid, the bus tumble over. Which is reading.

So now I am on the bus. I have been on this road many times, so the novelty of the scenery quickly wears off. A couple of games to put my mind on high alert and then to some reading. Then, the unthinkable happens. My phone freezes. I restart it a couple of times, but it still won’t cooperate. Now that I did not carry along my ‘mulika mwizi’ – a basic feature phone – I have to format my phone. Which means that I lose all my books, articles, games, photos… and my remaining bundles are simply not sufficient to recover a sixteenth of these. Of course, I could wait to just get home (up country) but traveling on Kenyan roads means that you have to keep updating your folks on progress to put their minds (and blood pressures) at ease.

Luckily though, I had the presence of mind to carry along a pocket book. By its very definition, a small book that can fit in one’s pocket. In my case, the Kenyan constitution. So, in between texting my soon-to-be better half, calling parents and a lunch stop-over, I managed to devour the entire Kenyan constitution and ruminate on what it portends for me, the common ‘mwananchi’. In fact, I briefly reflected on a career switch and studying to be a lawyer. And why did I carry the pocket book along? It was easily portable just like my smartphone. Only that it was a zero energy, not prone to freezing (unless you accidentally poured glue on its pages) reading device.

So, if your intended audience is mostly off-grid, has limited access to smartphones and other smart devices, you have the answer to reaching them with your message. This in the form of a pocket book, the faithful companion that can be carried along and read everywhere.