I was thinking about purchases I've made recently that have turned out to be incredibly valuable for their purchase cost. I'm sure there's plenty that isn't worth it, but these two things absolutely have been.
1. Kindle Paperwhite
By far the single biggest return on my investment has been a Kindle Paperwhite. It's small enough to fit in my back jeans pocket, the battery lasts forever, and the screen looks great. I have read more in the 12 months since I've purchased this than I have in the last 15 years, if not longer. It's hard to beat the convenience of having so many books available in a small package.
When looking for an eReader, look for the following:
- Good battery life when on standby. This is table stakes, and if you buy from a known brand, you'll be fine here.
- The ability to load your own books onto it. If you borrow eBooks from your local library, you'll want to be able to read them on here. I have to go through a few steps, but I can do it using Calibre.
- A backlight. It's usually subtle, but it makes a difference in the read quality.
- A high DPI screen. With cheap eReaders you can see the individual pixels and that really takes away from the reading experience. I don't notice it with the Paperwhite.
For those that love the feel of physical books, I'm afraid that no eReader will really satisfy the feel of real paper or the smell when you open up a trade paperback for the first time. It's also not great for comics; I read Scott Pilgrim on my Kindle but if you're a comic reader then you're probably better off buying something like an iPad. But for those that just want an easier way to read, an eReader is a great addition to your life.
2. A bicycle
I live in an urban area, and most places I need to get to are within a 15 minute car ride from where I live. If I decide to go into the office, it's a 20-minute door-to-door bus ride, 10 of those being my walk. I have four grocery stores within a 5 minute drive, and my parents live less than a 10 minute drive away. Most things are close by.
With the spike in gas prices, I've been looking for excuses to not drive. So I went down to the local bike shop (conveniently a 5 minute bike ride away!), mentioned my needs and was able to pick up their cheapest urban commuter bike, the Reid Gents Roadster.
With a good bike lock (Kryptonite Evolution!) and some saddlebags, this has gotten a lot of use since I bought it, and it has the added benefit of giving me some much-needed cardio. It does take a bit longer to get somewhere and I do have to watch how much I might sweat, but it hasn't been that big of an issue.
While I can only use this for half the year with our brutal winters, this will get many years of use going forward.