The Joy of Kindle

Image

I was surprised with the gift of a Kindle last week. I have long flirted with the idea of getting one; for travelling, mainly, as I always end up filling half of my suitcase with books whenever I go on holiday. However, I have never been sufficiently convinced of their usefulness to actually fork out for one. I love the look and feel of books, particularly vintage and antique hardbacks that carry their history in their scars. It’s part of the pleasure of the reading experience to see the marks left behind by previous owners of your volume; the words they have underlined, the tea rings they have left on the cover, the dedication from a friend written on the flyleaf, the faded flower pressed within the pages. They are passed from hand to hand, life to life, home to home, and having them on your shelf forms part of your history. What greater markers are there of the stages of life we pass through than the books that we read? With everything stored electronically, a mere icon on a screen, there is no permanence, no aesthetics, no history. There is no visual chronology to refer to, no marks of your hand left behind on the surface of the pages. The romance of reading disappears entirely.

But. Not all books are meant to be kept and treasured. Not all books form part of our psyche in the way certain favourites do. Not all books have been passed from hand to hand, and not all need to. Sometimes you want to read the latest bestseller, but you don’t want to keep a copy of a cheap, mass produced paperback on your shelves. You’ll probably never read it again. It will just go to a charity shop, joining many other unwanted copies on the shelves, which will inevitably end up in the recycling bin. In these days of the modern publishing industry, when thousands of books are published every month, books are becoming increasingly disposable commodities. Surely it is better for the environment to have these books produced digitally, removing the costs and carbon footprint involved in the production of a paperback, and allowing for quick, inexpensive and waste free consumption?

This weekend, I have downloaded and read the second in the Hunger Games trilogy. It cost me less than a magazine, I don’t need to find space for an unattractive paperback on my shelf, and I was able to read it at just the second I wanted to, without having to leave the house or wait for a parcel to be delivered. While shopping for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (which is amazing and addictive, by the way), I came across a huge selection of free classic novels to be downloaded instantly. The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes? Don’t mind if I do. A lovely selection of  Wilkie Collins’ novels? Yes please! The entire collection of Trollope’s Palliser novels? Mine! I’ve now got them all sitting happily on my Kindle, waiting for me to enjoy, and I don’t need a whole new bookcase to store them all. This is where the practical benefits of the Kindle outweigh the voice of romanticism. For those of us who don’t have enormous houses, space to store books is limited. It would be lovely to own all of the classics, but I don’t have the room for them. I don’t really need them as physical items; digital will do very well. I love that I can get hold of so many classic novels for absolutely nothing, and I can carry them around with me effortlessly wherever I go. With this much available at my fingertips, my Kindle has already paid for itself!

I think that we are enormously lucky to be able to live in an era where it is possible for us to have so much choice and accessibility to the written word. I will never stop buying books, because I love them as objects just as much as I love the stories they contain. My favourite books will always have pride of place on my shelves. However, with our transitory lives and increasingly overfilled planet, digitising much of what we consume is simply common sense. I feel quite silly for holding out for so long. Having a Kindle hasn’t reduced my love of reading at all; it’s actually opened more reading doors to me. I am so pleased I have one. The only problem is, now I have nothing to stop me from buying more books – there’s no storage limit in cyberspace!

47 comments

  1. I share your concerns and recognition that there are good things about kindles. I still buy new/used hard copy books, but I buy a lot of books on my kindle. I don’t like being beholden to Amazon – I wish it was quick and easy to buy kindle books from someone else too. I’ve had ups and downs with it (them – I’m on my third but I still use a non-back lit kindle), sometimes I mostly read on it, sometimes I hardly read on it. Travel is one of the great uses – particularly since I almost always fly. Now I just need a backup for those few minutes when I have to turn off the kindle. Kathy

    1. I don’t have an issue with Amazon – it’s quick and easy, and frankly, if I avoided companies that didn’t pay tax, I wouldn’t be able to feed and clothe myself within a week! I love my back lit kindle, I have to say – it’s lovely for reading before bedtime as I can turn the light off and feel like a naughty girl reading under the covers again!

  2. I still buy tons of books — but I love my Kindle because I no longer have unread piles of the New Yorker magazine lying around — all are on my Kindle. I love putting travel guides on my Kindle so I am not immediately identified as a tourist on the subway or bus in a new city.

  3. And don’t forget that you can get library books straight to your e-reader as well! That saves expense and means you’re still utilizing your local library!

    1. Unfortunately in the UK, Kindle does not have the rights to use library copies of e books for some reason – or the other way round, not sure which – so while we can borrow e books, you can’t transfer them onto kindle. Highly annoying as that would be amazing!

  4. Yes, I held out for a long time, but I was converted when I was given a Kindle as a present. The advantages of a Kindle are having your favourite complete works wherever you go, large print whenever you want it, weekend papers are much cheaper, less paper clogging up the recycling bin, and being able to try before you buy, then if you decide to buy you receive it within seconds. Kindles are also great for reference works. I value the actual books I choose to keep and buy more than ever.

  5. I felt exactly like you before I owned a kindle. Now I use it as a way of broadening my reading habits by reading things I know I would never have bought as books. The free classics are particularly good. I haven’t read the second Hunger Games book yet so that may be my next download.

  6. I love my Kindle (bought for me by my family) and I download free classics from Project Gutenberg, but I still buy books as well. Re the library, sadly UK library downloads (which disappear at the end of your allocated time) are not compatible with Kindles, due to decision by Amazon..

    1. I wonder why that is. I have access to two state libraries, and I can borrow books on my K. for two weeks. They also offer wish lists and a holds list for books that aren’t available. There are so many things I can’t understand :<)

    2. I know, it’s such a pain about the library issue, isn’t it? I discovered that when I downloaded a book from the library and then couldn’t read it – so annoying!

  7. I’ve read quite a few posts over the past couple of years in which ‘real book’ obsessives declare their enthusiasm for e-books as an additional means of enjoying the written word. I think, however, this is the first time I have seen a comment like: “I don’t need to find space for an unattractive paperback on my shelf.” That made me smile. Any aesthetic aspect to your “book snob” status is clearly maintained.

  8. I couldn’t agree more, the Kindle saves space and is super convenient. But of course there is no way it could ever replace physical books in my life. The joy of bringing home new reads, looking at the covers and reading the blurbs before chosing what to read first – it just doesn’t compare🙂
    I’ve had my Kindle since 2011 and after a kindle-only period in my reading life I use it the way you discussed – one time reads electronically and when I’m really sure about a story I venture to my local book shop and buy the physical copy.

    Have fun reading electronically,
    Katarina🙂

  9. I agree with everything you’ve said. E-readers (mine’s a Nook) are woooonderful for the subway, and they’re amazing for the library too — I can get a dozen books from the library on a moment’s notice, and have enough books for a long vacation. It’s the best.

    1. I wish we could get books from the library here – I hope that Amazon will change its mind on that soon as that would really be amazing, especially for research purposes!

  10. Perfectly stated – and if it gives you further comfort, I read a quote (sorry, I can’t remember where so can’t credit the author) that said “e-readers are as likely to replace books as escalators are to replace stairs”. I think that is an excellent analogy! There is no reason why these different mediums can’t exist happily side by side!

  11. Good for you, Rachel (and lucky you, for such a great gift). I’ve been slowly wavering toward getting a Kindle, mostly because reading at night has been a bit of a challenge as I age. You’ve posed some excellent arguments that are making my leanings stronger. Thank you.

    1. Penny, you should go for it. You’ll be amazed at how fabulous it is, and how convenient. It’s saving my back as well – you don’t realise how heavy books are until you don’t have to carry them around any more!

  12. For a long while I’ve felt the Kindle pulling me like a magnet. Still resisting but I know I’ll be given one soon and will probably be glad.

    But, following your idea to have the ‘lesser’ works on electronic devices only, which author would not feel diminished by being placed in the ranks of never-in-real-book-form authors? Such a subjective area, this, when some revere certain books and others rate them much lower.

    I’ve been meaning to ask you whether you subscribe to Audible so that someone like Jonathan Keeble can read fabulous works to you? I’ve been enjoying A Place of Greater Safety, Wolf Hall, Bring up the Bodies AND, surprisingly, a couple of Dalziel and Pascoes. He is a brilliant reader and accompanies me around the house and workshop like a dazzling friend.

    1. Well, I’m talking about the Fifty Shades of Grey type – popular fiction that is churned out to meet a current trend but that has no lasting literary or cultural value and only serves to prop up the shelves of charity shops. Those should be e-reader only in my book, as many charity shops and libraries have commented that books like that generate so much unwanted surplus that they simply have to throw them away/pay for them to be pulped, which would be avoided entirely if they were e-books only.

      I wish I could listen to audiobooks but I just can’t. I am not an aural person – my thoughts take over!

  13. You just made a terrific point: “Not all books are meant to be kept and treasured.”

    I also bought an e-reader last year (a Sony) and haven’t used it as much as I’d like to despite my commuting on the train to university every day for 80 minutes a day. I keep carrying huge – sometimes even hardback – books. But you are right, there are books that probably we don’t want to keep, but at the same time, those free ebooks on PG are the ones I, personally, would love to keep. So, that’s my main problem!

    1. Thanks! I am enjoying being able to read classics I have been meaning to get to for years, but don’t have the space to store. One day when I do have space, I’ll get hard copies – but for now, the Kindle is bridging the gap perfectly!

      1. That sounds like a great promise to oneself: “I’ll buy the hard copies when I have space to store them.” Sounds perfect!

  14. Another file you can use on Kindles are ‘mobi’ files. If you google mobi files and find online libraries that use mobi files they will open on your kindle. I love my books on shelves but I love the Kindle as well. Best of both worlds.

  15. Some very good points, very nicely put … but don’t you hate having to get everything for your kindle from tax-evading, bookshop-destroying, workplace-law-evading Amazon? It’s that obstacle that I don’t think I could ever surmount, but perhaps that’s just because I work in one of the few surviving independent bookshops and so feel their peril more keenly than most.

    1. To be honest, I didn’t realise until after I got my kindle that amazon was the only e book provider. As much as I am loving my access to so many books, I am actually very angry that they are preventing people from borrowing library books on their kindles, which is entirely unnecessary and borderline aggressive, not to mention preventing independent booksellers from selling their own ebooks directly. It has soured my experience somewhat. My only excuse is that I didn’t buy it!

      1. Oh dear, I hope your experience hasn’t been too soured, and you are still enjoying all those brilliant, and free, old out-of-copyright books. It’s a shame that Kindles promote Amazon’s aggressive policies, but then you do made a very good case for their benefits. I suppose ebooks aren’t quite so black-and-white as paperbacks!

      2. You can send to Kindle ANY book – in many formats, not only MOBI, and more important: NOT only from Amazon. There’s even a “send to Kindle” program on Amazon site that add a button for sending documents to your Amazon account directly from computer (after you install it, it will appear as as command when you right-click the document). It will convert and deliver your ebook to Kindle (when you switch on WiFi on the device).
        I own Kindle since 2011, live in Poland and buy most books from polish ebookstores. I don’t know, how it looks in UK, but here most of them even provide direct sending ebooks from the store (not Amazon) to your Amazon account (you just have to add their e-mail address to approved on Amazon site and give the seller your Kindle address).
        Go to your managing site on Amazon and read it🙂.

  16. Oh R, you say everything in such a jolly, bouncy, and enticing way. So bounce with you I shall……

    I’m researching my own purchase right now – not sure to go for a Kindle or a Nook which seems more hack-able so you can make it into a mini computer. Geek stuff, I know, which is not actually me.

    “no permanence, no aesthetics, no history”

    Indeed. but are you not left with pure Story, R?

    1. You need to go for a Nook by the sounds of it, James, as it seems that Kindles are only compatible with amazon purchases, which I didn’t realise. Very disappointing!

      Well there is that. But I am a shallow creature and the aesthetics matter to me as much as what is within the covers!

  17. I agree. I love my Kindle because now, I can be more adventurous in my reading. If I don’t like a book, at least it’s not taking up valuable shelf-space, so I’m more inclined to take a risk. And I no longer have nightmares about running out of space to store my books. Can you imagine a life where you can never buy a new book again, for fear of your house bursting at the seams? I thought that was where I was heading, before I got my Kindle.

  18. Your comment about books being ‘markers of the stages of our lives’ is do true. I used to organise my book shelves by order of when I read the book. It made it easy to refind books, plus easy to add the latest book without rearranging the shelves.
    I’m currently re reading Emma on my Kindle & have classic children’s books on there for next. It makes reading whilst breast feeding much easier.

    1. I think the increased use of technology is changing everything to a certain extent, and it’s a tide that can’t be turned, nor necessarily that needs to be turned. There is a lot of misty eyed sentimentality about the book business, but at the end of the day, anything that encourages less waste and allows for more variety is surely a good thing?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s