Monday, May 16, 2011

Do You Kindle?

I love books...the smell of books, the feel of books. I love holding a book in my hands, especially a new one with a pristine cover. I love fanning the pages of a new book and inhaling. There's nothing quite like the excitement of getting a new book and the anticipation of sitting down to read it. And we won't even talk about opening a box containing more than one new book and the delicious agony of trying to decide which one to start first...or the quiet thrill of walking into a bookstore. Not everyone shares this love affair, but those of you who are kindred know exactly what I mean.

Because I love the physical book so much, I wasn't convinced an e-reader would ever be a good fit for me. But I recently received a Kindle from my eldest child as a gift. The first book I downloaded was Bram Stoker's Dracula. It was free and, as I had never read it, I figured it was as good a place as any to take the Kindle out for a test drive. I'm not an electronic gadget type of person, but it was easy to set up and easy to use...even for me. There are a lot of features I haven't used yet, but I expect learning will be fun.

Because the font size can be changed, a simple adjustment enabled me to read without as much eye strain, and even without reading glasses. I don't know why, but I think I was able to read faster. Perhaps it only seemed faster because I was able to read for a more sustained period of time. Once accustomed to the feel of the Kindle in my hands, and getting lost in the story, I forgot I wasn't reading a glue and paper book. The sensation of being transported was every bit the same.

On the second day, I sat outside on the patio, and found it very easy to read in bright sunlight. Like a paper book, however, care must be taken. Outside the birds were chirping, the sun was shining, there was a breeze. Suddenly the dog jumped the fence and ran down the street. I put the Kindle on the deck chair and ran after him. I forgot about it; it rained. Early the next morning, I let the dog back out on the patio and to my horror I saw my Kindle still on the chair, covered with drops of rain from the night before. I was lucky. I figure that since its designers knew the device would be read outside, at places like the beach, they tried to make it somewhat impervious to weather. I am grateful to them for that, but it was a wake-up call. Instead of losing one book to the elements, it could have been a very expensive mistake. (Especially since I would never have admitted the blunder to my son; he'd have been so disappointed. I would have been forced to buy another Kindle to take its place rather than "come clean" and my secret would have been carried on my guilty conscience to my grave.)

I have since downloaded many more free titles by the likes of G.K. Chesterton, Louisa May Alcott, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, P.G. Wodehouse, and E.L. Voynich. Within seconds, I can increase my classics library ten-fold without spending a dime. And since the Kindle is so light and easy to carry, I always have it with me and always have something really good to read, just in a literary diabetic who has to keep blood sugar levels stable. But, as much as I have found a new thing to love, I have also come to the firm belief that the physical book will remain alive and well.

Electronic readers have their own limitations. For instance, I miss the dust jackets. Let's be honest. I will be making a trip to Barnes & Noble to purchase Medium Raw in hardback, not the least reason being the delicious picture of Anthony Bourdain on the cover, which I will invariably clutch to my bosom repeatedly. There are many joys in reading. Drooling over a "hot" author is one of them. There is also a satisfaction that comes with shelves groaning under the weight of books. It is the same satisfaction one has in opening the door to a well-stocked pantry: jeweled jars of jams, and pickles, and home-canned tomatoes, and covered bins of pastas and bottles of sauces...lovely vistas of largesse...the comfort that comes with the knowledge that there will be sustenance.

I just purchased my first non-free Kindle book: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. At $9.99 it was hardly a splurge, although it felt like one. It's easy to get used to "free."

I could be wrong, but I do not see the end of the physical book on the horizon. Nevertheless, the Kindle's Welcome Page says, "We hope you'll quickly forget you're reading on an advanced wireless device and instead be transported into that mental realm readers love, where the outside world dissolves, leaving only the auhtor's stories, words, and ideas." That much, it does.


  1. Couldn't agree with you more. I like the Kindle, I like the free books (free books that, unlike library books, do not cause my mild -- I swear they're mild! -- OCD symptoms to flare up), I like the cheaper new releases. BUT! I don't think e-readers will replace physical books either (well, maybe the cheaply bound, poorly jacketed non-tomes, but who'll miss them?). I love this post (especially your comparison of bookshelves and pantry! Sustenance indeed! :) ).

  2. I'm completely with you on the Kindle. When they first came out, I wasn't into the idea. I love my bookshelves. Slowly I came to realize the benefits and how I love it. I still buy physical "dead tree" copies of certain books, the ones I want to grace my bookshelf but I love being able to instantly get books and the fact that there are so many free options. Plus the Kindle app means even if I don't have my Kindle with me, I can still read on my phone or iPod.

  3. Very interesting. Looking at the ads and listening to others I was not sure I would be up to this new technology. I still like to hold the hard bound book in my hands. But these old eyes need help. I am particularly intrigued by the feature which would allow one to increase the size of the type. Maybe I can drop a hint to my first born for Fathers Day.

  4. For me the main advantage is the weight. I have a back problem which means that I have to restrict the weight of whatever I carry around with me and when you belong to a University English Department this can be an issue. A device which enables me to have a dozen books for just a few ounces in weight terms is a blessing indeed. The fact that I can also e-mail my lectures to it and thereby rid myself of weighty files as well, just adds to the joy.

  5. I'm not going to switch to a Kindle anytime soon. My fingers don't work very well with electronic devices. I can manage my laptop since the keys get pressed like a typewriter (and I don't use the weird thing at the bottom that is supposed to act like a mouse; I prefer the machines with a button I can press for my mouse). But things that require one to touch them don't work with me; I gave my IPod to my nephew. Maybe I'm not actually human and don't have heat in my fingers? I don't know. I also dislike the idea that I have to use electricity (even mild battery-powered electricity) to do something I've been doing with just my eyes and hands for years. Finally, I like being able to pass books along to other people. I'm sure there's a way to do this with electronic books, but....... ANYWAY, I never say never because for years I resisted email and now I live by it, but for the moment I'm not kindling.

  6. Bwahahahaha! Welcome to the dark side! ;) I've not yet purchased a Kindle book, I always go for the free ones, but I did buy a copy of the the New York Review of Books for my Kindle the other day. I'm thinking of subscribing on my Kindle once I am done with school. We'll see!

  7. Inkslinger: The thing with library books was that, like an insatiable glutton, I'd walk out with an armload...way too many to finish in the alloted time. Then I'd have to renew them, and finally return some of them, unread. And with our library system, I was never sure whether the ones I didn't read were going to still be at our small island branch. Whereas with the Kindle, the books are just sitting there quietly waiting for me to get to them.

    Red: I'm not to the techy point where I have an iPad, and I'm not sure whether I can read on my phone or not. My old clam-shell phone broke and I was upgraded to a "smart" phone, but I'm not certain whether it's smart enough to read.

    Choo choo Man: Definintely ask for Kindle or a Nook. I was going to go for the Nook, but John thought some of the features were better on a Kindle. One thing, though, I can't download library books to the Kindle whereas I think I could have with a Nook. In any event, I've been reading on the Kindle every day for hours and do not suffer the eyestrain I used to.

    Annie: I can e-mail to my Kindle??? Really? See, there's a lot it can do that I don't know about. This weekend I'm going to sit down and read through the instructions. Maybe it can even order a pizza! Wouldn't that be great?

    Tinky, I'm with you on the electricity part of it. That's why I don't use an electric can opener. Is there anything more dopey than an electric can opener? I mean, seriously, how much effort does it take to open a can? And one of the downsides to an e-reader (that I wished I had mentioned in my post) is the fact that I can't give the books to someone to read. I don't do it often, but I do give some away to special people. In fact, I'm sending The Graveyard Book to the son who sent me the Kindle. You can "loan" Nook books, but only for a short period of time, and then only to people who have a Nook (obviously). But I think if you tried a Kindle or a Nook, we might just make you a convert!

    Stefanie: You were the first person I knew who got a Kindle, and I still remember your post about it, and the picutres you posted. I must say, I've been lusting after one ever since. All the good things you've said about it are true. I carry it around with me all the time, like my cell phone. It is so slim and light, it fits right in my purse. I can't tell you how many times I've had to wait in line for something, and the time is no longer wasted. I don't think I'll be making may non-free purchases. There are so many free ones I've not read and really should.

  8. Free classics! Is there a sweeter siren call for book lovers? I got a Nook last year, and immediately started downloading all the free B&N classics I could find. Yes, I still like to hold a real book, and I still buy real books, but the Nook is incredibly convenient, and I am using it more and more (still less than 50% of the time, however).

  9. Love your metaphor of the literary diabetic. For people with older parents who (like the rest of us!) are finding small print a problem, a Kindle also makes a great gift.

    But my greatest fondness is still for a real book.

  10. Bibliophiliac...can you believe it?? Free classics! I've even downloaded some books I already have in the printed form. I've gone a little crazy with it, in fact.

    Shelley, I agree with you that nothing (for me anyway) can replace a "real" book. In fact, I'm just finishing up Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain. I bought in paperback, although I was planning on hardback. But then I saw My Life In France by Julia Child in paperback, I decided I needed them both and put them on a gift card I had. They smell wonderful and I love the squeaky sound the pages make when gently squeezed. A true book nut!

  11. Dracula is my all time favorite book. How did you like it? I love my kindle. I love the feeling of having hundreds of books with me where ever I go. It is also nice because people dont usually bother you when you are reading.

  12. Graddikins, I am delighted you are enjoying the Kindle. I don't own one but I think they're very nifty and eventually I will invest in some sort of e-reader. I think paperbacks will go; hardcovers will eventually have very high production values and will be must-have things of beauty for us die-hards who must have the tangible article. Cheap books, however, will go. That is my hit prediction! Happy Kindling!

  13. celawerdblog, I did love Dracula! I sat at the beach on Sunday and had 78 books at my fingertips! And most of them Free. Don't you simply adore free?

    doctordi: I hate to think you might be right about cheap paper books...but I think you're right. I am still a huge fan of the paper book, and will not stop buying them unless they stop making them, but free books on an e-reader? That's hard to pass up. Doesn't get much cheaper than "free." But, alas, I sigh at the thought.

  14. You sound exactly like me ... I bought my Kindle about 9 months ago and immediately downloaded some classics. I love it. I have only bought one book for it to date - the Rough Guide to Japan. (Oh and I think I did pay some tiny amount - less than $2 - for Sense and sensiblity when my freebie "broke".)

    I also now have an iPad and have put a couple of books on it - more freebies - but it is nowhere near as nice a reading device. The screen can be glary and catches reflections, and it's not easy to hold. (I love holding the Kindle - and I like the note making capability) The iPad is probably better though for a travel guide or any book where the illustrations and maps are important.