Getting a Kindle; or, surviving the bookocalypse

December 30, 2011 at 12:37 pm 7 comments

 

Like hundreds or maybe thousands of people across the nation, I got a Kindle for Christmas.

I know what you’re thinking — I have been anti-Kindle in the past, much preferring paper books that one can get for about a dollar at any thrift store. I collect used books, I love old books, and I take an intense amount of pleasure in hunting used book stores for the perfect edition of my favorites. In short, the printed (not displayed) word is my one true love.

But my other love–my well-meaning boyfriend–had somewhere along the line heard that I had been considering getting a Kindle or other e-reader, and decided that a Kindle would be the perfect Christmas gift.

“You love to read!” he said as I opened the gift. “This is perfect! You can carry all your books everywhere! How awesome is this?”

His enthusiasm caught on, and I warily but gamely spent most of the weekend and the weeknights afterward playing with my Kindle.

The reader itself has its advantages, but it also also has its frustrations. In the interest of informing those of you (ahem, Corey) who may be considering a Kindle or other e-reader, here’s the pro-con list I have compiled so far:


Pros:

Storage and Portability
The Kindle is TINY. Rather than having to lug around my giant copies of Anna Karenina or all four volumes of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, I have them on my Kindle and can take all of them everywhere — a plane, a bus, the coffee shop, anything. Sure, this doesn’t help for newer books that I only have in hard copy, but it’s great to know I can pick up Anna right where I left off, any time I want.

Browser
This is more of a neat feature than anything else, but I love that I can get new (free) e-books from the comfort of my couch without even breaking out my laptop. The Kindle Touch includes an experimental web browser that works perfectly with Project Gutenberg’s mobile site, letting me stockpile Austen and Dickens like there is no tomorrow. Of course, there is always the Kindle Store for the same purpose, but it’s way more expensive.

Search function
I wish I had this while I was in college. The Kindle allows you to highlight passages, add notes, view those notes separately, and even search books for key words or phrases. Do you know how much time this would have saved me when I was writing my thesis? If I didn’t have to constantly flip through hundreds of pages looking for a scene that may or may not actually be in The Golden Compass or looking for mentions of Guinevere in Le Morte D’Arthur, I could have saved myself hours of time.

Cons:
Look and feel

I’ll admit it, I judge books by their covers. My copy of Anna Karenina was purchased solely because I love the cover image of a bunch of purple flowers on an understated grayscale background of a woman’s knees. This is why Penguin Publishing and Vintage Classics are my best-loved publishing companies–they truly have internalized the idea that design matters when it comes to the front of a book.

The Kindle has no such equivalent. I can’t look across the room at my Kindle like I would at a bookcase and immediately sense pleasure at the combination of color created by a line of books with well-designed covers and spines. As an electronic device, the design is streamlined and understated, which is what one wants in one’s laptop or tablet, but not what one looks for in a book.

As Eva has suggested, this can be alleviated by purchasing an e-reader cover. Etsy has a myriad of beautiful handmade covers, some of which are even made from old books.

Expense
Classics are free, it’s true, and many libraries lend books for free on e-readers. This is all well and good, as I have amassed a library of almost 20 e-books so far and have only paid for one.

But the one I bought cost me what I might have paid at one of my ordinary venues (thrift stores, used book stores, consignment shops and rummage sales) for a dozen paperbacks. Was it worth it? Probably. It was still cheaper than I would have paid for a new book in hard copy, and it is one of my favorites.

Am I likely to pay $13 every time I want a new book? No, I am not. I expect to purchase a book for Kindle only occasionally, and use it mostly for classics I don’t otherwise own, or classics I want to try but don’t necessarily want to buy.

Also, $99 for the Touch? That could buy a lot of books. And not the electronic kind.

Display
The display is dim. That is all. It’s harder to read black on the sort of off-gray color of the E-Ink display than it is to read black ink on white or off-white paper. The contrast makes me squint in dim light, though a light (sold separately) would probably help this problem. How often would I use a Kindle light? Probably about as often as I use a book light — that is, whenever my boyfriend is sleeping, I don’t feel like going downstairs, and I can find it. So maybe like twice a year.

Temporary nature

Say I have overcome all of my aversions and have fully embraced the Kindle and its virtual ways. There are now hundreds of books on my lovely device, all at my fingertips and ready to be read, searched and perused.

And now Kindles are obsolete. Or I decide I want a Nook, or I go the whole hog, decide I want an iPad or iPhone Touch or whatever and add an e-book app to it. Or I swear off electronic devices and go off into the woods and become a hermit.

Where do my books go? I think I can transfer them from a Kindle to another device, but I simply don’t like the idea of not having a tangible book right there, in my hands. It’s not even so much that I don’t have the tangible book — what will happen if the Library of Congress goes all e-reader?

This is probably not a convincing argument, but damn it, e-readers are the beginning of the end of printed books. The bookocalypse, if you will.

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. pooks  |  December 30, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    I made a U-turn on this subject myself two years ago. I went from anti- to love-it. It took me a couple of weeks to really get used to it, but I think that’s because it took me a couple of weeks to find a book that suddenly sucked me in. I downloaded a lot of samples and kept reading and not enjoying, NEXT! Reading a page or so, not getting into it, NEXT. Put the Kindle aside. A few days later, pick it up and try again. I was blaming it all on my resistance to the method of reading when I started the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and got sucked in immediately.

    That’s one of the things I love best about it. I don’t buy books that I end up not reading. I get the sample almost always–and don’t buy the book until I’ve read the sample and am ready at that moment to keep reading. Now, instead of being surrounded by piles, stacks and more piles of books I’ve had for years w/o reading, I am surrounded by only the book I love so much I want to possess them. I love that.

    Reply
  • 2. Madame Vauquer  |  December 30, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Ha, love the remark about what if the Library of Congress goes all e-reader.

    I have a Sony reader and am like you and use it for classics. Haven’t purchased a single book but depend on Project Gutenberg and ManyBooks for freebies. Very handy for sticking in my purse and whipping it out any time I have to wait.

    Reply
    • 3. Kate  |  December 31, 2011 at 6:29 pm

      Actually, if all the books at the Library of Congress were available via e-reader, that would be pretty awesome. I just worry about the day when “real” books are deemed unnecessary and we experience a sort of Ray Bradbury-esque purge of paper books.

      I just discovered — and love — ManyBooks! They gave me the chance to read The Call of the Wild again for the first time in probably ten years. Awesome :)

      Reply
  • 4. Britney  |  December 31, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Don’t forget to see what your library’s ebook selection looks like! I’m currently reading The Night Circus on my Nook (borrowed from the library) and when I removed my request for the paper copy I was still 100+ in line there. And I hope to read The Magicians next, and follow both up with the fourth George R.R. Martin novel, also as ebooks borrowed from the library.

    Reply
    • 5. Kate  |  December 31, 2011 at 6:27 pm

      Sadly, my local library is pretty limited! It’s just a matter of time, though, I am sure. So far it seems as though all they have up are textbooks (which would be really convenient, actually), but likely they will expand those offerings shortly.

      Reply
  • 6. Kate  |  December 31, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    I forgot to mention the one benefit of Kindles not having a cover — it’s very easy to secretly read D. H. Lawrence, the Kama Sutra or even a trashy romance without fear of judgment from everyone who glances your way.

    Not, um, that I read romances. Really. Uh-huh.

    Reply
  • 7. Discussion Post: E-readers galore! « Literary Transgressions  |  February 27, 2012 at 10:41 am

    […] you know, my co-blogger Kate received a Kindle for Christmas and discussed her initial reactions back in January. (And I hope she’ll share her updated take on the Kindle experience in the […]

    Reply

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