A while back I wrote a post where I declared that my stance regarding the rise of the e-book is somewhere in the middle. At the time I did not have an e-book reader but I was pretty committed on buying one. I remember I made a mental note after publishing the post to come back to it after I had my Kindle and see if I still thought the same about the whole thing. I’m still quite ambivalent since books and literature are things I feel quite passionate about. It’s never black and white I suppose…
First of all, I do not regret buying the Kindle. I love it, love it. It’s light and I can carry books in my purse that would otherwise need a bag of their own. The fact that I don’t need two hands to flip the pages (it’s done by a button on either side) allows me to hold my drink/shopping bag/ metro pole/etc. with the other hand and conveniently so. I can choose from a large variety of protection sleeves to make it more “mine”. The contrast of the letters is good and my really sensitive eyes never had a problem reading for hours and hours. I can upload .pdfs of the articles I’m reading that I would otherwise have to read on a computer screen or print them (I often need to read about six lengthy articles a week for school). The battery lasts long, the menu is as simple as it can get. But…
First of all, let’s talk money. I have the basic, cheapest Kindle because I hate the touchscreen version (I used to read e-books on my tablet and flipped pages by mistake all the time, which drove me crazy). I believe it already made its money worth and I think I will save a fortune in the end by buying all the Kindle editions that are generally cheaper than the new physical books+ shipping. But I didn’t realize that this is mostly applicable to novels or books that are very popular. Most of the books available on Kindle are cheaper except the academic textbooks that are the exact opposite. Until now I couldn’t find one single textbook I need that is cheaper in Kindle format. To give you a bit of context, Jean Baudrillard’s “The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures”, a core textbook for many cultural studies students, is priced at 53$ as Kindle and 42$ as Paperback. Not to mention you can get it as cheap as 24$ used. Another book I searched recently was priced at 84$ on Kindle and 34$ as paperback. And I can go on and on about textbooks. When I say I will save a fortune with my Kindle I refer to known and popular titles or the classics who are generally free or very cheap. However, my plan to buy my textbooks cheaper and not having to carry their weight back and forth between Sweden and England was very much flawed.
Another thing is the issue of old books. Besides the before mentioned economic reason (old books tend to be cheaper than the Kindle version) there is also the fact that I really like old books. And not to mention the special editions lose much of their charm in electronic format. I know other Kindles support this but mine is a simple black and white one, on which illustrations don’t look as nice as on paper. As a matter of fact I believe illustrations always look better on paper.To be fair, I think even if the prices were the same I would still prefer physical old books. I love old books.
There are many things I learned about my relationship with books through buying a Kindle. I now know how much I appreciate having the option to switch between the two formats. Never before was I in the situation where a book was mentioned and, under the electrical feeling only an avid reader knows of wanting to hold your own copy, curl up on the couch and start reading, could I get my hands on the mentioned book in literally minutes from the conversation. I don’t have to wait for it to be delivered or go hunting for it in bookshops and risk starting another book meanwhile or forgetting about it completely (both situations happened many times). The immediacy of having my book delivered in such a way might prove extra useful in the case I ever need a reference in my long studying nights and can’t obviously get my hands on the physical book otherwise.
I took a decision that dear authors of mine like the Bronte sister (yes, all three are dear to me) will never be purchased in electronic format and instead I will forever keep an eye for nice hardcover editions. Same goes for any work of literature that means something special to me. I somehow feel that I give them more respect while in the same time I realize how amazing it is for them to be available in e-book format, something they couldn’t have imagined when they put pen to paper. However, I realize I will rarely get the paperback format anymore since the book gets damaged quite fast if read several times and it doesn’t look that good in the bookshelf. However, I might buy paperback copies for future literature classes so I can annotate them as heavily as I want ( I don’t find the notes on Kindle so efficient, I prefer post-its and traditional writing on the side).
I always carry my Kindle with me ever since I got it. I realize I read more than before because I can pull it out quicker and easier while waiting in a queue, in the metro, or between lectures. Instead of browsing on my smartphone in these small pauses, I get my Kindle out and, trust me, it’s more productive than anything my smartphone contains.
In conclusion, my Kindle is one of my favorite objects in the world. The small negative aspects that I talked about don’t hinder me in any way but they are there and it’s worth talking about them. If anything, the fact that I have a Kindle made me even more aware about the diverse attitudes I have to purchasing books. I realise that I read a wider range of authors, genres, and styles. I can try the books before committing to a purchase, making me more conscious about trying to read outside my preferred genre, something that I have tried to do lately. I guess in the end it’s all a matter of preference, but I say don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. And I’m glad I did.