e-Reading


I finally read a book, start to finish, on my Kindle.

The pros?

The best part about the Kindle that anyone will tell you is being able to carry several books at one time without the bulk of carrying several books at one time. I mean, that’s the point of the thing, right? I’m typically reading 2-3 books at any given time, and while carrying 2-3 books around doesn’t sound overly cumbersome, in a purse where I’m already carrying multiple checkbooks, wallet, hand sanitizer, sunglasses (mine, John’s and the boys’), lip gloss, powder, iPhone, keys, hairbrush, and the occasional airplane, Happy Meal toy or Nintendo DS — several books just add to the clutter. When traveling on an airplane and wanting to take something to read, books on Kindle vs. on paper can save a lot of space (and weight on your shoulder). On our recent vacation, in addition to the Kindle I took two other actual books. If I’d had those two books on the Kindle also I would have had a lighter and easier to tote carry on instead of the jam-packed, overflowing bag I had.

Also, over the course of months and years all of those books have to go somewhere, and the bookshelves are overflowing as it is. So having less actual books is probably a good thing. Also, how many books do we read that we’re never going to read again or not even loan to someone, so they just sit on the shelf? What a waste of space, right? This way, you read the book first, if you like it well enough to add to the permanent collection you can always buy it later on the discount shelf or the used bookstore and probably still come out cheaper than if you’d bought the original hardback, or even some paperbacks. Right now I have a dozen books stacked up on my bedside table, easily taking up half the space and making that area look kind of cluttered. With the Kindle, I could have all that space back, which not only looks better but also gives me extra space to use.

Kindle books are, of course, cheaper — $9 on Kindle vs. $16 for the same book in the airport bookstore. That’s 7 extra dollars for souvenirs.

I’ve not experienced this yet but my friend Lisa tells me one of the things she likes best about the Kindle is reading stuff she may not have read (or even heard about) because of free sample chapters. My “to read” list is too long right now to read something random but someday.

One other pro-Kindle point is not really about the Kindle device itself, per se, because it’s about the Kindle app on iPhone. With the iPhone Kindle app I am able to read on my Kindle even if I don’t have it with me. One night at dinner the kids were both asleep and John was talking work stuff with his co-worker; I had nothing to add the conversation so started reading my book on the Kindle iPhone app. The app and the device “sync” so your place is kept on both devices.

Cons?

About half-way through the trip, on the long flight from LA to Kauai, I noticed something: the Kindle is not backlit. I’m so spoiled to the iPhone being backlit that once in a dark situation (like a plane at night) I noticed immediately that the Kindle wasn’t. I had never read it in the dark before. If I read in bed I have the lamp on beside my bed so I had never noticed before that it wasn’t backlit. I had to turn on the bright overhead airplane light which was … bright … and overhead … like I was in a police interrogation. So I think a backlit Kindle would be a nice upgrade.

I don’t like that if I read a great book I can’t share it with anyone, save adding them as one of the users on my Kindle account and that seems a little much every time I want to loan someone a book.

But the biggest “con” of course is it’s not a book. There are no pages to turn. I can’t use a cute bookmark to hold my page. I can’t look at where the bookmark is placed to know how far I am in the book, which can be an important part of the book-reading experience if you’re the type (and I am) to use things like how far I am in the book as a gauge for where I am in the plot line. The difference in the book-reading experience is what scares people away from the Kindle, and that frankly makes me wonder if I was right to want one. I made a comment on here awhile back about seeing movies in theaters vs. on DVD and how it’s all the same if the point is the story. (I was promptly corrected, by the way, and conceded that while that’s true for some movies it’s not true for them all. Some, do, thrive off of the cinematic experience.) So carry that same idea — that the movie is the movie no matter where you watch it — over to books and … that’s harder for me to buy into. Before e-reading devices ever existed we might not have appreciated the “book-reading experience” as much, but it’s there, and after having now finished my first e-book I know that even more. Holding a bound volume of paper, turning pages, being able to see how many pages I have yet to go, being able to underline or dog-ear pages to mark passages I like, even being able to loan a friend a copy of a book I really liked — all of that is part of the “reading experience” and some of that is lost in e-readers like the Kindle. It’s the reason a Kindle ad on my desk touts its “paper-like display” and the interface of the new iPad has pages that virtually “turn.”

I’m not taking it back or anything. I started out talking about the pros, and those are all true things. But it might take a little getting used to.

Afterthought: These thoughts on e-readers (especially iPad) and books I found interesting and relevant, particularly this quote:

“When people lament the loss of the printed book, this — comfort — is usually what they’re talking about. My eyes tire more easily, they say. The batteries run out, the screen is tough to read in sunlight. It doesn’t like bath tubs.

“Important to note is that these aren’t complaints about the text losing meaning. Books don’t become harder to understand, or confusing just because they’re digital. It’s mainly issues concerning quality. … [T]echnology is closing the gap (through advancements in screens and batteries) and because of additional features (note taking, bookmarking, searching), will inevitably surpass the comfort level of reading on paper.”

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