Tuesday, June 30, 2009

To Kindle or Not to Kindle?

All of my friends know that I am an avid reader. I always have a book with me -- in my car, in my bag, by my bed, on my kitchen counter. If my hands aren't busy doing something else, they are holding a book. Our home office is officially filled to capacity with my books. So, I guess it would be natural that in addition to my friends asking me "What book do you recommend?" they are now asking me, "Will you switch to a Kindle?"

My first instinct was to answer, "HELL no." But, to be fair, I decided to do a little research first. Onto the Amazon website I go. Kindle. There it is. Six inches. The size of a magazine, and lighter than a paperback. Electronic wireless reading device. Kindle is to books as the iPod is to music. I may not have a Blackberry, but I do have an iPod. I'm not that electronically challenged. I'll keep going. WOAH. Retails for $359. Ouch. One point for the $5 bargain book bin at the local indie bookshop. Still. I have an awful lot of those bargain books that I still have yet to read. Oh, but wait. What about book downloads. I have to pay for the music I download to my iPod, so I'm sure there's some kind of fee in here somewhere....yep. There it is. NYTimes Bestsellers are $9.99, unless marked otherwise. Ok, two points for paper.

Paper. Since I brought it up. No, I don't recycle my books. What I mean is, I don't put them in the recycling can each Tuesday morning to be picked up. I do lend my books out to my friends. Many of my friends even remember to give them back to me (thanks, Denise!). Some of my friends, it's not so much loaning them the books, but giving them so they can dog-ear the pages and break the bindings and drop their hair into the pages as they read while blowdrying their hair. Those books I don't expect back. (You're welcome, Danielle). So, my books do get use, but the majority of them are up on my shelf, taking up space, and collecting dust. One point for Kindle.

Space. This Kindle thing is 6". That's small. You can put that in your-carry on and still have room for your laptop (yes, I have left the laptop home in favor of bringing along a few large hardcover books -- Harry Potter was not a small book). According to the description on Amazon, the Kindle can hold 1,500 books. As I said, our home office is filled. The bookshelf in my bedroom, my nightstand, the guest room, even the dining room floor -- all contain stacks of my books. I collect books the way other women collect shoes, jewelry, or figurines of birds. Um, okay, one more point for Kindle.

Up until now, the score is tied, if anyone was keeping track. It's time to watch the commercial video. Oh, wow. Kindle's ad company deserves a bonus. That was pretty convincing. The Kindle even has the ability to store notes and highlights if you want to "mark" a book. I wonder what happens if the technology changes. I once had a Palm Pilot, and I stored a lot of information on it. Once I progressed to other portals of technology, all that information was lost, or is, at most, just sitting idle, forgotten.

In the end, regardless of the score, I can't give up my books. The traditional hard covers, the paperbacks, or even the mass market paperbacks. I look up on my shelf and I am attached to some of the cover art. These books are like members of my family or friends from long ago. Sometimes, they are like trophies. If I haven't accomplished anything this year, just look up on that shelf there. Those are all the books I've read so far. I have memories from what was happening in my life when I read certain books. Some of these books helped me escape. Some other books inspired me. I can pick one up, thumb through the pages, and find a scene I want to experience all over again. I have a number of books that I hold onto because they were gifts, and they make me think of the giver each time I see them. I also am proud of my first editions, my signed copies, and especially my sketched signature from one of my favorite cartoonists. Now you're really going to think I'm nuts, but I love the smell of my books. They probably smell like me more than anything, but books have a smell, especially the older ones.

I remember reading a story about a woman who inherited her mother's book collection. When the woman began reading her mom's books, she discovered that in every one, her mother had written notes along the margins -- thoughts about a character, scene or passage. Her mom had marked her favorite lines, and even had her friend's or family's names next to them. Maybe the passage reminded her of them. Maybe she jotted the line into a card and sent it off to them. Her mother didn't keep a journal, but this woman was able to learn more about her mom through the marks she made in her books. Someday, I wonder if my son will read my books, and I will be able to speak to him through their pages.

No, I'm not giving up my books anytime soon.

Besides what would Denise and Danielle do if they came to my house and couldn't simply borrow one of my books?

I would love to know what all of you think. Do you Kindle? Do you like it? Are you still on the fence? Are you a traditionalist like me?


Anonymous said...

My sister in law, an avid reader, kindles. I can’t though. I love to see the book, touch the book, turn the pages. I cherish the whole process of picking out the book, bringing it home and getting lost in it.

I have many authors whose books I always buy. Most of my books are from the library though. But when one really touches me in some way, I buy it and add it to my collection.

Your BFF Judi

Anonymous said...

I, too, am attached to my books and I can't give them up. I also like to keep up with technology. I would like to experience reading a book on Kindle at least once. I hope that someday public libraries will loan them out. In the meantime I will continue to buy, read, and collect paper books. As for traveling, I bought a purse that is large enough to hold Harry Potter so I can fit any book into it.

Book pusher said...

What a great post. I too love the smell of books especially old ones and loved the story about the woman who inherited her mother's books. I heard an interesting discussion on a radio book show about this very issue, one conclusion that they came to was that technology such as the Iphone is more likely to be used to store and read books than a seperate e-reader, otherwise you just end up carrying around a lot of electronic clutter. The argument went that people will still buy books, but when they are out and about may also be reading their book off the phone. Perhaps publishers will start providing a downloadable version when you buy the paper version?

Alison said...

It never occurred to me that libraries would loan a Sony reader or Kindle out. That would be a wonderful, but expensive, service. I think if I were able to hold one in my hands, and use it to read just one book, it would give me a better idea of how I felt about it.

I have an iPod, but I do not have an iPhone. I specifically asked for a phone that had as few bells and whistles as possible. I want a phone that makes and receives phone calls. That's it. So, for all those people that have a thousand apps on their phones, I really hope that eBooks is one of those. I want people reading, I don't care how!

I hesitate to think about publishers providing an electronic copy when they sell a paper copy -- there would be more profit in keeping them seperate. I'm just saying...

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