October 2, 2009

How to love a Kindle reader

My Kindle was a birthday present I gave myself last year after Oprah plugged it on her show. I don’t watch Oprah, but Amazon was giving a $50 discount to anyone who used the Oprah coupon code. The discount was enough to reel me in.

As it approaches its first birthday in my personal library, the Kindle is road-tested and I feel ready to tell all: it’s been like an adulterous affair—exhilarating perhaps, but lacking the deep and abiding love of a lifelong marriage. Books clutter my house and ruin my budget, but we are joined for life, for better or for worse. That said, I lack the willpower to end my relationship with this exciting version of a book. Here’s why:

1) The Kindle is oh-so-portable. If you travel and like having reading choices along, the Kindle is a joy. You may still carry an extra library book or magazine, but you’ll quit packing an entire suitcase or tote bag full of books to accommodate your roving eye.
2) Books are cheap. I’ve always got my eye on the next book I want to read. But we all know that the latest thing costs more. Not with a Kindle. You’ll seldom pay more than $9.99 for a book, even when the new hardback is $24.99. Classics in the public domain are only 99 cents.
3) The Kindle is the perfect companion for the gym. While other people are staring at CNN and Fox, filling their minds with what passes for news today, you can download one of dozens of newspapers or magazines, sampling a different newspaper everyday for a mere 99 cents. This includes international newspapers that provide a larger take on current events. (I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust the folks that report the news on television anymore. They are in the entertainment business. I still get my news from people who write it or give it to me by ear. They are only half as inclined as their television brethren to spin it.) If the news is depressing, you can choose inspiration, fiction, or non-fiction. Either way, 30 minutes of cardio work on a treadmill passes in a heartbeat. With a Kindle, there’s no wrestling the pages of a book or straining to see. Turning the page or increasing the point size is only a touch. The Kindle is a productivity tool that allows you to read at times you wouldn’t otherwise be reading.
4) You can highlight points and make notes about things you want to remember. Most avid readers mark ideas that hold meaning or contribute to a presentation or article. You can do all this with a Kindle, too.
5) Downloading is easy. Turn on the built in wireless device. Unless you’re out in the boondocks, connecting to the Amazon store is a breeze.

That’s where it ends for me. The reality is this: I can’t bring myself to read fiction on my toy. I suppose it’s because most of the online reading I do is non-fiction. That makes non-fiction on the Kindle seem okay. I’ve tried curling up in bed with an electronic novel, but decades of romantic connection to pages are embedded in my brain as surely as ink is on paper. You can read the pages just fine, but it’s like—well, it’s like committing adultery. You just know it’s wrong. How can that be enjoyable?

There’s another hazard for the true bibliophile. Remember the cheap books I mentioned earlier? That all sounds wonderful until you come to the realization that you must also own a hard copy. Oh, yes. You need it. It must be sitting comfortably on your bookcase where you can reach for it like a spouse. What can I say? Bibliophiles remember things by where they are on a page or within a book. We know the anatomy of a book. Go ahead and buy a Kindle for all the reasons I’ve mentioned. It’ll light your fire, but don’t expect it to be a permanent relationship. The market keeps producing wonderful tools to lure us away. If you’re a hardened addict, it won’t matter. You’re already married.

1 comment:

Susan Lawson said...

This is so fun! What a great use of metaphor. You almost had me filling out the order form until you said you needed both the hard copy and the Kindle, you polyamorous wench, you! Next time we get together, may I test drive yours? Will we be lumped in with Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice as a result? Great post, my friend.