How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love/Tolerate The Kindle

This Dr. Strangelove titled post chronicles my love/hate relationship with the Kindle and more broadly, e-books. First off, I should establish that I enjoy going to bookstores. Much as I mourn perusing the aisles of movies stores (Netflix browsing just doesn’t quite do it for me), I miss Borders already. Sure, Barnes and Noble is still around, but there’s something kind of eerie and foreboding about its existence. It’s not that I think it’s haunted or anything, it’s more like when a twin goes to camp without his brother/sister for the first time and they’re just kind of awkward 100% of the time.

And yes, I know the two headed monster known as Amazon still lets you order hard copies of books, and I appreciate that, I do, but again, like Netflix, it’s a different experience than holding a copy of a book in your hand, reading the first few pages (a feature I know Amazon offers) and leaving the store with your purchase. It reminds of when I was a kid and would go into bookstores with a spiral pad of paper to write down information from magazines because I couldn’t afford to buy them.

Today, everything is available digitally and while I wouldn’t argue that it’s a bad thing, I think the decline of hard copies has diminished the products that we read. Because the web is an endless stream of information, some good, some bad, it can be very difficult to sort through which is which. I believe the same argument can be applied to the emergence of digital film.

In the digital age, anyone with a camera can shoot a short film/movie with little to no cost involved. Is this a good thing? On paper, sure. But the side effect is that there are now a glut of films produced that are just lazy products. Because they are shot digitally and the filmmakers don’t inherit the costs, time spent in preparation and the strain that goes along with shooting on film stock, they often become careless with pre-production and production elements, telling themselves either that they’re unimportant or can be corrected in post production.

This same problem pops up with e-books. The fact that their authors can publish them for almost no cost encourages people to release old word processor files of unfinished, unedited, unproofed fantasy epics that they convinced themselves are much better than Game of Thrones or Wheel of Time. Sure, this problem still existed in the age of paperback self-publishing, but now it is even more rampant.

So, inevitably we have to call into question the value of Kindles, e-readers and e-books. At one point, I marked the advent of the Kindle as the demise of the written word. Farenheit 451 fully realized. I was convinced that it was only a matter of time before e-books became e-illustrated books and then soonafter e-illustrated-book-movies themselves. This may still inevitably be fate of e-books (there are already some iBooks with moving illustrations and interactive elements), but for the time being, there is still some actual reading involved.

I have owned a Kindle (I actually own an iPad with the kindle app, but for the sake of argument, we’ll just say they’re the same) for a few weeks now, and as much as I’d love to tell you that I hate it, I can’t. I am unable to deny the convenience of e-readers. I know the format of books has pretty much stayed the same for as long as we can remember, but that doesn’t mean we were weren’t bound to confront some sort of evolutionary crossroads for how we read books. Am I saying that e-books are a necessary change? No. Is it going to happen anyways? More than likely.

I also have to acknowledge that my experience turning the corner with e-readers may be heavily influenced by the iPad itself. I feel somewhat biased because of the iPad’s additional features. If I owned a straight Kindle, I would more than likely become frustrated with its lack of features (to my knowledge, its sole feature being the bastardization of books) and find myself shaking it like an etch-a-sketch more often than not.

For me, I will still buy books in paperback and hardcover form. That is always going to be my preference. Will I buy Kindle books though? Sure. I’m not exactly sure what dictates which genre or type of book I’ll buy on the Kindle, but for me, e-readers represent a window into impulse buy reading. These are books that I might not previously have had convenient access to, low listing prices for or a medium that clued me into their existence.

As I previously mentioned, I don’t think e-books are a necessary step in the evolution of reading, but they’re happening regardless. We can kick, scream and call Ray Bradbury for advice on how to stop them, but it would just be a pointless gesture and I’m sure a little frightening for Mr. Bradbury.

What are your thoughts on e-readers/e-books? If you have old published books still out there in circulation and have the rights to do so, have you thought about putting them up on the Kindle? What is your favorite Kindle only/indie published e-book out there? Do you own an e-reader? If so, which one?

0 comments to How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love/Tolerate The Kindle

  1. Kayleigh says:

    I've been tossing up the idea of buying an e-reader lately because I'm going to be travelling for much of next year and packing books has always been a problem for me (I always pack too many and they're never the right ones). I've started to realise how much better it'd be for bus/train trips because sometimes the book I leave home with isn't the book I feel like reading after 8 hours of school or work. That said books aren't going anywhere, at least not from life. There are a multitude of reasons why, but mostly it comes down to the fact I love books, I love how they smell, how they feel, what's inside them and the amazing covers some have (especially of the signed variery-can't do that with a kindle) and so on.

  2. Kate Evangelista says:

    I still see myself as a book hunter. I love stalking my prey into stores and through shelves. I guess that's why I'm happy to live in a country where e-reading isn't as big. 🙂

  3. Sandy says:

    I don't own an ereader I do want a Kindle though despite Amazon's continuous show of close-mindedness and lack of consideration when it comes to some of the books they provide or choose to no longer provide. If or when I do get a kindle though I am still going to buy hardcovers and paperbacks, I can't see myself completely reading books from a screen. I like being surrounded by books, I got a bunch this past week and they're just all over the place now. I need a book shelf now which is another good thing about ereaders, not only are they convenient but they sure are helpful when it comes to storing books. It would kind of be like Hermione's purse in Deatlhy Hallows, carrying the whole world in your hand except when we can't pull out a real book we'll just have to settle for pushing a button to turn the page.

  4. Conor says:

    @Kayleigh, I totally understand the traveling concern with physical books. I backpacked in Europe for 3 months and was more or less carrying a library on my back. I'm so attached to books that as I kept picking up new ones, I refused to leave them in hostels or trade them in to book exchanges and my back suffered for it. On the flip side, I'm not sure how comfortable I would been with a kindle or an iPad safety wise, especially over that long of a stretch, staying mostly in hostels.

    @Kate, I really miss book stores. It's hard to find any small or independent ones in Chicago. Barnes and Noble is okay, but a lot of my favorite book shops have closed down over the years.

    @Sandy, I love having bookshelves and I love using them to display my books. Some day I'd really like to have a nice office that doubles as a library. Maybe I'll even buy a set of leather bound medical journals to make it look more prestigious. I'm going to go ahead and pencil that in as a life goal. The library part, not the pretending to be a doctor part.

  5. titania86 says:

    Ebooks will never replace physical books for me, but I have a Sony eReader and I like the convenience. I also love browsing brick and mortar bookstores more than online booksellers, even though online tends to be cheaper.

  6. Mark Welker says:

    I recently bought a Kindle and I'm both thrilled with it, but also quickly over it. It's vastly improved my ability to quickly and effortlessly sample books, which means I read more than ever before. So I think from an author standpoint, the kindle is an important milestone in keeping up the pace of reading (which for all intents and purposes, had started to drop off worldwide).

    But I'm like you. I still prefer books as products, I'm a booklover, so I'll continue to buy the books I want to love. It's just that not all the books I want to own, I care about owning the physical version. So for me, it's a partial transition. But for all those readers out there who aren't enamored with the feel of a book, ereading is immensely useful, and immensely powerful.

  7. Carradee says:

    I very much want an e-reader, but a tablet will probably work best for me. I'm a freelancer. I'd want my device to also be able to be used to mark up RTF and DOC files.

    I still prefer hard copies for books that I know I'll want to loan out to friends. Otherwise, I'm fine with an e-copy.

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