Monday, May 03, 2010

To Kindle or not to Kindle

by Jane
Last fall, after hearing many people discuss the Kindle for many months and after owning a Sony Reader for a couple of years, I decided to purchase several Kindles for our staff. It seemed to me that the Kindle was more versatile than the Reader and I was excited to begin using it.

Now, it is six months later and I have been reading both books and manuscripts on my Kindle. There is no question in my mind that it is far more versatile than the Reader and, when I am traveling, as I have been quite a bit for the last six months, there is nothing more convenient than the Kindle.

Over the last several weeks, though, I have been reading Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, and while I was doing so, I kept wondering why I wasn’t loving it as much as many of my colleagues had. I finished the book the other night and all of a sudden I realized that the reason I hadn’t gotten the same pleasure out of reading it as everyone else at DGLM had was because I wasn’t reading an actual book—I was reading it on the Kindle. Let the Great World Spin is, first of all, a beautifully designed book with a gorgeous jacket; there is no way to tell this on the Kindle. It is also a story that makes the reader want to dip back and forth to re-read certain passages and this is all but impossible to do on the Kindle. In addition, because there are no page numbers on the Kindle (all one can tell is the percent of the book one has already read), there is no way to know how to reference page numbers. Ultimately, even though I enjoyed the book I believe it would have been a far more pleasurable reading experience had I had a print copy of the book.

Then, recently during a meeting in our office, one of my colleagues was describing her experience reading The Help. She mentioned that it felt like a really long book. I was surprised to hear this. In fact, I had read the book last December and had no sense of how long it was—none at all—because I had read it on the Kindle.

There are so many different opinions about what reading on a Kindle is like. My doctor, who only reads on the Kindle, has to go buy the actual book when he is writing a paper and needs to cite a page. There are those who say they really miss the “feel” of an actual book when they are reading on the Kindle; and then there are those who say that the iPad is better than all the other devices.

I’d like to believe that, in time, much will change technologically with these electronic readers and I think that, ultimately, they will increase the number of readers over all. I would also like to believe that old fashioned books will never disappear entirely; they offer too much comfort to many of us who love physical books. Reading a book electronically simply does not offer the same kind of pleasure in my opinion as reading it in hard copy.

So now I would love to know what you think?


  1. I was surprised and thrilled to receive a Kindle from my family last Christmas. For me it was a very practical gift because with my low and limited vision it's great to be able to blow up the font on any and every book without having to order large print. Voice to text as clunky as it is does help at times too when I just can't see to read.

    I love the convenience of the Kindle. It makes me giggle with glee to download a book in sixty seconds (though it has a hair trigger- last week trying to show my sister how the Kindle store worked I accidentily bought a book I didn't want. Fortunately it was easy to 'return').

    That said, as much as I love techie gadgets (I am an unabashed Trekkie after all) there will never be anything to me like holding a book in your hand, feeling the pages, the weight of it. The smell of the ink. It's a total experience.

    When I couldn't see at all for a long while reading books was something I missed more than I can describe. Hearing books on tape just isn't the same and reading on a Kindle, for all its virtues, just isn't the same to me either in the end.

    Additionally as the technology stands now, many of my most dearly loved books (many non-fiction on flowers and decorating) just don't translate well to the Kindle.

    I smile every time I see the future depicted on TV as having 'real' books in it still. Look at Captain Picard. He's still reading from hardcover books in the 24th century and I'm sure by that point they finally figured out how to tell you what page your Kindle is on (or will). Doctor Who had an episode based around a library that contained every book ever written (boy I wanted to pay a visit).

    To me, more books are better than less and the Kindle allows me access to that- but still today I will be placing an order online for some books I just have to be able to hold in my hands.

    My Kindle, I love. Can't beat the speed. But the thought of ever giving up paper books, beautiful jackets and all, makes me sad.

    Thank you for giving us the chance to comment on this.

  2. Thanks for this post--it's a new take on the Kindle for me. I requested a nook for my birthday and I'm excited about it. But I don't think "real" books can ever be replaced. I love to go to the beach on the week-end, and nothing beats a good paperback you can get sand in. :)

    I'd be curious if any of you have thoughts on the Kindle vs. the nook?

  3. I'm a Nook owner, and I've also done quite a bit of ebook reading on my iPhone. I don't have any experience with a Kindle or a Reader, so I can't address their virtues compared to the devices I do own. But I can say that I very, very much love me some ebooks. The majority of my reading as well as my book purchasing for the last several months has been digital.

    I have no particular sentiment attached to physical books as objects; what's important to me is the story, not the form factor in which I receive it. I get pretty much the same level of tactile input from reading a paperback that I do from my Nook, when it comes to "weight of object" or "action of turning a page".

    But, that said, I'm also continuing to buy print books. I'm just pickier about which books I'll buy print copies of. I'll look for things like:

    * Is the print copy of the book going to give me value that the ebook one won't? For example, the hardback edition of The Children of Hurin came with incredibly gorgeous illustrations, and the overall design and layout of the book was gorgeous. I was very pleased to purchase that in hardback. For most stories, though, I won't bother to go to a hardback copy.

    * If the book's out in paperback, is it one of those weird tall paperbacks that are a bit taller than mass market size? I hate those size book, and honestly, if a book I want to read is available only in that size, the only reason I'll buy one is because it's an author I already know and love and wish to support. Otherwise, I'll go to the ebook.

    * Is the author someone already known and loved to me? If so, I'll probably buy the print copy just to have it around, because this'll be someone whose work I'd be sad to be unable to read if I lost all of my electronic devices, or if the power went out. But chances are high that I'll also buy the ebook, just because reading ebooks on my commute is so much more convenient than reading paper books that it's not even a contest. The Nook is way more durable in my backpack than your average paperback or trade, and I'm really anal about not liking my books to get damaged.

    * And last but not least, what's my shelf space situation at home? If I'm hard pressed for space on my physical shelves, the print copy will just have to wait. Time to put another book on the Nook. ;)

  4. I've been waiting on Notion Ink's Adam tablet since I heard about it. I'd previously been shopping for an E-reader and had read repeatedly that the Kindle is the best out there. However, the Adam, when released, will be so much more than the Kindle. It's basically like an E-reader + netbook with a touchscreen. I'm very excited about converting my library to an entirely digital collection someday! (Of course, I will be keeping those signed hardbacks I was lucky enough to snag!)

  5. I've had my kindle for just over a year. I LOVE it. Except - don't read it in the bath tub if you are in anyway prone to dropping things. Also, when you're lying in bed reading it, and you fall asleep - it thonks on your forehead pretty hard... which will result in waking up believing you've just been shot in the head. But apart from those two things... I can't imagine anything better for a voracious reader.

  6. I adore my Kindle! I bought it when the Kindle 2 version first came out, and it's been a great decision for me and my lifestyle.

    As a writer, the ability to send my WIP to my kindle, and peruse it as a reader, is the best function. It allows me to see my writing in a whole new light.

  7. I've had my Kindle for two years now and would never give it up. As for reading in the bath tub, they make covers. I live on a sailbaot so water is a worry, but the cover I bought will protect the Kindle up to 12 feet under water. Of course I haven't tried it. I read some non-fiction in dead tree form, but novels I only read on Kindle.

  8. bitter and twisted3/5/10 6:11 PM

    What's a kindle? come to that, what's a nook? While I'm asking what's an ipad.
    And nothing to do with those questions; toda's my birthday and my wife got me a computer and right now my 10 year old son is showing me how it works

  9. I LOVE my nook, which was a Christmas present. As Angela mentioned above, there are multiple factors that go into whether I buy an eBook or a paper book. I actually have some books in both versions. Paper because I had it before the nook, eBook because I love them so much they just HAVE to travel with me. I will never stop buying books, this is just another outlet for my appetites, lol.

  10. Mike - if you get the cover, is there a warranty? or are you just spending more money and hoping for the best? Because that would be tempting.

    But overall it's just not that important to me to OWN books when the public library has so many that I still haven't read. If I could get my professional books for $10 it'd be super-tempting, but I just can't imagine that's sustainable.

  11. I've never had any interest in reading books electronically. Firstly, I don't have the funds to purchase an electronic reader. Secondly, I use the local library for many of my literary needs. And thirdly, I like the feel of a book between my hands, or a keyboard/mouse beneath my fingers. I don't think I would enjoy trying to focus on a flashing screen for that long - and often find books a welcome vacation from staring at my laptop (or TV). So, until I have a valid important reason to have an electronic reader of some kind, I'll gladly stick with my paperback comforts.

  12. Mesmerix raises a point. When everything's digital, where will be the thrill of the autographed copy? I'm torn, as I seem to be with most modern technologies. Dazzled like a kid in a toy store, yet nostalgic about my tried-and-true oldies but goodies. I've been seduced by the Nook I've seen in the B&N store, and Lord knows my shelf space is running out, so it would be practical to stop buying books ... but I probably never will. (Question: Do Nooks have page numbers? I LIKE page numbers.)

  13. I have been able to read many more books electronically than I could have if I had been trying to read the physical version. So, ebooks are great for that . However, I miss the smell of reading a book the most. I love flipping through the pages and smelling the scent of the printed page. I miss feeling the pages as I thumb the pages, or the ruffling noises the pages make as I scan quickly backward for something I missed.

    Also, an electronic device lacks the satisfying thud that a book has when it careens across a room in disgust!

  14. I adore my Kindle and don't feel deprived reading a book electronically (although I would love to know page numbers--Amazon, can you give us page numbers?). This may sound silly, but the only thing I miss about buying books electronically is seeing my beloved friends on my shelves. Glancing over at them is like a quick visit over tea. Oh, I wonder if Sully is up to more trouble, or what's going on with Asher's art? Of course, this differs not from owning a book on audio or borrowing from the library (a necessary evil because of the damn budget).

  15. Lack of pages on a Kindle can be confusing, but once you figure out bookmarks and its note-taking capabilities, it is quite easy to jump back (or forward) to pages of interest.

  16. AAAGGHGHGHGHGHGHGH!! The Kindle! I bought the Kindle, as I buy way too many things on a whim when I was back in the US, and of course, of course it wouldn't download books in Russia where I spend most of my time. What on earth made me think it would? I have had a few slam dunks on the Kindle: enjoying the instant gratification of getting a book in 60 seconds, but I agree with the comments above about it not being such a good feel, not really knowing where you are in a book, not being able to flip around. I know I'm going to end up with an iPad, though I think I am showing admirable restraint in not buying one now...