A year or two ago I couldn’t imagine wanting to read a book without paper pages. Now there is a Kindle in the drawer beside my bed. What happened?
I’m definitely not a naysayer when it comes to e-readers and the whole digital revolution thing. I’ll let others man those particular barricades. I just really enjoy the experience of holding a book in my hand and the texture of the pages – not to mention being able to flick back when I’ve forgotten who Drog McBurdle is and why he’s wearing that purple hat. (I always seem to have about 6 books on the go, which becomes confusing now and then…)
I was comforted by chats with my bookish teenage niece about how she couldn’t see herself breaking with paper, despite being a member of the digital generation who won’t even send me an email because it’s so old-fashioned. I could see that more and more people were going to want to read digital books, but I clung to a fond hope that paper wouldn’t totally die.
What changed my mind?
I still hope we’ll always have paper books of some kind, but I now own an ebook reader. This is why I cracked:
1. Availability of books
So many interesting books are only available as ebooks these days, and I was missing out because I didn’t have anything to read them on. I don’t like reading books on a computer – it’s just not that relaxing holding the laptop over your head while you lie in bed, even though it may be good for toning the upper arms. I also don’t have a smartphone, and am hoping to keep using my stupidphone a little longer, to save money for buying more books (the smartphone I want is about $700 in Australia – that’s a lotta books).
Further, a lot of other interesting books are hard to find anywhere but Amazon, so that even though I can order them on paper, I almost have to re-mortgage my house to pay the shipping charges. Living in Australia at the far end of the galaxy is splendid, but this is one of those times that I wouldn’t mind if the oceans were just a little smaller. (Air travel to America or Europe is the other time – 16 to 24 hours in the pretzel position… but we’ll talk about that some other time.) Therefore, if I buy the digital version from Amazon instead of the paper one, there is no huge shipping fee – no shipping fee at all really – and no wait.
2. Financial considerations
Ebooks are generally cheaper than paper books, and sometimes dramatically cheaper, so I can buy more. But even more importantly, the next-generation Kindle with the lower price came out about the same time that the value of the Aussie dollar went up. So almost overnight, the price of a Kindle dropped from about $400 in my money to about $125 in my money. That’s the cost of only about 5 trade paperbacks here in Oz. That makes it doable all of a sudden.
3. My mother
Ha! You didn’t see that one coming, did you? My mother loves to read western short stories by Louis L’Amour when she can’t sleep. Unfortunately they only come in hardcovers the size and weight of three housebricks taped together, which was wreaking havoc with a muscle she pulled in her back. It suddenly occurred to me that an e-reader might be a better alternative for her, and even allow her to enlarge the text so she can read it without her glasses if she wants to. The desire to help her out finally gave me the impetus to stop dithering and make a decision – buying two at the same time.
Even though my mother is in what we like to call “late middle age” (er, 70-something) and not a huge fan of her computer, she has had no trouble learning to drive her Kindle. Turns out she loves it, and enjoys calling it a Noodle whenever she can’t think of its weird name.
Why did I choose the Amazon Kindle (affiliate link) over the iPad, the Nook, the Factotum, the Kobo, or the Bindoodley? (In case you’re feeling a bit out-of-the-loop, I made up a couple of those names. Although, having poked fun at the whimsical names they give these gizmos, I have to admit that the Sony Reader is probably the most prosaically named electronic device so far this century. Sony has gone downhill since that guy who named the Walkman left the marketing department.)
I liked how it felt in my hands. This was the single most decisive issue for me, because I have to hold it in my hands for a long, long time. I spend a lot of hours every year, reading. The State Library of Queensland has a gaggle of e-readers on a table right near the front door, and you can sit in an armchair and try them all out for as long as you like, or until the library closes, whichever comes first. I liked the touchscreen on some of the others, but ultimately the “next page” buttons on the Kindle were in just the right place for my hands. If you’re thinking of buying an e-reader, I strongly recommend you find a place where you can try different brands without having to rush, and find the one that just suits you.
2. Ease of purchasing
It was easy to buy the Kindle, direct from Amazon, even though I’m in Australia, and it arrived in only a couple of days. (My local post office lost it for a while because the mailing label was reportedly too small for them to read, but that’s another story for another day…)
It’s just so easy to buy books, although in all fairness, I didn’t really research this aspect in any great detail before I bought it. But man, I can buy a book in a hurry with one-click ordering. (This is the danger of it, in fact…) And pretty much everyone puts their books on Amazon, unless they are Making A Stand About Something, so I can be fairly sure to get any book I want.
3. The backlight issue
I am a devoted Mac lover and think iPads are really cool, and I was SO tempted to buy one (and one day I still might), especially after I read this rave review from Nathan Bransford. I did have a little pause-for-thought when I read that Michael Hyatt gave his iPad away and bought a Kindle instead.
But what finally clinched it was that I read in several places that even though iPads are great for reading in the dark because you don’t need a reading light, researchers believe the light they produce may have a tendency to make people wakeful. Since I do insomnia at Olympic level already, and I often read to help myself sleep, this was a factor I decided not to ignore.
My Kindle doesn’t produce light – I do need a reading light for it – and I find it pleasant on the eyes and not at all computer-like to look at. A plus of the “no light” thing is that the battery lasts for ages, especially if you turn the WiFi off when you don’t need it (I haven’t recharged mine for WEEKS).
So there you go. From reluctant beginnings, I have joined the Fellowship of the Kindle, even though I still have plenty of paper books and will continue to buy more, because I love books, I do I do I do I do I do (sing with me…). I have about 6 books on the go as usual, but this month they’re all in one little gizmo, and I can carry them all on the train with me at once, in case I change my mind and want to switch books between stations.
Do you have an e-reader, and how did you choose it? Or are you committed to sticking with paper? What do you like or not like about the new technology?