Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Kindle Conundrum

When Amazon's Kindle was first released, being an avid reader I said, "No way!" How could I forsake one of my true loves for technology? Sitting out on the deck with a book in my hand is one of my favorite indulgences in life. I love the feel of a book. I love the smell of a book. I look at my wall of bookshelves and admire every last damn author who braved the process of writing down the story in their head and developing that into 300 pages or so into a journey that I as a reader can travel. Then to face the rejections before finally finding someone to publish that story and put it into book form, just so I could hold it in my hand and be enraptured by every word, is a feeling that connects me to that author.

How could some Jetsonian piece of plastic with buttons ever give me that kind of personal connection, that kind of joy, that kind of escape?

However, as is the case with many a new product (the Chia Pet for example), flat-out rejection turned to curiosity as I saw more and more people using a Kindle in doctors' offices, on airplanes, and at the gym. (Alright, I know I don't go to the gym, but I'll put money on the fact that there's people using them there) What magic potion was emitting from this device that was drawing these people in?

At the time of my first real encounter with a Kindle, I was reading the book "Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. A wonderful, amazing book of 975 pages. Yes, 975 pages!!! This was not a book, it was an anvil. I couldn't just slip it into my purse. Nor would I bother lugging it to the doctor's office. On an airplane it would barely pass the carry-on size test.

But when my sister-in-law, Stacy, received one as a birthday gift, she showed it to me. Placing this church-program-sized device into my hands, as I saw the pages turn with a flick of my thumb, I felt the heavens open up and I too was drawn in like a moth to flame.

As my husband stood close by, I felt the words rise up in my throat, unable to squelch them, I heard myself say...

"I want one."

And so it came to pass that I too became the owner of a Kindle. Although I can't shake the feeling that I am cheating on my books. I look at my bookshelf full of those wonderful nuggets and think of all the book printers and cover artists who will soon be looking for a new career and sigh with a true sympathy.

Besides the guilt, the other downsides that may or may not bother you are that there are no page numbers. You can only see the percentage of how far you are into a book. However, this is because of the big upside of being able to adjust font size to your liking. Screw you, bifocals!

No cover art, maybe that one's just me but I like the cover art. And it's not a lit screen, so you still need a lamp or a book light at night. Also, it's a little too easy to buy new books. Don't think you'll be asked, "Are you sure you'd like to purchase this book?" because you won't be. If you click 'buy this book', you just bought it. No shopping cart or time to change your mind.

Other upsides besides the font size control are that it holds about 1500 books without getting any heavier. You can have a book in seconds after buying it. The wireless only version (meaning you can only download a book when connected to a wireless network) runs $139 and the 3G version (download anywhere you can get a mobile signal) is $189.

Also good: Lots of free books out there! Not the current bestsellers but tons of the classics. So if you've always wanted to read Wuthering Heights, you can download it for free. But I suggest you read my blog about that book before you do.

One other thing to think about. With the Kindle, you're a slave to Amazon for your book-downloading. Whether that's good or bad for you, I find myself driving by Borders and thinking, "I'm sorry it had to end this way."


  1. Welcome to the Kindle nation! I love mine too! You are SO right about it being TOO easy to buy books, though...being a certified book-a-holic, that's a definite downside for me. I'm about to have to forego food in favor of

  2. I agree, Lisa! I think I buy about 5-6 books a month but really only get to read about 1-2 with my schedule. So, I've got quite the surplus building up.