Wednesday, 4 April 2012

To Kindle, Or Not To Kindle?

I've reached a bit of a crisis point with the long-raging inner battle over whether to cave in and get a Kindle. It first started to get to me when I got a bit frustrated whilst packing for my holiday - all the books I featured in my Holiday Collection were surprisingly weighty, causing me to very nearly go over the baggage limit. I carried another in my hand luggage, which not only was surprisingly heavy (again), but bulky and took a lot of room up in my bag, making it a wee bit uncomfortable to be lugging around an airport - not to mention that I momentarily lost my passport when it got caught in the pages. It was then that I found myself thinking, 'wouldn't have this trouble with a Kindle'. I then recalled several Facebook posts a friend had sent to me, detailing all the reasons why she loved her Kindle - these ranged from easy to use, ease of access to thousands of books, lightweight and space-saving. Ironically, she was writing her review because she was on the train to her boyfriend's, and the battery on her Kindle had run out. See, you'd never get that with a book.

There are many reasons why I've not wanted a Kindle. Firstly, and to quote myself from a previous entry,  'I prefer the feel of a proper book; of pages, the spine, the way my fingers sometimes smudges the print on lesser-quality publications, the simple sensation of holding a book'. It's these aspects of literature that I have taken great joy in in the past, and especially browsing in bookshops - one of my 'happy' places in town is the Waterstones (situated in a converted chapel), where I can go in my lunch break and lose myself amongst the shelves. When I get the chance on weekends away, I love it when I stumble across an independent bookshop, and will spend ages there - even if I don't buy anything, the feeling I get when surrounded by so many books is one I don't get anywhere else. The best way I can put it is that last year, for my birthday, my boyfriend suggested we go to the British Library for the day, and I was ridiculously excited about it, like I might've been when a child and I was told we were going to the zoo, or a theme park.

I also resent the fact that Kindle downloads are not much cheaper than the physical copies - this, I believe, is a bit of a rip-off, as surely, once the book in question has been scanned into their system, it cannot cost the same to produce as a physical copy? For example, Mockingjay, the third book in The Hunger Games trilogy, would cost you £3.99 as a physical purchase, and £3.59 as a download. Yes, the download is cheaper, but why not by a larger, worthwhile percentage? A Kindle costs around £100, give or take - so give me a reason to use it!

I am also, as many people know, a bit of a - how shall I put it? - Clumsy Clara. Many books, ranging from Harry Potter, The Odyssey and Through The Looking Glass, have all ended up (accidentally) in the bath. A Kindle would not respond well to a bath (mind you, the books didn't fare too well either). Then, there are the times when, either very tired or slightly tipsy, I have been lying in bed and dropped the book I was holding on my face. Hilarious with a book, painful with a Kindle. And we haven't even got started on the amount of times I've dropped books, knocked them off the arms of chairs, accidentally ripped pages, stepped on them, - never mind asking 'can I handle a Kindle?' I'm not sure the Kindle could handle me.

Then, of course, there are my beloved bookshelves. I love to look at all the books I've amassed over the years, and muse over the different stages therein that represent my life (much like Rob's music collection in High Fidelity). There's the books from my university years, with all the classics: Metamorphoses by Ovid, The Odyssey by Homer, The Poems by Propertius and so on - and just next to it is my 'pretentious' stage, where I tried to read all of Paradise Lost by John Milton and Dante's Inferno. And look! Just along are the shameful vampire books - some of True Blood, some of Twilight - sat, rather oddly, next to my own History Renaissance - A Short History of England by Simon Jenkins and 1000 Years Of Annoying The French by Stephen Clarke. All the favourites sit smugly on the smaller bookshelf in the bedroom, close to where I need them most. How could I give up building my collection? How can a list of downloaded titles compare to my bookshelves? Look on my books, ye mighty, and despair. One of my most desperate desires for my future life is to have my very own library in my house, complete with fireplace for the winter,  big windows for the summer and a huge wingback leather chair to curl up in. A lone Kindle on the shelf would make that library a very sad-looking one, not to mention a massive waste of space.

But then....

A Kindle would mean I could carry a book with me always, something I always want to do, but sometimes can't due to space restrictions, forgetfulness and an inability to find a book I want to read. With a Kindle, I could download anything I wanted at any time (wi-fi provided). I would never again encounter book-block, and find myself staring irritably at my bookshelf, telling myself to just pick a damn book so I can leave already. I would have a choice of thousands! If someone recommended me a book, I could just download it then and there, and not have to traipse around bookstores searching for a copy, or wait for it to be delivered! Oh, what a happy day that would be. Plus, there are books that are free to download - I thought they would just be crappy, no-one-would-read-those-unless-desperate titles, but no, there's classics in there too, such as The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and whilst they wouldn't be physical copies on my shelf, I would still own them, still be able to see them, read them.

I am well and truly stuck. I almost know that - one day - I will succumb to technology and get a Kindle. I will probably love it. It will save a huge amount of space in what is a small flat that is already overflowing with books. I will have many books as my constant companions. I will never again have to choose between books for a holiday (I took loads this year, and not all the ones I wanted to). Come to think of it, I will never run out of books on a holiday again, and find myself re-reading the ones I read at the beginning of said holiday. But there's a part of me that is near broken-hearted at the idea that I will be the one to take away one of my own greatest pleasures - browsing in a bookshop and leaving with a bulging bag of new reads. The growing of my book collection will probably slow dramatically, which depresses me no end, and it just sounds like it would feel weird, lying in bed every night holding a cold slab of technology, as opposed to the warm, fanned pages of a book. But most of all, I'm scared that my book-collecting will go the same way as my CD collecting went - I haven't bought a new CD in almost a year, because I download everything. It's quicker, occasionally cheaper and I can pick and choose the songs I like - but no matter how much I love my iPhone and MP3 player, I still miss browsing for CDs, and there's not much point in buying the same song twice, one hard copy, one download - the same fate, surely, for books.

This book nerd is torn. But I suppose Kindle pages wouldn't be.

1 comment:

  1. Some very good points in this article Jazzy. However, I must admit I'm a bit of a Kindle advocate. I have owned my Kindle since October and it has encouraged me to read, where I had no previous desire to do so before. I cannot necessarily account for reasons why, but could provide some suggestions.

    Although new releases aren't often that much cheaper on Amazon, older books are considerably cheaper on the Kindle. Most of the books I have purchased were published 10 years ago and are approximately 25% of the paperback price. I think the initial price, of new releases being comparatively similar to that of paperback releases, is justified as it is essentially payment for the author's work. The first sales are arguably the most crucial to any author and so I think it is not a burning issue to charge more initially for your work. Once you've hit a suitable benchmark of sales, the price can drop to something far more affordable.

    I appreciate you love the feel of a good book, like a CD. With CD's I was very much the same. However, I was able to adapt of I-Tunes after some time with it and wouldn't necessarily look back to CD's. Equally, I think it is easy to adapt to the feel of a Kindle. If I don't have it in my bag at any given time, I do find myself at a loss.

    My Kindle hasn't been without it's technological issues, but I must admit Amazon have been very efficient when called into action. All the way over in Sydney, a replacement Kindle was provided at no additional cost, when I was experiencing issues.

    Owning a Kindle does not mean I can't appreciate the fine experience of visiting a Waterstones. If anything I now specifically visit book stores, to give me an idea of the market, before going home to purchase a book for the kindle. This attitude's not going to the help Waterstones stay in business, but I think anyone is able to derive pleasure, as they used to, from a bookshop visit.

    So please don't feel it's a case of succumbing to a cold slab of technology, because it isn't. The Kindle is (in the long run) an environmentally suitable alternative to books and has provided a passion for reading that I have never had before.

    And whatever form that passion comes in, whether it be on paper or plastic, it ultimately derives from a love of reading the content of the author. And so whether you read that content from a piece of paper or piece of plastic, you will never loose that passion.

    I hope you like some of my points and keep up the fantastic articles.
    Lots of Love

    Matthew J Geoffrey Massara IV