Saturday, 8 September 2012

Kindle: The Verdict

Well, I've had my Kindle for just under three weeks now, so I felt it was high time that I put you all out of your misery and finally revealed my opinion on the Kindle (because obviously, you haven't had anything better to occupy your thoughts with other than my dilemma - right?!). Well, I am pleased to say that, after several years of firmly denying I'd ever buy a Kindle, a year of umm-ing and aaah-ing as I started to cave in, and several blog posts in which I have documented my ever-weakening resolve, I can finally reveal that.... (drum roll please)..... I'm still not sure, and that makes me exceedingly happy.

Before I explain why my indecisiveness has made me so pleased, I'd just like to reveal a few of my own thoughts on the Kindle. I can't deny that we are getting along famously; within about two hours of getting my Kindle through the post, I had downloaded around twenty-one books, all for the bargain price of £14.50! I couldn't believe it - so many books, for so cheap! And so many for free! Obviously I was over the moon. Of course, I had just spent nearly fifteen quid without so much as batting an eyelid - it's not the amount of money that's concerning me, it's the fact that I was able to spend it without considering. If I hadn't spent so long perusing the free books, that figure could've gone up a hell of a lot. I've also been able to download books I've never had the chance to read, mostly because I was concerned about spending too much money for something I'd not enjoy. But instead, I've got Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray and A Game Of Thrones by George R. R. Martin all waiting for me, and just in time for my holidays, too. Brilliant, because I know the book editions of these are fairly hefty, and I'm willing to bet EasyJet wouldn't be so sympathetic to an overweight case that's mostly books.

I've also been able to re-introduce to myself a few childhood favourites that I haven't read for many years - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, and The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. I loved my abridged versions of these books when I was a wee girl, so to be able to finally read the full, unabridged versions was a true delight to me - particularly The Wind in the Willows, which now may have to be inducted to my Favourite Ever Childhood Books list; rediscovering the adventures of Ratty, Mole, Badger and the disreputable Mr Toad brought back some very happy memories of my own childhood.

Then there's also been the obvious advantage of size - I've been travelling on trains a lot recently, but instead of having to worry about finishing my book before my journey ended, I've had a constant supply, all handily fitting in my handbag without so much of jostle to fit it in. I've even managed to lose it once or twice between all the unnecessary handbag rubbish I usually lug around - that's never happened with a book; usually, I lose stuff in books.

But it's not been an easy start to the relationship; I've found reading on a Kindle to be surprisingly difficult, and I can't quite put my finger on why. It may be the fact that it's only the equivalent of one page at a time - I can be an impatient reader and not being able to see two pages has been difficult to get used to. Then there's the fact that it doesn't even feel like I'm reading a book, but instead feels a bit like I'm staring at a computer screen. Between my job, my blog and TV, I spend an inordinate amount of time staring at a screen, and reading books was always a break away from that - but a Kindle feels a bit like I'm holding a very large phone, or a very tiny tablet computer. Consequently, I'm almost reluctant to start reading anything on it - even though I've chosen to download these books, they're not attracting me in the same way that they might've if they were stacked in a tantalising pile on the bedside table.

There's also been a few technological hiccoughs that I've encountered. For example, my Kindle point-blank refuses to acknowledge our wireless signal, no matter how many times I rescan it. Sure, it'll find my next door neighbour's, and even the wi-fi from a coffee shop in the shopping centre about five minutes away, but the little box in the next room? Oh no, that's too much. Considering my rubbish iPhone, who has made it clear that it hates me and will only perform the most basic tasks with begrudging reluctance, can pick up the signal no problem, I find it especially infuriating. Sure, if I turn the Kindle on and off several times, turn the wireless off on every other device connected to it and hold it JUST SO I can get a connection, but really, who has time for that? Actually though, now I think about it, book-downloading in general just isn't as fun as I anticipated - after the initial binge I had, I'm now starting to find that, unless I have a particular book in mind to download, browsing just seems too stressful. For starters, I can't see book covers properly, and as I've discussed before, book covers are a crucial part of the book-choosing process (for me, anyway). The Kindle is all in black and white, and by-and-large, the images of the books are thumbnail size at best; this makes it harder to discern what is on the cover, which in turn makes it harder for me to make a decision. Plus, if you're wanting just a browse, I find the vast selection just too difficult to get my head round; when you go in the Kindle store and select 'browse by books', you're offered a mind-boggling number of titles, all under various categories and I'm sorry, but I haven't got time to flick through so many e-pages to find a book I might like! Browsing in a bookstore is so much better; you can see dozens of books with just a quick glance.

I've also found page-turning to be tricky. Usually, with a book, I have this down to a fine art, but on my Kindle Touch, I'm finding that even a slightly-too heavy press of the screen causes it to skip two pages. Then, when trying to get back, if I don't tap the screen in just the right place, it goes forward again. Conversely, I've sometimes tapped the page several times with no response whatsoever. I also find it harder to skip back pages to re-read something, and because a Kindle doesn't have page numbers, I sometimes lose my place, which is exceptionally annoying. This all conspires to make the book reading experience a slightly more exasperating one than I am used to.

In short, I'm not a full convert. I can see the appeal, I can see how useful it is, I can appreciate that it has made my travelling-life a lot easier, and overall, I am glad I have got one, if only for the free books, cheaper prices and general ease-of-transport. But I'm still going to buy books; if I'm at home, or just need something to read in a cafe whilst I wait for someone, I still prefer a book. The feel of pages, the weight of a book, the comfort I get from them is just incomparable and irreplaceable. I am happy I bought my Kindle, just because now I have a better idea of how I feel about them - it's been an expensive lesson, but it's resolved a few things for me. I'll be glad when I'm on holiday and I can be safe in the knowledge that I've got enough books to keep me happy for a week, but I'll not be giving up my book-buying addiction.