Menu Join now Search

To Kindle or Not to Kindle?

Let me get this out right here. I am a book addict. I am surrounded by them: stacks beside the bed that I am going to read, references for herbs and jewelry and other things I may never use, cookbooks that haven’t been used in years, and at least thirty-five boxes of books in my garage.

You cannot enter the master bathroom of my home without tripping over a book or two—there’s a big stack right by the door that should be put away but hasn’t been. There are books everywhere in my house. Everywhere.

I’ve tried to join the modern era of ebooks. I’m not technologically challenged. But it just doesn’t work for me. I’ve tried reading the numerous available online for free, I’ve downloaded them to my ipod to listen to them, and I’ve looked for an application for my blackberry to see if I could read them there.

I love books. They have a certain feel in my hand. And they smell good. If you’ve ever been the first person to open up a bookstore in the morning, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I realize that the scent comes mostly from the paper and ink used to produce the books, but in my romantic imagination, that scent is what’s left of the party that happened after the bookstore closed. The ideas, philosophies, characters, and authors all come out to wander the store and search the shelves themselves. (I did say it was my imagination.) In my opinion, a good bookstore contains every single idea that has ever been thought. To me, that’s awe-inspiring.

Lately, several friends have encouraged me to purchase a Kindle from Amazon. It certainly seems convenient.

  • Slim: Just over 1/3 of an inch, as thin as most magazines
  • Lightweight: At 10.2 ounces, lighter than a typical paperback
  • Wireless: 3G wireless lets you download books right from your Kindle, anytime, anywhere; no monthly fees, service plans, or hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots
  • Books in Under Sixty Seconds: Get books delivered in less than sixty seconds, no PC required
  • Improved Display: Reads like real paper; now boasts sixteen shades of gray for clear text and even crisper images
  • Longer Battery Life: 25 percent longer battery life; read for days without recharging
  • More Storage: Take your library with you, holds over 1,500 books
  • Faster Page Turns: 20 percent faster page turns
  • Read-to-Me: With the new text-to-speech feature, Kindle can read every newspaper, magazine, blog, and book out loud to you, unless the book is disabled by the rights holder
  • Large Selection: Over 245,000 books plus U.S. and international newspapers, magazines, and blogs available
  • Low Book Prices: New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases $9.99, unless marked otherwise

Wow. It could hold 1500 books (not quite my entire library, but, okay. Amazon provides wireless service free to Kindle owners, who can purchase almost any of their titles and be reading them in sixty seconds. This wireless service is even available in the very rural areal where I live.

NYT bestsellers are only 9.99. This alone would cover the $350 cost of the item. Most NYT hardback bestsellers are topping out at 27.95 or higher, so at the rate I read, the device would have paid for itself with in a year at the latest, but more likely in six months. And the thing even has a leather cover so that you feel like you’re holding the whole book.

Here are the downsides I see: I don’t want to be bound to Amazon. Sure, it’s an amazing success story and a great resource for finding books, and apparently other items essential to readers such as weed-whackers and thigh-high back stretch velvet boots; convenience at its best. (I wonder if you can get the boots on Kindle.)

But I love bookstores. Honest to God, just sell books bookstore. There are harder and harder to find these days. Empire Books in Greensboro, NC, is a great example. They sell used books. They are right across the street from a college, so they do a good business in textbooks, and required literature texts. But they also had a wonderful edition of Italian Folktales, by Calvino, that I had to have. They also have signed first editions of Kurt Vonnegut books, locked in a case and sealed in archival plastic. (Wonderful museum pieces, but to me a book that you can’t open because the monetary value will go down is as worthless as an action figure you can’t take out of the box.) Stack of books sit on the counter, waiting to be priced, and shelved. It smells like books: old, musty, inky, dusty, and intoxicating.

Along with the Calvino book, I purchased a few paperback for light reading (I always have one in my purse), and my son found a copy of the Constitution of the USSR, priced at only a dollar. I didn’t even know the USSR had a constitution! Of course we bought it—how could you not?

I don’t think I can abandon those bookstores or lose my obsession with owning books. (I never lend my books. If I want to share a book with someone, I buy a copy for them.)

So—to Kindle or not to Kindle? Probably not, unless someone can convince me that bookstores like Empire Books or the Country Bookshop in Southern Pines will not be destroyed by this trend. I will need to be convinced that I will not miss the experience, the engagement of turning the pages, underlining passages I love, and reading in the bathtub. If you think you can convince me, give it a shot.