Thursday, June 28, 2012

Taking the Plunge: My First Experience with Kindle

I admit, it felt almost miraculous.  There I was in the living room surfing the Internet.  I learned about a novel called The Golden Mean that sounded interesting (see last Tuesday’s post).  I looked it up in the library catalogue; I found that the library had it available in ebook form; and no more than two minutes later, I was reading it on my husband’s Kindle.  Bam!  The slowest part of the process was typing in my library card’s barcode.

I specify that the Kindle is my husband’s because I haven’t yet made that leap from books to ebooks (and because the Kindle was, after all, a 30th birthday gift to him from his parents).  A year ago, I asked for a Kindle for Christmas and then quickly unasked before it was too late.  No Kindle for me, and I felt relieved not to have caved.  But now, after several weeks of watching Nat with his nose in a Kindle, I wanted to try it too and see what the reading experience was like.

At first, the mere fact that I was reading on a Kindle was distracting.  I kept seeing the neat font of “kindle” at the top of the device and quickly looking away as if trying to avoid eye contact with an authority to whom I was betraying an innocent friend.  Okay, okay, I’m being melodramatic, but in case you couldn’t tell already, books hold such a deep, important, sentimental, and life-focusing significance to me that even the objects matter, not just their texts.  I can’t explain it, really, and in fact, I know it to be irrational—the cheap Bantam classics paperback is not what makes Jane Eyre great.  Maybe that’s part of why I resist e-readers: they just make too much sense.  Of course it would be wonderful to be liberated from the weight of traveling with too many books, which is invariably the case for me, thinking I can easily polish off five, seven, maybe more in a week’s vacation when in fact I’m lucky to get through one or two.  Of course books are horrendous to move and almost impossible to keep dusted.  But I digress. 

As I continued to read on the Kindle, I quickly got over the distracted feeling, although it was very strange not to know what page I was on, not to have a sense of the weight and heft in front of and behind where I was at any given moment.  Instead, I had to try to conceptualize where I was in the book based on the percentage the Kindle told me I had read.  Other than that, reading was, well, reading.  I also have to praise the highlighter feature: just put your finger on the screen, drag it across the text you want to highlight, and that’s it.  You can even type a note.

I’m sure I sound like a luddite.  I’m sure many of you already know what it’s like to read on a Kindle and are probably just humoring me if you’ve read this far.  I will extol one more virtue of the e-reader before I conclude, and that is how nice it is not to have to fight to hold a book open.  I like to read while eating lunch; no more balancing salt and pepper shakers on either page to get the thing to stay open.

So my first Kindle experience was, on the whole, a good one.  But am I a convert?  Let’s put it this way.  One night, while I was reading on the Kindle, Nat said he was going upstairs for awhile and, kissing my still-reading head, told me to enjoy my book.  “It’s not a book,” I replied without intentionally forming the response.  It just came to me.  True, it was probably the quick retort of my long-held and deeply entrenched love of Books and of Tradition.  But it might also have been something of the feeling I get when the writing group I left behind in Northern Virginia imports me to our monthly meetings via webcam.  I’m here in Ohio; they’re there in Alexandria, Virginia, but we can look at each other and talk to each other as good as if I were there.  And yet, I’m not there, and we know that, and not one of us would say we prefer the content of my thoughts and speech to the wonderful fact of being physically in one another’s presence.

I’d love to know what you all think.  Please post your e-reader or non-e-reader experiences in the comments section below…


  1. I'll be interested to see how your feelings toward e-readers evolve over the coming months and years. I'm an avid reader who has never tried a reading device. I can see the "vacation" argument, but otherwise I want to be surrounded by books, big books, a real library. A book should weigh something, as a reflection of the labor that went into writing it. Using a spouse's e-reader seems like a good way to dip your toe into the water. But I think I'll be staying put on dry land.

  2. I found this interesting and rather confirmatory of my own loyalty. Weight, yes, how far and is there time for him to save himself? Yeah, just about if he gets on with it... a book has a structure reflected in its shape, its cover, the number of pages...etc etc Content undoubtedly matters most but the sequence of a narrative is book shaped, not line shaped... I can see its virtue for commuters, students, divorce proceedings! and holidays but a library reflects more about its owner than the titles on a machine. I am about to publish a book that every single reader has printed out to read, rather than accepting a file. It reassures!

  3. Speaking as the primary user of the Kindle in question, I've been very pleased with my ereader, and I'm reading more as a result. Perhaps that novelty will wear off, but I hope not. It's so much easier to switch books. When I finish with one, I don't have to return it to the shelf or library. I just go back to the home page and pick another one. Elizabeth and I can read multiple books concurrently without losing our places. I have more than 40 books now that I'm looking forward to reading and I haven't yet paid for one of them since they're all free classics. Plus, if I have to, I can even check my email.

  4. I find a read a greater variety of authors on my Kindle. I love trying out new ones. When I'm buying a book I tend to read authors I know I already love to read. So I'm committed to my Kindle. I haven't bought a paper book since.

  5. Just realized a negative. If you borrow an ebook from the library, there's more pressure to stay up late and finish it before the due date because it might just disappear at any minute.