Thursday, July 04, 2013

Why I Love My Kindle

So, coming in hot on the heels of my last post, the title of this one might make some of you think that I, Chitra Appasamy, now fancy myself a writer of Technology Reviews.

Calm yourselves. It is not so.

I've had occasion to discuss the Kindle and its virtues several times over the last month, with suspicious book-lovers who view (as I did) buying a Kindle as some form of 'selling out' to the Electronic Age, and proof that one does not, in fact, really love books, but is merely a 'casual' reader (the horror!) You know the sort. Someone who picks something off the bestseller shelf to read on a flight or on the toilet. Is that who you are, Chitra, huh? How can we have misjudged you so?!

How can a person who's grown up devouring books, who visits secondhand bookstores and libraries more to savour that gorgeous old-book smell than to actually buy or borrow anything, who loiters in the Landmark aisles for hours just window-shopping, who has to dodge a book-avalanche every time she opens a cupboard, whose Amazon wishlist of 262 items comprises largely of future additions to her library - and in my case, someone who loves and designs book jackets - how can such a person, such an obvious kindred spirit, possibly enjoy reading crisp electronically-generated letters on a cold, hard piece of soulless plastic?

People find this very upsetting. When a long-time book lover buys herself a Kindle, it is like Proof that the Book is Dying (as various articles on The Internets keep trying to convince us). Doesn't anyone care about that lovely book-smell anymore? Are we the only ones left? What is happening to the world?!

I understand your feelings, because they mirror mine from about a year and a half ago. So you can imagine my shock when a friend I really admire, who loves books even more than I do and has read about ten times the number I have (for the record, this is a formidable figure) whipped out a Kindle in my presence. This was the first time I had actually seen this supposed Destroyer of Worlds, and I was simultaneously fascinated and outraged. How can YOU possibly have one of these, I asked plaintively. A few months later, I had one too.

I admit that I opened the package with mingled joy and trepidation, and that it took me a few days to get used to reading on said piece of soulless plastic. But get used to it I did, and I am so glad. Here's why.

Book in Bag: Let me paint you a woefully familiar picture. You buy an awesome book you've been waiting to read. You stuff it in your bag and carry it absolutely everywhere, not wanting to miss a single chance to spend time with it (in a free class, at the bus stop, in the doctor's waiting room). By the time you finish the book, it looks about five years old. You spot that a corner of the cover is bent, and your skin crawls. Also, depending upon size and weight, you are pretty restricted in your choice of bags (this can be a pain if you are a member of the race of Girl) and you simply don't have a bag that fits the book and matches everything. I have solved this problem in the past by going out and buying a new bag, but let's not talk about that now.

Whereas a Kindle, even in a protective case, is small, incredibly light and durable, and lets you leave your paper book at home unscuffed. It fits in almost any handbag and I know guys who've carried it in large pants or jacket pockets.

Travelling Library: Five weeks in the US! Hooray! I'm all packed in compliance with the inadequate Laws of Baggage but oh my gosh, what on Earth am I going to read there? Five weeks, two massive air commutes...let me pack five books. Who needs shoes and underwear anyway!

During the course of the five weeks, I invariably discover that books do, in fact, inhabit the place that I am visiting, and guess what, there's a sale! MOAR BOOKS. Now, how do I get them back to India? Crap, I'll just have to stuff them in my deceptively tiny handbaggage and yay, they don't weigh ladies handbags! By the time I arrive home, I have strained my back and need to recover in bed - but at least I have the five books I carried there and back and didn't read for company.

Yeah. You see where I'm going with this. A Kindle can hold three thousand books. If you travel a lot, and you read a lot, it just stands to reason that you should get one.

I think those two reasons alone should be sufficient to bring anyone around. There's more. But before I go there, I should probably reassure you that e-Readers are not going to kill the paper book, at least not for a good few generations - if ever.

Amazon may have announced that e-books beat hardcover books in sales, recently. But they didn't mention that hardcover books usually cost at least twice as much as Kindle books, and also, most importantly, that paperbacks outstripped both hardcover and Kindle books by a mile. Who buys hardcovers nowadays, anyway? But of course, all we saw was KINDLE > BOOK! PANIC IN THE STREETS!

I, and everyone I know who owns a Kindle, still obsessively buy paper books. If I read an awesome book on the Kindle, I am totally going to go out and buy the printed version with the pretty cover. I am also rather selective of which books I buy on the Kindle and which I buy for my bookshelf - and I think that's the smart way to do it. Books I am experimenting with, want to take on holiday, or that are just too massive and also part of a long series - these go in the Kindle Library.

Now that I've reassured you somewhat, let me point out a few other reasons why the Kindle is worth a book-lovers hard-earned dollars (it's not all that many dollars either).

Instant Downloads: Your favourite author's book is releasing at midnight. Pre-order it. At midnight, it will automatically download, in seconds, to your Kindle, and you are free to squander your sleep perusing a book that literally released minutes ago.

Affordability: If you're trying out a book you haven't read before, and you don't feel like risking 600 Indian bucks on it, Kindle books are almost always significantly cheaper.

Free Books: Any book that's out of copyright, is free on the Kindle. Seriously. Free. And there's a ton of really excellent ones. Go and see.

Deals: There are awesome deals that happen on a very regular basis. These are to support new authors, promote reading, or just for fun. And if you have the cheaper Kindle that allows advertising, it's actually really cool, because it doesn't interfere with your reading or uglify your screen and you find out about this stuff without having to go looking. There are also some excellent bundle deals around the interwebz, like the Humble eBook Bundle or Amazon's own 'box-set' type deals.

3G: You can choose to buy a Kindle with a 3G connection that allows you to access the Kindle Store and buy books from absolutely anywhere, even if you're in a tent in the wilderness reading by torchlight. And you don't have to pay for this connection at all beyond simply buying a Kindle 3G. (The 3G version is optional, all Kindles come with regular Wi-Fi connectivity.)


So, this is why I think the Kindle is awesome. And to reiterate, it doesn't make you stop buying (or loving!) paper books. It just gives you options and makes everything that much more streamlined and convenient. I view the Kindle as a supplement to paper books, not a substitute for them. And it is working out really well for me.

(I'm not going to go into all the hardware details like how the e-ink is as easy on the eyes as paper, and the charger plug is interchangeable with most smartphones, and you can spill your drink on it without too much happening (I haven't done this yet). If this blog post gets you interested enough, you can go find all that out for yourself.)


re-belle said...

I completely agree! I didn't actively go out and buy one, a kind friend gave it to me as a birthday present but after the five thousand odd books I now get to carry around, I'm a convert. Real books will never be replaced in my heart but as someone who had to leave all her books behind while moving continents, my kindle was a solace.
A huge advantage is you have whatever type of book suits your mood. Wherever I am and whatever I feel like reading, its there. I can charge it with my Blackberry charger. I even get my magazines delivered to it every month. I can play music from it while reading. Hurrah!

Cheeta said...

Is this Sam? :) Yeah, totally agree on the awesomeness of having mood-specific books handy! And I really, really wish I'd had a Kindle when I was in the UK...I bought books obsessively the whole three years I was there and then had to leave behind boxes and boxes of them...I could only bring my design books back with me! :(

firstmonsoon said...

Oh absolutely yes- I have a nook, but all of the above is applicable. Spilling water does funky things to the touch screen (caught unawares by rain once) but it wipes right off.
Frankly, having a portable e- reader suddenly gave me time to read in places I never had before, because where I would think twice before carrying around a heavy book, I now automatically carry around the nook and snatch a few lines.
And it's easier to read in bed ^_^

Cheeta said...

Oh, most definitely easier to read in bed! Big fat books make my wrists hurt, trying to hold them up! :)