Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Book Heretic

Last week I was reading in my comfy chair, holding Danny, and I started to drift off. I did one of those spectacular edge-of-sleep muscle jerk thingies and knocked Danny on the head with my reading material. He woke up, howled a moment, then relaxed again, and we went on as usual.

I was reading a 550-page book, but the damage was minimal … because it was on my Kindle.

Confession: The book was the latest in the Percy Jackson series. (They’re fun to read, OK?)

Confession II: I LOVE my Kindle.

Fuzzy cell phone picture of lovely Kindle! Reading John McPhee's Silk Parachute. Good stuff.

My amazing Auntie Beth got me the Kindle for Christmas this year. Auntie Beth has been my book supplier since birth, and I’d say a good 60 percent or more of the books I own have been gifts from her. I owe my book-hoarding personality to her, as well: She was a librarian for years at the University of Idaho, reads more than anyone I know, and has amassed an impressive library, mainly of the mystery novels she adores. (She’s also responsible for cursing me to write, but that’s a story for another time.)

Normally, my Christmas list to Auntie Beth comprises the books I’d like, usually new hardbacks or more “literary” titles that are hard to get from the library or my favorite second-hand bookstore. But this year, after much thought, I asked for the Kindle.

I feel a little bit like a heretic. I love books, right?


I love the way books look lined up on a shelf, and I love browsing other people’s bookshelves. (My friend Cady organizes hers by height. It’s lovely.)

I like the way a book feels in my hands, the familiar smell of paper, the smooth motion of dog-earing a page, the way an old book accumulates notes and wear and personality.

I like how I look when I pull a book out of my bag on a park bench or on the bus or while waiting for a friend at a coffee shop.

But what I really, really love is reading.  And when it comes to regular matter-y books vs. e-books, the e-books win as far as allowing me to read more.

Most people I know who love their Kindle or other e-reader share the same major reasons: the books are cheaper and you can take your library with you anywhere. I’ll add: E-books hurt less when you bonk your kid in the noggin with them.

There are disadvantages. Some books are impractical on a small device that doesn’t allow flipping pages—reference books, mainly, and the free Kindle Bible I got is a mess. Some books are art unto themselves that just can’t be replicated in e-ink, like children’s books or this gorgeous illustrated Constitution that was on my Christmas list a few years back. I haven’t attempted taking notes on an e-book yet, but I fear it will be lacking.

But for the most part, the Kindle is winning my affection. I feel like I shouldn’t like it – that as a book nerd, and a writer at that, I should feel like some of the soul is missing. But … I don’t . Sorry.

I decided to write a blog post about this because I’m curious how all my fellow book nerds out in the Interwebs are feeling now that e-books are fairly ubiquitous in America. (Amazon sold untold millions this Christmas season alone.)

We’re all talking about the advantages and disadvantages of e-books, but I’m wondering what comes next. How will books and bookstores and libraries and book-loving evolve? (Because they to have to, like it or not.)

Here’s a thought to get you started. When I go to someone’s house, I admire their bookshelves. How will I admire the contents of their e-reader? I imagine some sort of port projecting virtual covers on the wall in a slideshow … or something.

Share your ideas/thoughts/etc. in the comments!


  1. Okay, I'll bite. We've now got a touch Kindle and an older one with the full keyboard (second-gen? it's white) and basically use them to fill different book niche needs. We've learned that both of us have far too many print books already and are tired of moving them around. So, the kindles are a way to enjoy most books without having to dig them out of boxes in the basement. However, we both have a few types of books we won't buy ebooks of - anything with fancy illustration or design, and most of my beer books are still physical because I like being able to invest in the paper product for that hobby. I'd say we've found a comfortable niche for everything.

    (This is Nate, by the way.)

  2. I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas and so far I love it. But there's one HUGE downside. Probably 50% of the books on my shelves (which are alphabetized by author, by the way, a pursuit that earned much mocking from the boyfriend) came from Goodwill or another secondhand store, and I paid $2 to $3 for most of them. Part of the fun for me was hunting for the books I wanted to fill holes in my collection, and finding some real gems in the $0.69 paperback section. So it's really hard for me to swallow paying $10 for a book I'd wait on, and find for $1. On the plus side, though, paying more for a book will theoretically mean I'll be more choosy about reading books with real value, instead of trashy mysteries or whatever. A lot of the books I read are the equivalent of junk food, and hopefully with the Kindle, I'll start consuming books with a little more substance.

  3. I love my Nook. I love physical books too. I've kinda balanced it out though. I purchase my super fabulous favorite books hard copy and every thing else digital. For example I will eventually buy lord of the rings and the hobbit hard copy because those are classics. but new authors, or those I think are good but aren't my all time favs will be on my nookie.

  4. This is Miranda, in case it doesn't put my name up... not sure what is going on here...

    So I have a Nook and am pretty in love with it. I had the same problem you talked about with not wanting to betray my print books. I have found a pretty good balance these days.

    Jarrod bought it for me because my collection has filled one whole room in the house, and is starting to overflow.... He decided that if it was in the Nook, it wouldn't fill the house. Yes, you know this, I'm a book hoarder. I have found that it has curbed my obsession a little bit, and I am able to be more discerning with what I add to my collection (the ones I love the most and want in physical form to have forever and share with others!)

    So, the positives:
    ~My house isn't completely overflowing... yet
    ~I love it for vacation (when I remember the charging cord!). Before I would fill half my suitcase with books, then run out anyway. Now, I can bring more clothes, or buy more souvenirs to bring home! :)
    ~Easy to carry around in my purse, as opposed to a giant book.
    ~I can check out books from the library and load it on my Nook. I didn't want to give up on libraries, and I think this is a great in-between!

    The negatives:
    ~Doesn't FEEL like a book...
    ~I can't lend all my books to people. For example, I just read a fantastic true crime novel that I thought you would love, but it is stuck in my nook and not in your hands!

    Welcome to e-book land, Tara! :D

  5. I'm commenting from tjs christmas kindle! We love it because it lets us access so many more books, for cheaper and I can save the bookshelf for the important stuff.

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  7. I have had my kindle for a year and while I DO miss holding a real book from time to time, I find the convenience of the kindle outweighs that feeling.

    I love how small it is. I can toss it in my bag and not add the weight a clunky book would. I love that if I am reading a series and I finish a book, I don't have to find time to run to a book store and purchase the next book. I can simply search for it on my kindle and buy it!

    I also love to take advantage of the free books that kindle offers. A lot of them are absolute garbage but every so often, I find myself reading a book that is wonderful. If I were at a book store, I would tend to stick to authors I have already read, because I don't want to waste money on a book I might not like. With my kindle, I grab these free books and read things by authors I might never have given a chance before!

    I also like the fact that I don't have to give up so much space in our apartment to books. I have books here at home, in boxes at my Dad's house, in boxes at an ex's parent's house, at my mom's place...they are everywhere because I have moved so often. With my kindle, they are safely stored in one place and I can access them whenever I want to.

    In all, I must say...I heart my kindle. :)

  8. i LOVE my kindle fire!! (until it stopped working :( i have a new one on the way, should be here today :)) i can take my book anywhere and never have to worry about them getting ruined. no more watching people looking at what i am reading with snide glances (I love teen books, they are light and the one i read are funny!) i also like that i am borrow books on it! much quicker than going to the library, and here in Newport i usually have to have the library order my book and it takes about a week to get, with my kindle its 60 seconds!! i also love the fact that i can watch netflix and hulu on it so any dr appts that we go to its very easy to entertain the kiddos :) ~Jody Bauer~

  9. Thanks for weighing in, everyone!

    I agree with @Carissa -- a lot of books that aren't old enough to be free but aren't new enough to be expensive in general just aren't worth buying on the Kindle when they're available used for a couple bucks. I'd like to see an ebook solution to that -- and maybe publishers will bite?

  10. And I don't know why Blogger hates you, Miranda and Rhea! Will try to figure it out ...

  11. Tara,
    1) Love the blog! Keep it up :-)
    2) I don't have a kindle (yet).. I'm a lover of the real thing, and my house and classroom bear testimony to that. ABC books, and antique books are especially fun to collect.
    However, seeing as I don't sit for long and am on the go, I depend on audio books to get the bulk of my 'pleasure reading' done.
    I've just discovered mp3's won't play in my rig tho' so that's a bummer with those types.
    The kindel is probably in my future. I just have to hear other book lovers (like you) let me know how to handle that transition, or integration, I guess. (and wait for the prices to come down too). Gotta roll with the changes!


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