When asked if I might like a Kindle as a gift this past Christmas, my palms started to sweat a little. I was excited about the prospect of a new gadget that allowed me to access new books anytime, anywhere. But I was nervous about cheating on "real" books.
I worked part-time in the local public library during all four years of college. I loved it. I love the smell of books and the feeling of flipping through the pages. I shelved thousands and thousands and thousands of books, rarely feeling annoyed with the task because I knew people had enjoyed them.
I took the plunge and accepted the Kindle. Now I'm a part of the growing monster: Amazon announced last week that e-book sales have surpassed printed book sales -- after just four years of having e-books in the world. For every 100 printed books sold on Amazon, 105 e-books are sold -- and that doesn't count free classics that are hugely popular.
The free classics are part of what drew me to the Kindle. You can search for free books with an expired copyright by entering "0.00" or "0 00" in the search box on Amazon.com (or Barnesandnoble.com for the Nook). Right away, I downloaded Jane Eyre, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Wuthering Heights and some other freebies with an author who died more than 100 years ago. But, honestly, I haven't read any of them yet. I always have other new books I want to read, and never enough time to get through those that I already studied in high school.
I am still in that awkward phase where I totally think of my Kindle as a gadget rather than as the beloved book(s) that it contains. I don't pick it up most nights at bedtime or throw it in my bag every morning for my commute the way that I used to with a "real" book. When I'm reading on it, I still think, "I'm reading on my Kindle, I'm reading on my Kindle, this thing is cool, I'm reading on my Kindle," rather than getting completely absorbed in the book.
Until recently, it seemed that some books were cheaper in their Kindle format than in paperback, but I think that's changing. Most popular paperbacks now cost about $8-10 and their Kindle version costs slightly more, about $10-12. If you wait until a book is off the best seller list, the Kindle cost will drop down to about $5-8.
But an e-reader does have its perks:
- On a long trip, I don't have to pack multiple books. My Kindle holds my entire e-book library (and it bookmarks my pages wherever I leave off in each).
- I can look up the meaning of any word I don't know just by moving the cursor around.
- I can read in the dark, with my reading light built into my handy Kindle cover, and I can read in bright sunlight without any glare (as you get with an iPad). This will be great for my beach reads.
- Technically, I could loan my e-books out to friends for 14 days, but it's hard to find Kindle books that are "lending enabled" (listed under the product information when you purchase it) -- so I haven't taken advantage of this yet.
- E-books save paper (but you could just go the library and pick up books made from already-sacrificed trees!).
- You can now get a Kindle for $114 rather than its $200+ starting price.
If you're a voracious reader who can adapt to reading on a gadget, you will love the Kindle or Nook or other e-reader. If you're not and you can't, you'll just like the Kindle.
For now, I'll stay married to books and have the occasional fling with my Kindle.
Do you have one? What do you think of it?