It is a year since I was given a Kindle for my birthday, so on World Book Day 2012 I thought I would admit to something I have tried to keep secret for the past twelve months – I am in love with my Kindle.
Despite regular forays into charity shops to purchase other people’s discarded paperbacks (why is there always a copy of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides on the shelf?) in order to disguise my addiction it is of no use to continue the charade. When everyone is asleep I sit in bed connecting to the Kindle Storefront and will sneakily download publications I might never have considered in the light of day. I never have to endure the frowns as yet more Amazon parcels arrive at the door. The bookcases don’t creak under the weight of books as yet unread. At the same time I can still pick up a ‘proper’ book and enjoy the feel of turning the pages if the mood takes me. I am winning all round.
I genuinely don’t believe ebooks will ever replace their paper forbears. There are some key problems with ereaders that my Kindle can’t overcome…
- You can’t lend a fabulous book to a friend
- Illustrations are simply a waste of time
- Poetry is still best read (and generally formatted properly) only from a book with paper pages
- Many of the free books available are either formatted badly, or self-published and poorly edited.
- Newspapers and magazines? Don’t bother.
… and you can’t put your Kindle on top of your handbag and pretend you are reading One Hundred Years of Solitude.. or Love in the Time of Cholera.
However, with my researcher hat on and as a tribute to my little grey tablet, encased as it is in a lovely red leather cover (with integral light!) I undertook some analysis of my Kindle consumption over the past twelve months. I was surprised to find I had downloaded 85 ‘full version’ books but have read only 31 of them to the end. Some are reference or poetry titles but I found this figure disappointing. It suggests that as a Kindle reader I am less discerning about the titles I pay for and I also have over 40 samples which I haven’t even looked at. Do these represent the books I would have picked up and flicked through in a bookshop and replaced on the shelf? If so, isn’t my Kindle just another way of storing unnecessary clutter?
To look at the figures positively, I can see that I am reading many more fiction titles than before, by authors that I have never taken from the shelf in a bookshop (Florence and Giles by John Harding and the Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri for example). This is good for me as a writer – I am a firm believer in the maxim that reading widely is the best way to learn how to write – and for authors it must be a boon. Digital prices may be lower but the marketing opportunities are surely greater.
Despite these advantages and although I would be at the front of any demonstration against the loss of the physical book, I have to accept that as I continue to worship at the feet of the Amazon idol I am contributing to the demise of the high street book shop. I rarely buy a full price paperback now (although I have always preferred to recycle books through charity shops) and hardbacks are always cheaper online. It is a dilemma and even as I write this I feel the pricking forks of conscience prodding my rear end.
I do know that overall, along with many others who have acquired a Kindle or similar, I am now reading many more titles than I used to. I can carry it with me wherever I go so enjoy the distraction it offers more readily than I could with a large book. I read 50 books last year, meeting my Goodreads challenge. From my rough analysis that means over 60% were on the Kindle. I have challenged myself to read 75 books this year and if I didn’t have my ereader I believe I would have little chance of so immersing myself in words that I could reach that target.
So despite my ambivalence I have to blow a kiss to my Kindle and thank it for opening up another world of writing to me.
Do you have a Kindle, or another type of ereader? How do you feel about being tied into Amazon or other providers? Is it a blessing or curse for authors?