Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Why I love the Kindle: confessions of a book lover

When the Amazon Kindle was released in November 2007, many of us bookish types weren't too happy about it.  We went to bed one night with our educated, progressive minds and woke up staunch conservatives.  Our beloved tangible tomes of ink and paper had undergone thousands of years of consumer evaluation and had never been found wanting - why were Amazon even attempting to offer us an alternative?  The Kindle was a violation, an insult: we took it as a personal offence.

Like many of my fellow hardened bookworms, I closed my mind to the Kindle immediately, without even taking the time to consider it.  I have been head over heels in love with the ink and paper book since before I learnt to read and, unwilling to kick the habit of a lifetime, I remained loyal to the towers of books stacked precariously around my bedroom, gazing on them fondly even when they crashed to the floor without the slightest provocation at four o'clock in the morning.  I turned my nose up at people with Kindles on the bus, viewing them with the contempt I usually reserve for people who wear glasses without lenses: as though they were merely pretending to read.

But, fellow Kindle-haters, I have a confession to make.  I have been unfaithful.  There is a Kindle lying in bed beside me as I type.  I have just finished Chapter 3 of 'The Great Gatsby' and I'm certainly not hating it - the Kindle or the Gatsby.

In my defence, the Kindle isn't mine.  I haven't permanently deserted my ink and paper sweetheart, I am merely engaging in a casual affair.  I borrowed it from The Boyfriend with the intention of proving a point.  By acquainting myself with the 'benefits' the Kindle has to offer, I would be able to argue against them more eloquently in future debates - that was the theory anyway.  But I am afraid my plan has backfired.  My time with Mr. Kindle is almost over and I'm becoming increasingly reluctant to give him back.  So, instead of a diatribe against the e-reader, I present to you: ten reasons why book lovers love the Kindle:

1. Cheaper books

And what self-respecting bookworm could argue with that?  The Kindle edition is significantly cheaper than the ink and paper copy of many new and upcoming releases.  And if that's not tempting enough, Kindle editions of over one million out of copyright pre-1923 titles are available for free!  Titles include: 'Pride and Prejudice', 'Dracula', 'The Iliad', 'Oliver Twist' and 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'. If that doesn't encourage you to catch up on your classics, I don't know what will.

2. Lightweight and portable

One of the main selling points of the Kindle is its compact size.  Amazon claims that the device weighs less than a paperback book, has the capacity to hold around 1400 e-books and is small enough to fit in your pocket - I don't know what kind of pockets these people have, it certainly doesn't fit in mine.  Whilst the average person will not require 1400 books to satisfy their literary cravings on the train to work, if my English degree has taught me anything it's that the ability to cram every book you could ever possibly need into a small hand-held device would save countless students from a life of chronic back pain.  I will not miss the days of carting 'The Collected Works of Shakespeare' plus 20 hardbacks around in my bag.  And if, like my parents, a continually overflowing newspaper rack is the bane of your existence, you will no doubt appreciate the Kindle's ability to hold your newspapers and magazines too, with new editions of those you subscribe to delivered wirelessly to your device the second they become available.

3. Will save you from the storage issues caused by book addiction

Ever since watching Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast' for the first time when I was four-years-old, I have dreamed of having a room in my house devoted entirely to books.  A library with ladders.  And I am certainly well on my way to accumulating the quantities of books required to fill such a room.  Unfortunately, however, the euromillions win required for the purchase of my ideal house remains a distant dream, and I must admit that things are getting out of hand around here.  My bookcase reached bursting point a very long time ago so I have several years worth of books in a number of large crates on my bedroom floor, resulting in perpetually bruised shins.  The towering stacks of books on my desk present a serious risk to my personal safety and I live in fear lest my cat someday disappears beneath an avalanche of tumbling books.  I adore my ink and paper companions and rooms that don't contain any books feel wrong to me, but until my library with ladders becomes a possibility, I may be forced to admit defeat.  Stopping buying books is not an option I am willing to consider, so the Kindle with its 1400 book capacity is starting to seem like a very attractive alternative.

4. Easier to read lying down

I have always been a bedtime reader.  Reading helps me relax and clears my mind: two vital elements conducive to a good night's sleep.  However, my preferred lying-on-my-side position is possibly the most uncomfortable reading position known to man.  Propping yourself up leads to sore elbows, aching shoulders and stiff necks, but you can only see one page of a paperback with your head resting comfortably on the pillow.  I have developed a technique of rolling from one side to the other as I progress to the next page, but this is a tad too energetic for sleepy bedtime reading.  With its single screen and page flicking buttons on both sides of the device, the Kindle has solved all of my bedtime reading problems.

5. Highlighting, bookmarks and notes

Having spent four years of my life studying literature, many of my books have been rendered completely unreadable by excessive highlighting and bookmarking.  The Kindle allows users to highlight, add bookmarks and make notes unobtrusively - meaning I can still leave little love notes for The Boyfriend in the pages of his favourite books, although their academic footnote appearance doesn't quite carry the passionate tone of a good old margin scrawl.

6. The 'find' function

I cannot imagine how many hours I've wasted flicking through my favourite books trying to find an adored quotation.  With the Kindle's find function, simply enter a few key words and hey presto! Another godsend for the student population - we all know that academic referencing can be an absolute nightmare. With the Kindle you can find those page numbers you accidentally forgot to include in a matter of seconds.

7. Built-in Dictionary

The Kindle's built-in dictionary enables you to look up unfamiliar words as you read.  Especially useful when wading through the florid and outdated phrases of the classics.  No more flicking to the glossaries hidden at the back of books to interrupt your reading experience.

8. Never lose your place

Nothing is more frustrating than losing your place in a really good book.  Overestimate by a chapter or two and you'll be bombarded with spoilers.  The Kindle always opens your books at the last page you read, so you can sink back into the story without the stress of accidentally flicking into uncharted territory.

9. Cute Kindle skins and covers

From ditafelici
From skunkwraps

As much as I appreciate the beauty of the book cover, I must admit that some of the skins and covers available for the Kindle are absolutely adorable.  I am head over heels in love with the embroidered Gatsby one pictured above - although it is more than a little out of my price range.  Simply type 'Kindle' into the search bar on etsy.com and to find cute and quirky ways to personalise your new e-reader (obviously by the time you've reached number 9 on this list I'll have succeeded in persuading you to invest in one).

10. Instantaneous book shopping

I hate going on trips without enough reading material.  And those horribly empty bookless periods between finishing your last book and buying your next.  But with the Kindle, I need never go without.  The Kindle shop allows you to browse, purchase and download books wirelessly from your Kindle device, so you can stock up on books without leaving the comfort of your home (or holiday apartment!) or having to wait for the post.

Of course, for a book fanatic like myself, nothing will ever compare to the promising weight of a hardback, the gratifying crack of a breaking spine, the heady scent of ink on paper and the rustle of the pages as I flick through them with my hands.  But I am enjoying my little excursion into the e-reading experience and I suspect a Kindle will be at the top of my Christmas list this year.  I am a literary techno-phobe no longer.

So, what do my fellow book lovers think?  Do you own a Kindle and how does it compare to our beloved book?  Or do you hate the e-reader with a passion in spite of the pros detailed above?  I'm always up for a good debate so leave a comment or email me at theliteraryaffair@gmail.com and let me know your views.

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