This summer, I bought a kindle. I bought it because I had a large amount of reading to do–submissions for a book I was editing, award reading, review reading, and so on–and the kindle was starting to make sense. I was excited for its potential as a research tool, particularly, for when I’m stuck on stories and need to get some in-depth information on Dachau or Elizabethan watch-making or the Daughters of Bilitis and online sources aren’t working out for me.
It turned out the research application isn’t as useful as I’d expected–it’s usually so much cheaper to buy a used paperback of a research book than to get it on the kindle that I generally go that route, assuming the research books I want are even available on the kindle.
What I wasn’t expecting, though, was how much the kindle has facilitated a return to my pleasure in reading. I didn’t expect to enjoy reading on the kindle. I had a lot of romantic notions in my head about the feel of paper books, the smell of them, the comforting turn of the page–I thought that moving away from all that into something that seems as, I don’t know, disembodied? as the kindle would distract me from enjoying the words.
But ultimately, it turns out the words are a lot more important than the media through which I consume them. Reading on the computer has always annoyed me a bit because it sometimes causes me headaches, but without the backlight, the kindle e-ink removes that problem, and suddenly I’m a convert.
During and after grad school, I read a lot less for pleasure than I had before. I burned out a bit, partially because of reading for school, and partially because at the same time I started editing, which tied a lot of new reading to my job. I’m not a magazine editor anymore, so I’m not reading fiction for work in the same steady way, and that’s given me a little more space in my life for reading.
And the kindle makes it easy to pick up books I have casual interest in, books that aren’t going to explode my world or upend my paradigms, but that are simple and fun to read. I love explosive, topsy turvy books, but I also think there’s room in the world and my life for books that are just kind of fun and pulpy, and the kindle makes it easy to access those without having to figure out a way to wedge them onto my over-crowded shelves, where Silly Werewolf Book can’t possibly compete for a permanent location with, say, Morrison’s Beloved.
Just for the record: I understand that the kindle’s record of dealing with publishing companies isn’t always awesome, and that their file protocols kind of suck. But it seemed easier to find programs online that could take e-books I purchase and convert them to kindle files, than to find e-books I buy in kindle format and break them so they can be read on other readers. Having access to the largest range of books was my priority in purchasing. Also, we can tie multiple devices to my amazon account, and then I and the other readers in my family can all share books, even if we’re non-local, which is seven kinds of awesome.
Anyway, I was surprised by how much I’ve really enjoyed my e-reader on a personal level. Are other people out there trying them out? Do you still resist them? Have you tried them and found that having paper in hand really does make a concrete difference for you?