Books vs. Kindle: Two Months In

Not so fast...

Two months ago, my dad very generously bought me a Kindle Fire for Christmas.  Knowing that I am a book lover, this was a very thoughtful and seemingly perfect gift.  That is, if being a book lover equates to being a Kindle lover.  But I’m here to tell you that, two months in, I’m not so sure it does.

So far I haven’t read a single book on Kindle.  Well, let me qualify that.  There are a number of free Kindle kids books available through the on-line Kindle store, so I have downloaded and read some of those with my son (who, born into this techno generation, is more adept at and excited about this new technology than I am).  So I have read some of those, and reading these shorter works with him is fine.

There are also several great free books on the Kindle that I do want to read, including most classics and works of philosophy.  There truly is a veritable bunch of really great, truly free stuff.  I have made it as far as downloading several of these.  But that is as far as I got.

In theory, the prospect of free books for the Kindle is about as exciting as it can be (almost as exciting as reading an entire book for free in Barnes & Noble, which I have, of course, never done, because that would be WRONG).  But the reality of that prospect plays out somewhat differently.

First of all, I have about fifty actual books, at home, that I need and want to read: spread over several bookshelves, drawers, boxes, and other miscellaneous hiding places.

Second, the library, which I love in its own right, has countless new books to read, all the time.  And this isn’t just about availability.  I love the experience of going to a library, just as I love the experience of actually going to a bookstore.  Browsing through a library, actually handling and flipping through and touching and smelling the books is nothing at all like scrolling through a bunch of impersonal thumbnails on your Kindle.  Not even close.  Ditto for the experience of actually going to a bookstore.  I love it more than just about anything else.

And the library angle kind of leads into the third and maybe biggest issue, and that is cost.  The cost of a Kindle (which admittedly, my dad was kind enough to eliminate from the equation for me) is not insubstantial.  They are getting more affordable, I guess, but not more affordable than free, which is what the library offers.  The books I already own are, at least going forward, free to me.  Same for books I could and do borrow from friends.  It is hard to beat truly free.

Also to be considered is the cost of books for Kindle.  Many of the books I discover that I want to read can be purchased in hard copy for around $0.01 on Amazon, plus shipping (usually $3.99).  You can’t buy new releases, or even many old releases, of popular books on Kindle for anywhere in that ballpark.  There are also several really good used bookstores around here, with really good selection, and I can often get what I am looking for for just a buck or two.  Still cheaper than any book you can buy on the Kindle.

Which ties into yet another point, and that is how limited the use of your book on Kindle is.  You pay your twenty bucks, you read it once, and then what?  It just sits in your Kindle’s memory bank.  You can’t sell it.  You can’t let a friend borrow it.  You can’t even keep it forever yourself, because it will only last as long as your Kindle does, which, like most gadgets, is probably only a couple of years.  So, really, it’s not the same as having a real book at all.

Obviously, I still have some hang-ups.  I just like books better.  Real books.  And no matter how portable or affordable or transferable or shareable e-books become, I will probably always stay this way.

Do I like my Kindle?  Sure.  So far it has been great for listening to music on the Pandora app when I am working out, looking up a word in its built-in dictionary, surfing the internet when someone else is on the computer, and very recently, for playing “Words with Friends” (which could prove a very big distraction indeed).  Will I eventually read a book on it?  Probably.  It is convenient and great for getting access to books when you otherwise couldn’t and portability and convenience and all that stuff.  But so far, in the battle of Kindle versus books, the books are winning.  And it seems like there is a good chance that this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future.

13 thoughts on “Books vs. Kindle: Two Months In

  1. I agree. It is no where near as good as holding a real book or browsing through the bookstore or library. I use my Kindle Fire more as a tablet-type device; for searching the internet, checking email, playing games. I have read a few books on there while traveling. For me that is the best time to have a selection of books at hand, because it allows me to read anything I’m in the mood for. However, 80% of the use it gets is by my 2-year-old and 5-year-old playing preschool game apps or Angry Birds.

  2. As a librarian I’ve seen a lot of professional hysteria over this issue. Some of it is slightly merited, most of it is ridiculously paranoid.

    As a reader, I have to say that I prefer reading on the Kindle. The only time I really miss holding a book and flipping the pages is when it has beautiful art–I’m usually thinking of a kid’s book when this happens.

    Or of course, when I can’t find something offered on Kindle or I don’t want to pay for it. I’d guess that at this point I’m reading about 50/50 between the ebooks and the ratty library paperbacks.

    • Speaking of professional hysteria, I have wondered as Nook has developed a larger and larger presence at brick and mortar Barnes and Noble stores. “Don’t you know what you’re doing, you idiots?” I’ve thought. “You’re putting yourselves out of business!!!” In reality, maybe they are just seeing the writing on the wall, and getting while the getting is good. The bookstore angle is not identical to the library angle. In the current format, I can see the bookstores going before the libraries do. As e-books become more affordable and selection increases, I see fewer and fewer people paying full price for actual books. But libraries, with their materials being truly free, still have appeal. If libraries went completely electronic (which I don’t know what all the parameters of that would be), and everything was electronic, then that would, for me, be a sad day indeed. I like having an actual place to go, a quiet place to be. I like the interaction, even if indirect, with other human beings, similarly seeking and loving actual books, and enjoying indirect interaction with me.

      I don’t prefer reading on the Kindle. I like the feel of books. And I prefer looking at a page to looking at a screen. And I like the feeling of progress as I progress through the book (not, for me, effectively mimicked by the percentage bar at the bottom of the screen).

      That being said, there is definitely a cost factor. Given unlimited Amazon credits, I would be purchasing and reading any number of books.

      It’s funny what you said about kid books and illustrations, given that that is all that I have done on it, really. You’re right, even there, I prefer to have to actual pictures to accompany what I am reading.

      Despite the tone of the above, increased access to good literature and the encouragement of reading is, to me, ALWAYS a good thing. If this gets more people reading and reading more better stuff, then it is very, very good. I just still really like my books.

  3. Also, regarding the free classics and such on Kindle, those are kind of the same as if someone gave me a free hard-copy of the Harvard classics. I’d be very happy to have them, and excited about the prospect of reading them. But I’d still read the next Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, or Bossypants, or whatever other piece of contemporary stuff that struck my fancy, first. The “should read” versus “could read” debate is a constant struggle.

  4. I have both the Nook and Kindle, and enjoy them both, but I still prefer a ‘book’ over an ‘ebook’.

    When a Kindle/Nook comes in especially handy is while traveling. If I’m going out of town, I can read several books in one handy-dandy reader. Also, when I’m waiting at the doctors office, or meeting my always-twenty-minutes-late friend for lunch, having an e-reader in my purse is a great way to pass the time–and super convenient. It gives me numerous books to chose from at a moments notice. And if one book starts out slow and doesn’t capture my attention, I simply chose another one. I also never lose my place. How many times has my bookmark fallen from my book and I have to flip through pages trying to find where I left off? Augh!

    With all that said, I’m happy as long as I have a story nearby, be it in an e-reader, a paperback/hardback, or even a mindless gossip magazine. lol

    Dunce two – I, like you, have an endless supply of classics that I mean to read…one day. 😉

  5. The only thing I liked as much as spending time buying a book was spending time buying a CD. All the CD stores are gone for good around here. I really hope that doesn’t happen to bookstores.

    I love my kindle because, in my work, there is no chance to carry to many books and this can take place for weeks. Nut, when I come back to the civilization, I enjoy very much stepping on a living room looking bookstore. I hope they both last very long.

  6. I think I would feel the same way. I’ve read a few free classics on the Kindle app on my phone, but I definitely prefer holding a book in my hand. I never find myself getting lost in the computer or my phone to way I do curled up in my bed with a real book. I love the feel and smell of new books. And you really can’t beat that $1 library book sale!

  7. I have one of the e-ink Kindles, and I really like it. I actually find myself reading much more than before I had a Kindle.

    I’ve never been much of a library goer; I don’t like the pressure of having to return it by a deadline, and having to keep track of that deadline or face paying fines. (I realize the fee argument is weak when compared to paying for a book, but I think it’s more the pressure of having to read in a set amount of time than it is about the fee.) Also, I believe many libraries are starting to lend ebooks now.

    I typically read two or three books at a time, depending on what type of book I’m in the mood for. I find the Kindle much more convenient for this since they all fit nicely on this small device and I can take it with me more easily that a small stack of books. I’m also not one to hang onto books as trophies, so once I’ve read it, I have no reason to keep it hanging around.

    I suppose it just depends on what kind of reader you are and what suits you best. For me, I love my Kindle and prefer it to paper books.

    • This is very interesting, Eric. I hadn’t contemplated this take. I think you are our first Kindle-preferring customer. Maybe there are more like you out there. I wonder if I will ever transform.

      In my last city, the library had no late fees. This eliminated the stress, but also severely depleted the library’s holdings. I kind of like the pressure to get the book read in time. It keeps me motivated. But I can see too how it would be tiresome.

  8. I much prefer the kindle… Why? Clutter. I am a minimalist-traveler and journalist, so as soon as some technology can come along, I leverage it to save space.

    The analogy that books are free that you have are wrong, those books are worth money… List them on Amazon or sell them on craigs list, I bet you could buy

    Also I read mostly classics and newspapers anyway, I hate things like Harry Potter and Pop Fiction, so I would never purchase those new anyway. For the rest I can go to the library.

    I am also one not to keep things as trophies.

    Look, it was REALLY hard to get rid of my books, I had to have internal battles with myself b/c many had meanings to me, but I got rid of them… All of them. I still keep track of all the books I have read on good reads though for personal organization and I use Amazon Wishlist as well.

    • I may get there some day, tlol. I don’t do any traveling, and I am sort of a hoarder, so it will be an uphill battle for me, but I can certainly see where convenience and stream-lining would be beneficial.

      I think my attachments are sentimental. I am also, admittedly, resistant to change.

      Like you, I love keeping track on Goodreads of what I and my friends are reading.

      (It’s sort of a non-sequitur, but I 100% agree with you about Harry Potter; no thanks!)

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