Thursday, August 13, 2009

I'm Torn

I’ll admit it: I’m a bit torn. I’ve always been a bit of a purist when it comes to books. I love the feel of a hard cover or paperback in my hand. I love to turn the pages and to feel the number of pages at the back getting smaller and the number of pages in the front getting bigger. From the moment I first heard about the Kindle I was opposed. I’m not really much of a fan of the ebook. I understand their uses, and really enjoyed them while I was in college (it’s nice to do research in your pajamas from your bed or couch rather than having to drag yourself up to the stacks), but I’ve never been convinced that they’re the way of the future.

And then last semester I had a professor who was a believer that Amazon is going to be the end of the bookstore as we know it, and most definitely the end of the independent bookstore. She touted that the internet was going to be the downfall of reading (and definitely the downfall of the newspaper) and that everything that Gutenberg worked so hard for hundreds of years ago is going to disappear into antiquity.

I’m not sure I believe it. Part of her belief that the independent bookstore as it exists now is going to disappear is because one of the independent bookstores in Ann Arbor where most professors order their textbooks was going out of business last year. She always failed to acknowledge that Ann Arbor has something like the most independent bookstores per capita of any town in the United States. She also failed to acknowledge that perhaps it was the bookstores business practices (e.g. the fact that they charged 15-20% more for textbooks than Amazon and Barnes and Noble Online) that perhaps could be pushing it out of business.

But I digress…

Even as a college student you can only spend so much time staring at a computer screen before you want to go blind, so I was hesitant to trust that the Kindle would be any better, and reading is supposed to be about pleasure (regardless of what English teachers try to torture us with) and having to stop reading because of eye strain would be too disappointing a situation to consider.

But then last Sunday I sat beside a woman with a Kindle on an airplane. She really seemed to like it and it was different than I expected it to be. It was much thinner than I expected, and I’ll admit, I was fascinated. I didn’t take the time to borrow it from her, even though she offered, but I did ask her some questions about it. She said that she too loves the feel of having a book in her hand, but that there are certain benefits that come with the Kindle.

According to the website the Kindle can hold 1,500 books, and the books are cheaper than their paper companions, with hard-covers and paperbacks coming in at around $10 a piece and mass market books coming in between $4 and 6. Magazines are also pretty inexpensive. There are places where you can find classics and more unpopular titles for free.

So I’m torn. Free books. Cheaper books. There’s a lot of potential there. And having thousands of books at your fingertips on a long plane ride, or on a trip, would be great. I have a tendency to either over pack or to under pack, so it would be nice not to have to worry about that. And there are ways to add notes to the books that you read, like margin notes, which is perfect for a former English major such as myself. I’m constantly reading things that I want to mark up, to take notice of, and it would be nice to be able to do that without totally defacing the books.

So I’m torn. Well, not that torn. I’m pretty broke, so I’m not about to go and spend the $300 necessary to purchase one. But Christmas is coming… as is my birthday… so, we’ll see.


  1. I'm the same on the Kindle. On one hand, it's kinda like an iPod, and it'd be really convenient to have for trips. On the other hand, I really like having an actual book in my hand to page through. One of my good friends got a Kindle a few months ago and loves it, but I think for now I'm going to stick with paper.

  2. PS: I started a blog writing about books I've recently read ... it is:

    If you're interested :).