Me and My New Kindle: How One Traditionalist Instantly Became an E-Reader
It all started with an unassuming book recommendation that arose amidst a friendly dinner conversation. The book recommendation, in turn, lead to a friend pulling out one of those Kindle E-readers and attempting to show me the actual book. The following conversation went something like this:
Friend: “In fact, I actually have it right here on my Kindle. Let me show you.”
Friend: “Wait a second. Do you have a Kindle? No? Do you want one? I have an extra. I’ll give it to you!”
Now, let me just say that under normal circumstances I would be quite enthusiastic about this type of offer. That is, being a self proclaimed “freegan”, I have no real aversion to the periodic donation in just about any form. But this was something against which I had experienced an actual emotional reaction in the past. This was something against which I had vowed, albeit informally; something that represented a new form of darkness in the universe.
“A Kindle?", I thought. "Why would ANYONE want a Kindle?”
For those of you who consider yourselves “readers”, I’d like to say the following: I’m one of you. I don’t remember why the change occurred initially, but at some point during my four year college career, I realized that reading for the sole purpose of one’s enjoyment and/or personal enrichment was immensely rewarding. Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not one of those “book a day” types. To the contrary, I typically read quite slowly. I’m also not one of those individuals who can rattle off, along with authors and previous works, the current list of New York Times best sellers at any moment. No, I’m definitely not that guy, and I don’t much identify with this elite group of “professional readers”. But despite my amateur status, I can still say with confidence that I really do love to read. I mean, what other activity expands the mind, increases intelligence, and peacefully entertains as well as sitting down with and immersing oneself in a great book?
Beyond the actual reading, however, I also love books. I love the feel of a book in my hands. I love the smell of the ink and paper; the image on the cover that often inspires the imagination; the summary on the jacket, along with the photo and bio of the author. I even love the little bookmarks that are typically given away at the registers of some bookstores or libraries. I do realize that I’m starting to sound like one of those” pro-literacy” or “support your local library” campaigns, but really, I enjoy the whole scene.
That being said, when I began hearing about an increasing number of readers switching from “paper” to “electronic” books, I couldn’t imagine such an idea. I even remember having conversations about this e-reading revolution and how I planned to resist any form of electronic literature for as long as possible. Why would anyone find this appealing? I, for one, read articles, blogs, etc. on the computer on a daily basis. It’s a part of life as we now know it, yet I always find it especially uncomfortable, potentially unhealthy and particularly hard on the eyes. I remember hoping that it would never actually resonate with the literate public; that it simply wouldn’t catch on. This wasn’t because I had any aversion to technology per say. It’s just that, well, these are books we’re dealing with. There’s something almost sacred here. Music? Great. Videos? Sure. Photos? No problem. But books? That’s just not the same.
So how did I answer the question related to the offering of that free Kindle e-reader? Well, I should probably go ahead and confess the fact that I have recently become the proud owner of a lightly used, generation two, cover included, previously loaded with books Kindle. While I’m at it, I’ll go ahead and confess something else: I absolutely love this thing! How did that happen? How did I experience this rather extreme conversion to the side of my one-time nemesis? You’ll find a few of the reasons below. I understand that these reasons do not apply to everyone, as each of us has a unique set of circumstances in life and literature. For me, however, this new world of E-reading is working out remarkably well.
Availability: A New Day Has Dawned
I don’t currently live in the United States. I am FROM the United States, but for the last four years “home” has been a relatively small nation in Central America. This relatively small nation also has a relatively small number of individuals who, excluding the daily newspaper, read on a regular basis. In addition to the relatively small number of readers, there are even a smaller number of readers who read anything in English with any type of frequency. As you can imagine, in a world driven by supply and demand, my local literary options are a bit limited.
As a result, I had developed a system of sorts. When I would come across or hear about a book that seemed particularly interesting, I would add it to a running list. Once or twice a year, while in the US, I would pick up a stack of books for the upcoming months and head south with a freshly replenished supply. I would do the same for magazines as well, always asking my brother to save back issues of my favorites. But the system was anything but perfect. Among other reasons, as weight allowances for luggage went down and time between visits went up, the system began to suffer. Before I knew it, both the quality and quantity of my reading began to suffer along with it.
Enter the Kindle. Hear about a book that sounds particularly interesting? It’s instantly available online and is downloadable directly to the device for no additional cost! How about those magazines that I love so much? Yep, many of the magazines are available also, along with newspapers, blogs, etc. from all over the world. And, my once local library system to which I had lost access with my southern migration? That too. I may not be able to run down to my local branch and check out a first edition hardback, but I can download the e-book to my Kindle and read it just the same! In other words, I went from limited (at best) to maximum availability just like that. I now have access to virtually any book I want at any time!
The Economics of It All
Remember the “lack of readers/lack of books” situation that I described above? This system has another effect as well, namely an economic effect. I refer to it as the Wal Mart principle, and it goes something like this: As a retailer, the more you buy, the cheaper the cost; the cheaper the cost, the cheaper the price at which you can offer a product. In my current location, since very few books are being brought into the country, those that are available typically carry a much higher price. Practically speaking, when I do find a book in which I am interested, I can expect to pay 50-100% more than the retail price in the US. Obviously this also cuts down on the number of books I am able to buy.
Again, enter the Kindle. Just through the Amazon store alone, there are over 800,000 books with a price tag of less than ten dollars. Add in the convenient, no-cost library option, the “loaning to a friend” option, and the numerous free options available online (many classics from Amazon fall into this category), and I’m living in a new world of savings.
Although my intention really isn’t to promote the Kindle above any other e-reader device available, I do want to mention a few additional features that I find especially beneficial.
First, there’s the screen. Without getting into the technology of it all (available HERE), I’ll just say that although it’s not paper, they’ve come amazingly close. As a result, I haven’t experienced the slightest hint of ocular strain. Also, because it’s not an LCD screen, the Kindle won’t affect your sleep cycle like other e-readers on the market (sorry iPad). Sure, you’ll have to provide your own light while reading in bed. The good news, though, is that you’ll doze off just like you would with your favorite paperback.
Second, there’s the battery. For those of us that find ourselves in electricity-free environments on a frequent basis, any electronic device can present an obvious challenge. The Kindle, although still an electronic device that relies upon an internal battery, can last up to one month between charges. Suddenly those regular power outages in my neighborhood don’t seem so bad.
Third, there’s the mold factor. Another problem with storing books in my current environment is the incredible amount of mold during the rainy season (May through October). For me, the result has been a number of books in the collection with moldy, damaged pages. Although I haven’t gone through a rainy season with this new device, I’m confident that I will still have a fungus-free machine come October.
Beyond that, there’s the fact that these e-readers hold thousands of books (think bookstore in your pocket), not counting the unlimited storage potential on your additional computer(s) or “the cloud”. There are also the hosts of intelligently designed features related to everything from notes and highlights, to background music, to customization of print, to instant conversion to an audio book at the touch of a button (i.e. the device reads to you).
I could go on. As I said, I’ve become quite the fan, and this little technological device really is impressive. Will I ever read from a tradition book again? Of course. As much as I love the Kindle, it’s still not an "actual book". In areas such as nostalgia, tradition, and even aroma, a device like this just can't compete with the real thing. For the time being, however, in my current situation, the e-world is a great way to go. Besides, being given the choice between an e-book and no book at all, I’ll definitely go electronic every time.
So there you have it, the story behind one guy's conversion from ink to e-ink. As I look back to that pivotal dinner conversation just a few short weeks ago, I suppose all I can really say is…….
“Just like that, I became an e-reader.”