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Do People Who Love Real Books Still Like Kindles?
This Christmas an Amazon Kindle sat waiting for me underneath the tree. I wasn't expecting it; hadn't hinted at even the merest desire for this technological alternative to the traditional book. In fact, I was rather opposed to it. For even though the Kindle is not exactly new these days, I had never really warmed to the idea of reading my books on an electronic device. I have always loved real books. I like turning the pages; the smell of new paper; the glossy covers. One of my favourite things to do in town, if time allows, is to browse the aisles of the local Waterstones at my leisure. I feel very much at home in a book shop. I like to pick up a book and read the blurb; to flick through and absorb the writing style, allowing myself a general feel for what's inside. My favourite place to read is in the indulgent solitude of the bathroom during a relaxing soak - the one place where I am not disturbed by anyone else in the family. And water and electronics never mix.
So, you might wonder, does all this mean that I did not unwrap my gift with enthusiasm? I might like real books made with printed paper, but I do like reading very much. So a Kindle must surely be a thoughtful gift, for a true lover of the written word? Maybe one just has to adapt, I decided - although I really wasn't sure that this new way of reading could ever be the same. The truth is, I like turning pages. Still, reading via a Kindle has obvious advantages - for one thing, no trees need to be felled. It also eliminates the issue of what to do with books once enjoyed, yet now gathering dust on the bookshelf. Some books are meant to be read again and again; most are simply not. Of course, there is the local charity shop or secondhand book store, but nowadays even most of those seem to be bursting at the seams with other people's cast off books. If a book is in decent condition and a popular title, it might find another owner. Some books, though, never will - at the local fete there is always a pile of books left at the end that no one has even looked at. Reading by means of a Kindle is therefore a great way to avoid contributing to the pile of unwanted books in our world.
Keen to get to grips with my new Kindle, I purchased my first digital book sometime on Christmas afternoon. It was a fiction book, one I had always thought about reading but somehow never had. It was actually no cheaper than a traditional book - the price of a Kindle version does seem to be rather inconsistant. However, later on that evening, I purchased two more books for my Kindle - a biography and another non-fiction title. Both of these were cheaper than the paper versions, and the biography was only 99p! This, I decided, was a real bargain. I thoroughly enjoyed the biography, which concerned a famous singer/songwriter and which I might well have not ended up reading at all had it not been for my new Kindle.
I have discovered I am much more reckless with my purchases when it comes to the Kindle versions of books. Usually, I do not venture out to purchase a title unless I am really sure that it is something I definitely want to read. This has meant that many books I thought might have been ok but which I wasn't really excited about have bypassed me altogether. I am unlikely to go out and buy ten books in a month in Waterstones, but this might well be something I might do with my Kindle (particularly if I can find some bargains, like the 99p one). My Kindle unintentionally leads me into a more diverse world of reading - don't ask me why, it just does.
Four days after Christmas, I have already finished reading the biography and I am partway through my second ebook. This is actually the most reading I have done in a long time. I have found myself picking up my Kindle in the kitchen while I wait for the vegetables to cook. I have taken it out in my handbag - it sits very nicely in the middle compartment. I don't often travel alone by bus or train, but if I did I would look forward to taking along my lightweight, slimline Kindle. It would be the perfect, space-saving way to transport multiple books - ideal for breaks and holidays away from home. I can't read it in the bath, of course, but I am discovering that reading via a Kindle is extremely convenient everywhere else. What's more, it is very easy to use - even for a self-confessed technophobe like me. It remembers your place, you can flit back and forth if you need to (although flicking back a long way is less easy), and it doesn't get tatty around the edges. So then, am I converted? Is the Kindle really suitable for lovers of the real, print on paper book?
I have certainly surprised myself. I am falling in love with my Kindle despite the fact that I don't think I would ever have purchased one off my own back. I could never have imagined reading a book on a screen, but actually it was something I got used to very quickly. It isn't bright, like a laptop. so there is none of that tired-eye feeling or a headache - in fact, you can't see it at all in the dark (unless you buy a little light for it). I have shelves crammed with books of all genres and have no intentions of getting rid of them - but shelves can become too full with books that are rarely read and are not loved and in the end no more will fit. I have never desired a Kindle, yet I am very happy with the one I have been given. It sits beside me on the sofa at night, like a new friend. It can contain more information inside it than a whole bookcase of novels ever could and yet it weighs about as much as a small egg. This morning when I woke, the kids were still asleep. I reached for my Kindle and read a few pages. I also downloaded a free sample from a book I might or might not want to read. It was there in an instant.
Does this mean I am completely converted? Will I ever again go into Waterstones and buy a 'real' book, the kind made with paper? As far as the Kindle goes, yes, I think I am a convert. I do really like it. I will definitely be buying a lot of books to read on it, including many that I would simply never have ended up buying in the local bookstore. And yes, I know that I will still purchase the odd 'real' book, although not as many as before. Sometimes the physical book is cheaper than the Kindle version for some unknown reason - especially if it is on sale. Also, a few books are just so special that you really do need to have something to hold; pages to turn; perhaps beautiful pictures to look at. Most, however, are perfectly adequate stored in the memory of the Kindle. This new revolution in reading can be welcomed, even for people who love 'real' books. If I can love a Kindle, I think anyone can. And it's not all or nothing - you can enjoy the best of both worlds. But no, you cannot read your Kindle in the bath.