I received my first Kindle as a gift. I sighed, groaned, and moaned when I examined it, making the gift bearer, my poor enterprising partner, frown. ‘What am I going to make of you?’ I mentally said to the Kindle. ‘You’ll no doubt be difficult to use and I’d rather read a real book! All this technical progress just doesn’t know where to stop!’ I wailed, looking dubiously at its clinical non-reflective grey screen. How on earth was I possibly able to enjoy reading a novel on this gadget?
But then I looked at my bookshelves, full of novels I’ve read once, then kept for sentimental reasons, or kept because I might get around to re-reading them one day, or books I just must keep because I studied from them and they’re marked in the margins with my thoughts and my learning. Or books I’ve kept which are important examples of certain narrative styles, or books which are classics and you don’t throw classics away, because they form the secure core in your own personal library which you have built up. And this building up of a physical collection is important. You could say the books you have on your shelf reflect who you are and the life journey you’ve been on. Here is an article by Peter Knox discussing this concept, entitled ‘What does your book shelf say about you?’
And so for all these reasons, all my books remain, organised into categories I could never explain to anyone, packed tightly shoulder to shoulder, on shelves I’m periodically moved to dust the edges of. And while holding my new Kindle, right then, and looking at the shelves, I thought, ‘Well I can’t go on like this either. I simply don’t have any more room. I suppose I might as well give this thing a try.’
And so my relationship with my Kindle Paperwhite began – and it really is a relationship. I don’t go anywhere without it, either on an overnight stay or a longer holiday. It’s always with me and I love it. I should point out before elaborating on its star qualities, that in the case of ‘how to’ books, travel, science, history, nature or factual non-fiction books, illustrations greatly enhance the function and the reading experience, in which cases printed is always going to be best, and I have plenty of these on my shelves. But for novels, memoirs, short story collections, psychology and philosophy, then reading e-Books of these on my Kindle is just perfect – and needless to say, I’m not been paid in any way to say this – that’s simply not a Lynne thing.
Here’s why I love my Kindle and what I feel its advantages are …
You can pretty much use it in very similar ways to a physical book. You ‘turn’ the pages back and forth, you can bookmark passages of interest you want to go back to. You can highlight passages and put them in your ‘clippings folder’, and get rid of this accumulation of clippings when you’re done with them. You can monitor how far through the book you are by using the reading progress functions. I go for the ‘percentage of way through’ option. And you can jump around a non-fiction book by using the chapters in the table of contents.
You can look up meanings of words easily as you’re reading, using the digital dictionaries provided within. Just highlight a word and you’ve got the meaning, right then and there.
You can alter the font style to suit yourself , the size, and the line spacing. You are therefore not stuck with a font you really dislike in a physically printed book, which you find ugly, too big, or too small. Now that is a very practical bonus and an aesthetic one too.
You can change the brightness of the screen to suit the lighting conditions. Bright sunshine, no problem. Reading in the dark, no problem – I love this in particular, it’s more conducive for nodding off to sleep with your book, without a bedside lamp having to stay on if you’re prone to insomnia. Imagine being able to read in the dark with the light off? You can become so much more immersed in the fictional world this way. Just make sure you look after your eyes by turning down the screen brightness.
You can still see the cover of the novel you’re reading in tonal black and white. Now I don’t get as much aesthetic pleasure from book covers as I used to. They seem to have changed recently. They come across as having been designed to be primarily eye-catching more than reflecting the story. Or they use photographs that frequently just don’t fit the story. So for me, the lack of a coloured book cover is no great loss these days, and the kindle has some beautiful tonal screensavers to enjoy instead.
It’s the words in writing that count, not the packaging. The words draw you into the imagined world of the story and work the muscles of the imagination. You don’t really need a physical book to help you do this.
You have the advantage of being able to download free eBooks, which are out of their copyright dates, from a range of sources, Project Gutenberg being one of them. So you can access the classics this way. Here is a list of 12 sources.
They can save paper, so they’re environmentally friendly, and therefore cheaper to buy too. They have a long battery life and large storage capacity and can save space on your bookshelves.
I should point that that to keep my relationship with my kindle ‘special’, I don’t connect it to the internet and Amazon, unless I’m downloading a new eBook. Leaving it connected would let in the retail world too much, and I want my fictive worlds untainted. I also display my books in a list form instead of thumbnails, for the same reason.
But the lure of a physical book is hard to ignore…
The physical presence of a printed novel and its familiar cover can have the sense of being an old friend that you look on with fondness or excitement and may revisit some day – or at least the warm intention can be there.
You can browse them, look at the blurbs on the back, and remind yourself of why you loved reading this book, to allow a more soulful contemplation.
And as a writer, what do you want to achieve when you’ve written your own novel? Do you want to hold the published paperback in your hands and physically turn the pages, smell the paper perhaps, or download the eBook and have it disappear into a reading device?
So to conclude: real book or kindle for novel reading? It’s actually 50:50 for me. A kindle can be a magical portal to a specially selected digital library, where books and the worlds within can stay there waiting to be ‘opened up’ again, just as if they were on a bookshelf, and serving the very same functions. But being able to browse through a physical collection is a more visual and tactile reminder of our own personal journeys as readers.
Real book or kindle? What about you?
(pics courtesy of pixabay)