To Kindle, or not to Kindle–this is the question. I myself am an equal opportunity bibliophile. I do enjoy my Kindle and the instant access it provides me with reading material, especially huge cumbersome hardbacks (ahem, Ken Follet anyone?), but I would never dare take my Kindle to read in a bubble bath, I prefer a physical book in low light, I love giving and receiving books as gifts…I could go on and on. A few days ago, a co-worker shared a short essay that one of her juniors had written, thinking I might enjoy it. I did! It is written by one of our most ravenous readers and, in my opinion, is thought provoking and insightful. Though not a book review, it is definitely reading-related, and very timely in our conversation about <insert dramatic music here> the future of the book. Enjoy! Please comment if you feel inclined to do so.
Why Kindles Will Never Be Okay
The fact of the matter is, in today’s fast-paced society (to be as cliché as possible), where we are constantly trying to find an easier way to get things done, there are still just some things that should never be replaced. Sure, it is nice to be able to hear your favorite song by just a thumb tap instead of having to put in a cd or wait on the song to be played on the radio (or heaven forbid have to cue a tape!). And let us not forget the ease and satisfaction DVR’s, cd burners, Skype, Facebook, and other forms of instant gratification that we have, literally, at our fingertips. That is all fine and good and that is not to say that I am not guilty of using these devices, for I surely am. But as an avid reader, always thirsting for a trip to the bookstore, I will never be okay with an on-screen book page.
Have you ever heard someone comment on “that new book smell?” That is only one of the many enjoyments of owning a book. I cannot say I often hear someone commenting on “that new kindle smell” or that “sweet scent of factory packaging.” And I cannot say I particularly enjoy that smell either. I love the smell of brand new book pages, used book pages, bookstores. I love the smell of bound paper, I love the smell of the ink. In fact, it has been proven that books are keen for brain activity. To me, that means that books are almost…. Well, healthy!
What about the tender joy of having a bookshelf, being able to organize books by color or by title, author, genre… the possibilities are endless! And decorating the shelves with various tchotckes, oh the whimsy of bookshelves! But in all seriousness, would you not agree that bookshelves really do frame a room and add an element of intellectual flair? Even if you are no bookworm, having books on a bookshelf looks nice… and makes you look like you might be a bookworm. For instance, I have an aunt who is no bookworm (though I happen to know she is a closet indulger in trash fiction) has covered the shelves of her living room with all manner of literature. One would never know that the books have never been touched but it doesn’t matter because it looks nice.
Do you remember being read to as a child every night before bed? Where will that go? Think of the grandchildren! Why would you want to deprive them of the wonderful joys of reading a book, holding the paper in their hands, turning the pages. And you want to know something else? Books are great gifts. I cannot tell you how many books I received from my grandmother on my birthday; but books as gifts work well for anyone! Coffee table books and books for the bathroom are common house-warming and wedding gifts. Close friends can buy each other books as well. And oops! You forgot to get a card. Never mind that! Just write them a sweet note in the inside cover and now the gift is even more personal. Kindles are so impersonal and sure, you can buy someone a kindle, but you can only buy them one. You can buy someone a book, and then buy them another book, and another book! It is the gift you can keep on giving! I suppose you could buy someone a book for her kindle, but how impersonal is that? Sooner or later, when Kindles are obsolete, she will never remember that book was paid for by you.
If convenience is your stance on Kindle Defense, then I have a statement for you. How convenient is it to trade books on a Kindle? So you read this really amazing book and you just have to get someone else to read it so you can discuss it over coffee one day… how insensitive it would be of you for you to dangle this carrot over someone, this new great reading she really should get her hands on, but, oh wait…. She has to pay for it herself. Either a) she has a Kindle and must now purchase and add the book to her Kindle or b) she must now go down to the bookstore to buy the book with her money because you do not have a copy of this wonderful book to lend her. And worst case scenario: what if she doesn’t like it? Then it has to sit on her bookshelf and haunt her because she didn’t have the option to return it to you. I suppose she could give it to you but why would she do that? I mean, you have a Kindle.
Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is I will never be able to give up my trips to the bookstore, dog-earing pages and high-lighting quotes, and immersing myself in the fragrance of the ink. Maybe for some people, a Kindle is a good idea. But I was always told, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and I think that is the way we should look at books.