“I Just Like Kindles…”

Kindle

First of all I must admit this much:

I am a big fat hypocrite.

I remember about a year ago sitting outside a London pub one Sunday morning in the Spring sunshine with a couple of friends from university. We were hung over and crouched around a few pints. We were also competing amongst each other to be the one who despised the Kindle the most. Alongside remarks to the effect that people who used Kindles were posers, I vaguely remember saying something along the lines of, “Yeah, I dunno… I just like books.”

Cut to Christmas 2011: my father is handing me a lovingly wrapped package with a small grey electronic device inside that will revolutionise my reading life.

The Kindle is, without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest piece of equipment I have used in a long while. It is revolutionary; it is evolutionary; it is everything that reading and enlightenment should be. In short, Mr Amazon should go down in history with Herr Gutenberg and Dr Johnson; this is the future of literacy and literature.

Now, I am going to try to convince all those who would say, “Yeah, I dunno… I just like books” that if they do truly love books, they had best order a Kindle 4 from Amazon immediately.

Cost

One argument that is often used against the Kindle is its cost. Reading has historically been considered an expensive pastime. In the Middle Ages, books made from vellum (animal skin) and hand-written by a scribe were worth, quite literally, an arm and a leg. Because of this, a court usually just had one copy of a book. After a meal, one person would read aloud to the whole court. When Caxton furthered Gutenberg’s work in England in establishing a printing press he began a movement that started to make books more affordable. Since then, they have been getting cheaper and cheaper.

George Orwell penned an essay in 1946 entitled Books vs. Cigarettes in which he calculated the cost of his reading habit vs. his smoking in order to prove reading was not as expensive as smoking. In it he states:

“This idea that the buying, or even the reading, of books is an expensive hobby and beyond the reach of the average person is so widespread that it deserves some detailed examination.”

Well, I would like to update his argument for our generation. A Kindle costs 89 pounds at the moment, which, at first glance, seems a lot of money. However, when we take into account the existence of a website called Project Gutenberg, which currently has around 38,000 free eBooks available in multiple formats – including for Kindle – this indicates that there is ample free material for one to get started with. If one were to go into the average bookshop in the UK and buy 10 books, for the same price, one could just buy a Kindle.

10 books vs. 38,000 is not a difficult decision, especially if you “just like books.”

Weight

A Kindle weighs less than 170g

It holds up to 1,400 books

The average book weighs roughly 340g

1,400 x 340g = 476kg

476kg vs. 170g is not a difficult decision, especially if you “just like books.”

Kindle as a Reading Tool

One of my favourite aspects of the Kindle is the built-in Oxford English Dictionary. There’s nothing so satisfying as being able to look up unknown words in a matter of seconds – without even having to take one’s eyes off the page. Being able to highlight and save portions of text into the “My Clippings” file makes me wish that I had a Kindle when I was studying English literature at university 10 years ago. Definitely, one of the most useful functions of the device, especially if you “just like books.”

Kindle vs. iPad

Lots of people mention the iPad as an alternative to the Kindle. A fair point, but here are some reasons why the Kindle is better for reading:

Screen

The Kindle’s screen is not backlit and looks exactly like the printed page. This makes it much easier on the eye. You don’t feel like you are straining to read as you do when you stare at a computer monitor for too long. People often ask, “but if it’s not backlit, how do you read it at night?” The answer to this of course is, “the same way you read a book – turn the light on.”

Battery life

The Kindle’s battery lasts for 1 month, the iPad’s lasts 10 hours. Obvious choice here.

No distractions

I struggle these days to focus on things. I tried reading on my iPhone but the constant barrage of SMS, emails, Facebook messages, twitter mentions etc. makes it impossible to concentrate. The Kindle offers clear demarcation between reading material, and flashy communications toy. The iPad doesn’t really do that.

Size

The iPad has a nice large screen, which is great. But the Kindle is tiny and can fit in a jacket pocket.

Colour

The iPad can reproduce photos in colour, which is brilliant for magazines and textbooks. However, for pure reading pleasure, black and white is all we need.

Cost

89 pounds vs. 399 pounds is not a difficult decision, especially if you “just like books.”

 

Kindle vs. Books

The first thing I should say here is that a Kindle is a book.

People often seem to think that if they buy a Kindle, they will never buy a book again in their life. This is not the case, no one is suggesting that.

However, the arguments against the Kindle made by “book lovers” are usually pretty weak. I lifted a few quotes from people online:

“I love books. I collect books. I confess that I am one of those people – I hoard and display impressive books strategically on my bookshelf, although generally only ones I have actually read. This is a disadvantage of eBooks – there is no public display strategy.”

Response:  This is an attitude which clearly reflects that people, despite the common saying, do judge a book by its cover. Which is more important, the words on the page, or the pretty dust jacket?

“As much as I love my Kindle, there is nothing to beat cuddling down with a real book”

Response: Now, I’ve tried cuddling both a Kindle and a book, and I didn’t find much difference between the two. Both are pretty hard and emotionless…

“I’ve tried liking those things, but a real book , well.. there’s something tactile about it, I guess…”

Response: This person could’ve used the built-in OED on the Kindle to discover that the word “tactile” really just means something that can be touched. Last time I checked, I could touch my Kindle too.

No, I really should just end this by saying that there really is no “Kindle vs. Books” argument. A Kindle is just a new manifestation of the book. This is the way the world is going, and I’m happy to be part of it – to be embracing tomorrow. The digitization of reading material is making what once would’ve been out of the question, free and readily available to the common man. To flout all of these free classics that are being archived through the hard work of people like those at Project Gutenberg is a sin. Forget the colourful jackets and the fact that you can show everyone what you are reading – it doesn’t matter, it never mattered. Reading is a gift, it allows us to communicate with those who walked the earth and died before us. It gives us a peek into some of the greatest minds that this world has seen. All we should care about is what they wrote down on the page in black and white, what they were thinking. The pretty dust-jacket and the 10 pound price tag put in place by the money-grubbing publishers is all quite irrelevant, and will be forgotten before we are dead. However, the ideas and writing of all those who came before us will live on long after we are gone, in its full black and white glory.

When I thought about the name Kindle, the first thing that came to my mind was the idea that we can all use our books as kindling and start a fire because we don’t need them anymore. The more I think about it though, I’d like it to refer to kindling a new passion in readers – the idea that despite big-budget special effect Hollywood films, despite awful TV soaps, computer games, cartoons and radio: writing and reading is still what drives the human imagination to such great, sometimes unattainable heights.

Plus I like the fact I don’t need bookmarks anymore…

…and I can read while I eat.

Nick

Frankfurt am Main 2012

10 thoughts on ““I Just Like Kindles…”

  1. Pia

    Hi Nick, I was always one of those “I just like books”, but after having read your post it made me want to order a Kindle straight away. Well, I had another look at my book shelf and all the books still to read and I can’t quite buy one yet I guess. Cheers and keep posting :)

    Reply
  2. Dan Miles

    Sounds like a fair argument to me.

    They probably are the way forward for readers, and the dictionary function sounds great- really useful for people who read books in a language other than their native tongue too!

    Though I’m afraid, in my case, I just don’t like books :)

    Reply
    1. Nick Bradley Post author

      Hahaha! Cheers Dan. Yeah, I suppose if you’re not into books, there’s no point! Still, if you read newspapers, you can get subscriptions to them for much cheaper than a paper copy…

      Reply
  3. Danny Diaz

    Hey Nick,

    Interesting post, I’ve just completed my thesis on self publishing and student motivation in the art room called “print or pixel – self publishing for a new generation” and I touch on some of the issues you brought up. Even teenagers said they were more interested in printed media over electronic as they found them lifeless and the screen hurt their eyes after prolonged use, they also liked turning pages and the smell of the books. All their arguments are debatable of course. But it proves that the power of a book and printed media in general runs deeper than just the glossy jacket, the historic and nostalgic pull is just too strong for people to let go of. But I firmly believe that the two can coexist without too much of a power struggle as they serve different purposes for different people in different situations. Just like film vs digital photography, vinyl vs cd’s, cd’s vs mp3′s, the battle between old and new will forever rage on.

    Reply
    1. Nick Bradley Post author

      Hey Dan, yeah, you’re right about that. Nostalgia has always had a powerful presence in any form of art (or life, for that matter). Still, I’m happy with the feeling of the Kindle, it doesn’t feel as electronic as you’d think… I remember dreaming of digital books when I was younger. Funnily enough, I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on my Kindle a few weeks ago. Douglas Adams knew how the world was going ;)

      Reply
  4. Maxime

    I like your style Nick, and your arguments. I have nothing to add to the previous comments, as I also think than books and Kindles can coexist. My only worry is that books might completely disappear at some stage of humanity… How will I light my fires then?

    Reply
  5. Tristan Vick

    I just updated my Kindle 2 gen to a Kindle Touch this Christmas. That hasn’t stopped me from buying real paper books, but now I only buy ones I wish to have on my bookshelf.

    A point I would add, you can often find the classics for free, or for an affordable price. I downloaded all the works of William James, Thomas Jefferson, W.G. Foote, Robert G. Ingersoll, the collected works of Shakespeare, among many others, for FREE.

    It’s hard to beat a deal like that.

    Also, as a reference tool it is more than handy. I can open up my “Religion” folder and I instantly have access to over 150 books on religion. The fact that you can cross reference your folders means, depending on what article or essay I am working on, whether it is psychology or history, science or mysticism, I have all of my research at my finger tips.

    I know many people have the fear that the publishing industry will dissapeare. I doubt it. Will it shrink into a limited form, a lesser version of itself, in which books are printed in limited quantities on paper instead of in the thousands? I think so. But academic text books, academic presses in general, have not made the switch-over to digital entirely, and I think there is still a niche for classic brick and mortar publishing. Just in a much more limited capacity.

    Reply
    1. Nick Bradley Post author

      Hey Tristan, thanks very much for your comment. Yeah, I think that, as others have stated above in the comments, it’s all about co-existence. I personally will be owning a Kindle + books combo from now on. It’s nice to be able to carry around everything though – nomad that I am. It was so painful leaving behind 2 bookcases full of books in my flat in Japan when I left.

      Free books from Project Gutenberg etc. are great aren’t they?

      Reply

Thoughts?