Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why I love my Kindle.

I mentioned yesterday that I am reading quite a few books on my Kindle. Two of them are library books. I love that our library has a means of checking out e-books. I love getting out and going to the library and coming home with an armful of books; but lately it's been difficult for me to get there, as testified by the fines I currently owe on the VERY overdue books sitting on my end table--and yes, the fact that you can't forget to return an ebook is another perk for this procrastinating patron.

It seems to me that e-readers are things that people either love or hate. I've owned a Kindle off and on for about three years, and my relationship to it has been ... complicated. For one thing, Kindles break a lot more easily than books. Especially if you step on them. This is bad news for me, since I'm pretty klutzy. I broke two of them in less than a year; my current one is still alive after almost a year and a half, so maybe it was just a phase. ;)

But I definitely used to be one of those anti-ereader people. I wrote an essay against e-books in college (before the Kindle existed, I'm pretty sure), and I rolled my eyes at people in grad school who talked about books becoming "obsolete" in the near future. (I still roll my eyes at those people.) Mostly though, I just loved books. The tangible objects with heft and scent and form that you tucked under your arm and took to bed with you. I ranted about the vast inferiority of e-readers and was pretty snobby about the fact that I would never, ever own one. Give me REAL books please.

And then my father-in-law gave me one for Christmas.

As I picked up the package to unwrap it, Keith said something like, "Everyone should watch this; it's going to be interesting." Awkward!

Because it was a gift given with love, I decided to really and truly do my best to appreciate it.

When I broke that first Kindle (see link above), my main feeling was guilt at not being able to take care of such a nice gift for more than a month. Keith helped me replace it at a discount; that Kindle died in my book bag when I sat down on the bus. This time I felt frustration. Partly because--ARGH why do I keep breaking things books NEVER just break like this!!--but also because I had books on there that I had paid for and hadn't read, some of which were only available as e-books, and some of which were more expensive to buy hard copies of.

Three years later, I use the Kindle Touch regularly. I realized that at some point, there was a big shift in how I looked at it: namely, I no longer see it as in competition with real books. I know that people who make a living selling real books in real stores would disagree. But it's usually clear to me right away whether I'm going to read a given book on the Kindle or on paper. I've grown comfortable with it and come to appreciate it for what it is,

1. It really is great for mothers, particularly babies of mothers and young children. I really fell in love with my Kindle after Michael was born. I could read with one hand while nursing or rocking a baby without having to worry about keeping the book open or turning pages. And it's even easier with Kindle Touch, since I can touch almost anywhere on the screen for the next page. Although admittedly, now that Michael's getting older and wants to grab whatever I'm holding, the touch screen can be a problem. But I can turn it off if toddler hands are imminent, and it saves my place, which is another reason I love it. I can stop at any time and walk away without having to worry about remembering where I left off. (If you dog-ear your books or leave them splayed open on flat surfaces for long periods of time, this may not matter much to you. But don't tell me because I'll judge you and feel sorry for your poor books!)

2. I love to fill as much available space with reading as possible, and the Kindle enables me makes that easier. Easier to read while eating (probably a bad habit) and in bed, because you don't have to hold the pages open--maybe this is just me being lazy, but hey. And MUCH easier to knit and read at the same time. (What, you never do that?)

3. My computer savvy husband hooked me up with an easy way to send articles, blog posts, and web pages to read on my Kindle. I don't use this as often as I wish I did. It is so much better on the eyes looking at a Kindle than a backlit computer screen. But perhaps more importantly, it helps me to slow down and actually absorb what I'm reading. For whatever reason, I feel like the internet kills my attention span, and I'm sure I'm not alone. Sending online articles to my Kindle helps me spend less time online--not just the time spent reading that particular article, but also the time I waste clicking links and following wherever curiosity leads from that article.

I used my Kindle like this to read Casti Connubii this Lent with Like Mother Like Daughter, and I will probably use it to read Pope Francis's encyclical, Lumen Fidei. (Brandon Vogt converted the encyclical to different digital formats but had to take them down due to copyright issues, which is really disappointing, because formatting and so on can get messed up when you send things to your Kindle this way; and unfortunately it's not like the Vatican website is all that well designed anyway!)

4. I've also read some out-of-copyright books that are only available/affordable in digital format, such as My Nameday--Come for Dessert. I am going to complain a bit here though, because when I sent this book to my Kindle it basically got rid of ALL formatting, which made the book very tough to read.

5. Another reason I have been especially grateful for it lately? I am reading George RR Martin's series A Song of Ice and Fire. Have you seen those books? They are HUGE. I think the Kindle is great for any situation when lugging around a few pounds of book is inconvenient (or painful)--traveling, reading on the bus, etc. But I read the first three books of this series in hard copy, and even though they never left my house reading them was a pain. I read the fourth and now the fifth on my Kindle and it makes my (reading) life so. much. easier.

And because Kindle books now have the same page numbers as the print editions, I can tell you what page I'm on, which was a big complaint I had about my old Kindle. Also, it tells me what percentage of the way through the book I am, how many minutes are left in the chapter based on my reading speed, and how many are left in the entire book. I know this would drive some people crazy, and you can turn it off. But it makes my nerd brain very happy. I am a weird person who thinks in terms of fractions and percentages even when reading books, so it's kind of nice to have that calculating done for me already!

I do notice I seem to go through phases of heavy Kindle use, and then leave it untouched for weeks at a time. Overall, I'd say I read anywhere between 1/4-1/5 of my books on the Kindle. I can't imagine it ever being more than that, and I could certainly live without it. But I would be frustrated, and I would miss it quite a bit.


  1. I downloaded My Nameday -- Come For Dessert, even though I don't have an eReader or anything. I can read it as a Word document (or is it pdf?). Don't remember. Anyways - awesome book, but yeah, the formatting is HORRENDOUS. I have to ctrl-f just to navigate around. I'm on a hunt for a "real" copy of the book that doesn't cost a fortune.

  2. Adam gave me a Kindle as a "thanks for having my baby and spending all your time feeding her" present after Claire was born. I used it so much in those early months! Right now, I mostly use it to read out-of-print things from the EWTN library {also agree with the annoying formatting though} and sometimes to read books from the library because e-books often have a short request time frame than regular books. But, yes, I am glad to have one and would definitely miss it!

    P.S. I hope Keith's defense went well yesterday. I'm sure it was a big day for the whole family!