Note – I use the Kindle Keyboard 3G, which has since been replaced by the Kindle Paperwhite. My observations hold true, however.
Let me guess your retort – you ‘prefer the feeling of paper in your hands’. How romantic. I’m sure the Greeks preferred the way a scroll unrolled to the unwieldiness of a bound sheaf of paper. Every time innovation happens the world resists, because change is hard. But it’s for the best. Kindles are better, because they’re not like most gadgets (lack of screen glare and long battery), weigh nothing, let you read many books at once, and above all else – make you read more!
Other than the fact you can’t run your fingers lovingly down a binding or get a papercut, the Kindle is for all other purposes, a book. The e-ink display doesn’t lead to the screen strain that other backlit screens like iPads do – it looks just like paper, except it’s dynamic. This means you can read it in direct sunlight, and for hours without difficulty. Plus, the battery lasts forever, because it only uses power to change the page, not to display the content. I only plug mine in for a few hours every month or so and I’m good to go. It’s not a typical electronic gadget with finicky charging cycles and a glaringly bright screen, which is what all the book lovers get scared about.
Think of it like a thin book. One that weighs less than a paperback yet can hold all the tomes in your library. The Kindle’s small size is a big factor towards its success, because it means you can bring it with you anywhere without a second thought. We’ve all been there before – you’re headed out to the pool or the beach or a day trip and have to agonize for a few seconds over whether or not to lug around that 800 page book you’re reading. If you don’t end up reading it, you just wasted valuable space and energy carrying around a paper brick. Not so with the Kindle – the thing’s weight is negligible. It’s now a default presence in my backpack, which means I have more chances to read. There’s a saying among photographers – “The best camera is the one you have with you” and that definitely applies to books when you find yourself needing to read on the road.
Meanwhile, this tiny gadget can carry within it dozens and dozens of books without any extra heft. The ability to have multiple reading options available from the same device is incredible. It lets you jump from one book to another without any opportunity cost. Maybe after a few chapters of your new nonfiction book you get momentarily bored of real life and want to switch to some fiction – bam, done. Or you can keep a book that you’ve been meaning to read but can’t get around to on the backburner, knocking out a few pages every reading session. I did exactly that with David Foster Wallace’s ‘Infinite Jest’, but that’s certainly not a book I would ever carry around with me all day just to read a few pages at a time. The easy availability means that you can artificially extend your reading sessions through samplings of more than one volume.
As if that’s not enough, the process of buying a new book on the Kindle is no more than a few button presses. Before, you’d have to physically go to the bookstore and bring the bound paper back, or maybe order it on Amazon and wait a few days. With the Kindle, you go into its digital bookstore from the device, select a book, and within a few seconds it’s completely downloaded and ready to read. The hassle of getting a new book is completely eliminated. Plus, almost every book available on the Kindle is cheaper than their paper counterparts, so you’re saving money as well as time. Most of them are $9.99.
Most of the classics published before 1900 are available for free. The PDF versions of many more contemporary titles are a Google search away, and using Calibre, you can convert those with 3 extra clicks to Amazon’s ‘.mobi’ filetype. These files are incredibly easy to share, which means you can send a couple thousand pages to a friend through email no problem. I’ll admit that I’ve purchased through the Kindle only about a fourth of the titles currently on my device. But hey, I’m reading more because of it, and reading books I wouldn’t bother with otherwise.
And that’s what this comes down to. The portability, immense storage size, and ease of new acquisitions – all of those contribute to the fact that you simply read more with a Kindle. An order of magnitude more. With my Kindle 3G, I’m going through a book about every week and a half on average, and at any given time I’m working my way through a fiction and nonfiction title at the same time. I was an avid reader before, but nowhere near this efficient.
I’ve always said I am a book lover, but really I’m just a reader, which is what all you Kindle bashers are as well. We’re on the same team. We love reading, and the Kindle lets you do more of that, and better, at the price of lacking a few secondary characteristics of the last reading medium. I’ll admit that it doesn’t have the sexiness factor of a book – you do have to charge it every now and then, it doesn’t have the smell or feel of paper, and you have to baby it a little bit around sand. Yet these small sacrifices are worth it, for the higher volume of reading you get done as a result. If you truly love reading, and not just your nostalgia filled childhood, the Kindle is the only choice.
Edit – I almost forgot! The Kindle lets you take notes while reading by highlighting passages of text and then saves those passages in a separate file called “My Clippings”. This leads to you taking notes that you will actually use later on, as it is far easier to peruse the My Clipping file than it is to flip through a physical book and look for notes. Plus, I can copy and paste from my notes as easily as any webpage. You should take that into account when weighing a Kindle versus a book as well – more reading, better notes.