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20th March 2013

Diary of a reluctant Kindle user

Now that the e-book apocalyptists have quietened down a bit, Joelle Jefferis turns to the somewhat more measured possibility of peaceful co-existence between books and their e- counterparts

My favourite possession is my book collection; I love it. I love each book – the story within them and the cover that encases them. They are my pride and joy; so much so that for my 21st birthday my parents had a bookcase built that covers my entire bedroom wall. There’s enough space on those shelves that it may take even me a couple of years to fill it. However this Christmas, something changed: I was given a Kindle.

The first version of the Amazon Kindle was released in the US in 2007 and immediately sold out, a first sign of the international popularity all versions have enjoyed since. It is undoubtedly the leader in the e-reader market and is estimated to now be worth 10% of Amazon’s total $60 billion revenue. Along with the handsets Kindle apps are available for download to smart phones and tablets, meaning the majority of people in the UK can now easily enjoy books at the touch of a button. It seems most people weren’t as reluctant as me to dip their toe in the Kindle pool.

My reluctance is based on the enjoyment of a book’s material aesthetics: the weight of a hardback, the smell of a new book, the smell of an old book, a bright cover, a plain Penguin cover…the list could fill a book! How can a plastic case and electronic screen convey this fundamental part of the reading experience? Is a novel really just the story contained in the text?

Well I’ve discovered that, in some ways actually, yes, it is. I’ve downloaded and read a few books on my Kindle now and I’ve got to say, the stories happen to be just as good. Reading Life of Pi on Kindle still left me in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger, and the other mother in Coraline (Neil Gaiman) scared me into hiding under my duvet even without the familiar weight of a paperback in my hands. The power of the writing isn’t lost and there are definite advantages to the Kindle – both those books were on offer so cost me only £1.19 combined. Also, the paperback that used to be an ever present feature in my bag is now replaced by 20 books, in a format that weighs just 170g.

My conclusion, then – may my lecturers forgive me – is a bit weak: I like my Kindle but I also like books. Do I find my Kindle useful? Yes. Does it allow me to indulge my bookworm tendencies with increased ease? Yes. Will it replace books? No. My new feature wall in my bedroom will continue to fill up with books. I love being able to see and hold them with ease. And I continue to judge a book by its cover.

I think true fanatics will always return to books, but if you can’t decide which book to read on that long train journey, maybe just take a Kindle and decide later.

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