Digital books will directly impact the work we do here at LEE & LOW, so I took the plunge and purchased a Kindle so I could gain a hands-on understanding of what the reading experience was like compared to the paper books we know and love.
I have read my last five books on the Kindle and here are my thoughts:
Since the screen on the Kindle is smaller than the pages of most books, and there is a magnification feature that can enlarge the text shown, the reading experience is a fast one, because there are fewer words per “page.” On the Kindle I feel like I’m flying through chapters, and since I have always considered myself a slow reader, the momentum of plowing through a book is kind of exhilarating.
The tactile experience of feeling the paper between your fingertips, the physicality of turning the pages, and the smell of the paper stock has been replaced by cold brushed metal, white plastic keys, a dull gray screen, and utilitarian-looking type. If you are a fan of cover art and design like I am, you are out of luck. Cover art, which is the star player in getting the reader to pick up the book in the first place, is a second-class citizen in the digital realm. The Kindle can only display art in black and white, which does nothing for art or photography. In addition, when you purchase a new book and open it up on the Kindle, the book immediately opens with chapter one, skipping the cover entirely.
The search capability is not intuitive, so I do not even use it.
Despite these drawbacks, the Kindle is a reading machine and quite a good one. I’ve enjoyed the five books I have read on the Kindle just as much as any book I had read BK (Before Kindle), and I appreciate the portability of the device, compared to some of the doorstopper hardcovers I have had to lug on my daily commute. The Kindle’s battery life is excellent, as long as you keep WiFi disabled, only activating the wireless for purchases.
So what does this mean for book publishing? I believe there is room for both digital and paper editions. Most of us here at LEE & LOW are big fans of the local library. At this time, we cannot predict if digital books will serve any role in libraries, so our library cards will not be fed into the shredder any time soon. For now, only longer works benefit from digital books. The lack of color and the small format leave picture books out of the equation, but this may change with the introduction of Apple’s iPad this month. A LOT more to come on this subject, I can assure you.
A funny aside regarding the Kindle before I sign off: I loaned mine to a coworker, and the very next day she accidentally dropped the Kindle onto the subway tracks during her morning commute! After a dozen rush-hour trains passed over it, the Kindle was retrieved and survived with minor damage, but I would definitely count this as one of those truly New York stories you just can’t make up. Jeff Bezos would be proud.
9 thoughts on “Kindle Days Are Here to Stay”
I read your article re the Kindle with interest. I received one for a Christmas present from my husband and daughter. I was depressed for a couple of days after receiving it!! I am a librarian and the thought of no more books upset me! I enjoy the physical presence of a book and usually check out 10-12 on one library visit. I was assured I could return it if I really didn’t want to keep it. After thinking it over, I decided to keep the Kindle. I downloaded 6 free books (which I haven’t read yet). I do intend to read them, I just can’t put down the books written by my favorite authors. (None of them were on the free book list.) So, those are my thoughts on Kindle.
I received my Kindle as a gift from my husband, and while I enjoy its many advantages, I will NEVER give up buying a “real” book if I want to add it to my personal library collection. There is absolutely no replacement for the breathtaking enjoyment of the artwork and beautiful color illustrations missing from the Kindle.
Or, what can replace the smell of a new book, or touching the pages and experiencing that feeling of closure as you read that last page and finally close the book? All that being said, the ease and portability of the Kindle definitely has its place. Besides, I am sort of a low-end techi (if such a thing exists), and I love the new gadgets! For an author, nothing can ever equal seeing your work in print and color, holding it in your hands and knowing that many people will have the opportunity to do the same.
I travel a lot, so the Kindle has been a blessing for that reason. Carrying ten books in my purse, and leaving all that space in my luggage, is wonderful. I also like it for my bedtime reading – light and easy. I have a light for it, too, so I don’t disturb hubby if I want to read late. Some books such as diet and recipe books don’t work because I want to be flipping around too much and the Kindle doesn’t flip well. And as others have said, anything with good illustrations is a lost cause on Kindle. My vast children’s book collection will remain perennial. The last disadvantage is that I like to pass on good books to friends. That little joy is gone with the Kindle. But still, I do love it for what it’s good for.
Margaret, I hear you on the disadvantage of not being able to pass on books to friends. While I was borrowing Jason’s Kindle (yes, that was me) an acquaintance commented that she’d finished her book and didn’t have anything to read on the way home. I automatically reached for my bag, thinking to lend her one of the spare books I’m usually carrying around, but then I remembered that no, I just had the Kindle on me.
This issue has been on my mind ever since Kindle and Nook have been advertised and displayed by fellow “gym-goers” and fellow travelers.
I have been tempted to try it out several times due to the sheer novelty of the situation but so far have been successful in restraining myself…
From your description, it fits my visual imagery of what I had imagined it would do or not do.
I must admit that I am still a big fan of the feel of paper between my fingers with the covers on snugly and the eyes fighting to stay awake to read one more page….zzzzz!
We will have to accept the technological innovations and I am sure there are many good uses for them. As Publishers you will have to stay on top of these changes and as readers we will have to see what suits our needs best. For now, I am happy to hear that my library card is not about to be shredded!
Thanks for sharing your experiences regarding the Kindle. Another big advantage is when you finish a book that ends with a major cliffhanger. This happened to me last night as I finished a book called The Uglies. 5 seconds later I had The second book in front of me and I continued to read away. It was pretty cool.
I purchased a Sony Reader because it works well for reading Adobe epub files, and my public library (Seattle) offers quite a few books in epub format. Since almost all the books I read are checked out from the library (school library where I work, or public), I couldn’t see how I would use a Kindle. But the Sony Pocket Reader provides most of the advantages of any ebook reader, and checking books out from SPL has gone very smoothly.
Makes sense, Laurie. One of our editors just got a Sony Reader Touch, so she can more easily read manuscripts on the subway—like ePub, PDF is a format Sony lets you read but Kindle doesn’t—and with the Touch she can even takes notes with a stylus right on the screen. It’s pretty nifty!
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