Make new friends, but keep the old: Kindle vs. paperbacks

When an Amazon Kindle arrived under my Christmas tree in 2012, I was tentatively excited — but still unsure about the whole “e-reading” thing.

A lifelong paperback lover, I worried that reading on a screen would feel too much like work — too close to my 9-to-5 spent in front of a flickering computer monitor, not enough like the relaxation I crave. Though much smaller, I’d already tried reading on my iPhone and hated it.

And part of me felt like a traitor, honestly. At a time when online retailers were contributing to the demise of brick-and-mortar bookstores and we began to worry if print was dying, here I was: reading novels on a glowing device, buying e-files and casting aside my hardcovers. With hundreds of physical books in my library, would I no longer be interested in them? Would I get addicted to Kindle convenience and give my paperbacks away?

It sounds silly, maybe: e-reader guilt. But it was there.

The first book I read in digital format — Why Can’t I Be You by Allie Larkin — was . . . well, it was weird. I remember thinking I couldn’t concentrate on the text the way I can when holding a physical book, and I actually wondered if I’d retain any of the plot.

But I was pumped for the Kindle because, you know, it was a cool new gadget, and I was interested in getting review copies digitally. Because space was a premium at home and at the apartment I would later share with Spencer, the appeal of having dozens of books on a device in my hand — instead of stacked around our overflowing living room — couldn’t be denied.

Book I have not readMore than two years into my relationship with my Kindle, I can honestly say that many of those fears — especially the ones about getting rid of my physical books — never came to pass.

As I’ve started recording my books for 2015 on a spreadsheet, I’m tracking not only what I’m reading but how I’m reading it: physical, digital, audio. Where I was once a purist who couldn’t fathom the appeal of audio books, I’ve completely converted — and now spread my reading pretty evenly amongst the three mediums.

Do I still prefer print books? Well, yes and no. Nothing can replace the feel of a real book in your hands, fingers sliding across smooth pages, the sweet heft and look of it. I love real cover art; I like having a physical sense of being halfway through a story, versus “50 percent” through. A real book never needs charging, and it doesn’t have to be stowed before take-off.

But my Kindle has a place, too. I love it when I’m on the go, especially traveling (more room in the suitcase!), and the backlight is awesome. Our living room is pretty dark, and I’ve yet to find a comfortable place to read a physical book without having to squint and angle the book just so. The Kindle takes all that away. Plus, when I want to stay up and my husband wants to go to sleep? I can shut off the lamp, dim the Kindle and make reading in bed comfortable for both of us. Boom!

I miss “real” books when I want to re-read a passage from a previous chapter, or flip back to get a sense of a character I might have originally overlooked. I miss “real” books when a novel has a particularly glorious cover I wish I could gaze at, or when a quote really grabs me — one I wish I could underline and dog-ear. “Highlighting” on a Kindle? Just not the same.

So I switch it up. As we get closer to Baby J’s arrival, I’m trying to get through a backlog of novels I’ve now moved twice: some books I wanted to read as far back as 2008, stories lodged in my library patiently waiting their turn. Though I have no formal “Kindle/print” system, I’m on a sort of every-other-book method.

And it’s working well. I’m still enjoying the books I’ve collected over the years with the convenience of the Kindle for everything else. I mostly use my e-reader for review books these days, and I’m getting the hang of requesting digital copies from the library. Which is free! I love free. Free is good.

Like all major changes, the transition from physical to digital was strange at first — but with time, I’ve come to appreciate the awesomeness of each.

And toting around my Kindle takes “never leave home without a book” — in this case, twenty — to a new level.


34 thoughts on “Make new friends, but keep the old: Kindle vs. paperbacks

  1. First of all, I would like to point out that I’m addicted to new technology. I believe that every gadget can prove us very useful, especially when we learn how to use its strengths – take drones as an example. They can serve for destruction as well as for showing us our world from different perspectives. It depends only on us, how will we use it.

    The main advantages for me:
    1) Pirate copies are for free and help me in my career: I’m not talking about novels that I like to read before going to sleep. I’m talking about publications which are extremely expensive, just because they were written by some professor in Oxford. Under the normal circumstances, I would not be able to get my hold on them. If we understand how important it is to provide knowledge for those who cannot afford it, we will understand why ebook reader is an ultimate device. Remember Aaron Schwartz, who downloaded the whole Jstore database. We need more people like him.
    2) I travel thus I don’t want to carry books around. This one is pretty straightforward.
    3) It is easier to support writers directly. To prepare your own ebook does not cost almost anything, if you exclude marketing. And many people are more than willing to support starting writers in their efforts. I’m one of them.
    4) When I fall asleep while reading, it remembers the page! (this one is crucial)

  2. Loved your post ! I have a similar problem. Since 2008, when our neighbourhood library shut its doors, my sister and I have been reading ebooks downloaded on either our computers, ebook readers or smartphones. We no longer felt like buying a book because not only were they so expensive but there’s no space in our home for more books.

    However, we do not like the feeling of reading from a screen, although it’s so convenient. For that reason, we’ve recently gone back to joining another library – one that is a bit far away but gives us the same comforting feeling. I’ve been thinking about writing a post about it. πŸ™‚

    Looking forward to more great reads by you and congratulations in advance for Baby J’s arrival ! πŸ™‚

  3. It is more or less the same for me! But I have to say I use the kindle for about 80% of my reading at the moment… but nothing can hold up with a physical copy πŸ™‚

  4. I love both. I definitely prefer a book when the text is for self-help or has tasks involved. For leisure reading the Kindle is my source. And there have been times when I have purchased both, the physical book and e-reader form because it is good to have on the go, but when I am home I can reference the actual text and add notes. Just like writing, there is something magical in the paper variety. πŸ™‚

  5. I am also mixing it up between digital (nook) & physical real books. My personal guidelines are books that my entire family want to/have an internet in reading will be physical books. Checking out free ebooks from libraries all over the country is a great advantage for ereaders. I’ve also used my ereader to store PDF files that I’ve converted on my computer that I may need to reference when I’m out & about – some research or rough draft.

  6. I use my Kindle-for-PC to review books and to see which books I would like to add to my paperback collection. If a book is good, but not excellent, it remains an ebook. If it is a must-reread, I make a note and try to obtain a paperback copy.

  7. I am with you. I “kindled up” a couple years ago myself and I go in spurts of using it and then not… now it sits on my end table in the living so it at least has been upgraded out of a corner in the book room wondering where its charger is. πŸ™‚ Like you, I enjoy the look and feel of a real book. Like you, I also find myself appreciating the Kindle more than I used to…. I can accept a netgalley read right away as opposed to waiting for it to be sent to me. It obviously takes up less space…
    One fun fact I learned from our library board is that e book check outs have plateaued. Interesting. I wonder what that means?

  8. This resonates with the recent experience of looking through my rolodex this morning. All those names of people, some of them dead, many of them moved away or not seen for years. I realized this is because I now use digital media to find addresses–most of them email addresses–and communicate in other ways. But it was good, again, to visit those old friends who are still on my rolodex.

  9. I still prefer having print books, but do like the kindle for magazines, kindle singles, and free electronic downloads from my library

  10. I felt the same way when I first got a Kindle so I made a deal with myself. Free books (mostly from the library) would be in Kindle format but if I was going to buy a book, I’d buy a hard copy to support traditional publishing. So far, it’s worked out well and relieved all that initial guilt. Plus, I’ve been reading a lot more than I used to because – FREE BOOKS!

  11. It’s a little tough to decide. In the beginning, as a library employee (at that time), I thought I would never go to e-books. And then my husband, kind man that he was, bought me a Kindle for an anniversary gift. I took it on vacation, as well as one less suitcase. LOL

    As I’ve gotten older, my eyes are not as good and one thing I really like is being able to change the font size. Yes, there are large print books, but if the book is long at all, they are heavy. My last visit to the eye doctor let me know that my eye issues are not going to go away. Early stages of macular degeneration. So, I’ve determined to be kind to my eyes. I’ll read however it is comfortable for me, e-book, regular book, audiobook. Audiobooks are now my friend. I’m also hoping that medicine will advance with a treatment/cure for this condition by the time I’m in some real trouble (5 or so years likely). If not, I can listen to books. And I love the backlit screen that auto adjusts – got a new Kindle. No more straining my eyes.

  12. I also got a Kindle for Christmas in 2012. Though I perfer paperbacks my a long shot, e-books have their advantages too, just as you said! One of my favorite things about e-books are the accessibility of them. When that horrid blizzard ripped through a month ago, I was very happy to reading a new book without travelling in the bitter cold thanks to my Kindle.

  13. As a college student, I have to have physical, print books. Who can annotate a poem on a kindle, look back at the notes and highlights four months later to write their final paper, and have ANY success? (Hint: not me.)
    In my spare time, I HAVE switched from newspapers and magazines to computer screens. But I have difficulty with ebooks.
    Lastly, I love audio books! I work at a library, and they make reshelving and repairing and picking up and shelf reading books soooo much more interesting.

  14. Both actually work for me… but the problem with reading ebooks is that it strains my eyes. While, in book, it’s too heavy.
    But e-book doesn’t have the smell of a physical book. So, I am still betting with physical book. Physical books rock!


  15. I agree that I think there is definitely a place for both and it doesn’t have to be one or the other. I tend to lean towards my tablet (with kindle app) because I keep it in my bag and can travel around with my own little library. I have a good number of paper backs that I’m very attached to however; books I read whilst I was a university, birthday presents that sit pride of place in my bedroom and won’t be going anywhere soon!

  16. I read mostly on my iPad now, and honestly it’s mostly a space issue! I just don’t have room to house all the books I want to read. Maybe someday when I have a house with room for more than two bookshelves. πŸ™‚

  17. I am very all over the place when it comes to ebooks vs paperbacks. I will get in a spurt and read only one or the other, or I will get a balance going and switch between them. Last year I started out the year reading a bunch of e-books and then hardly touched my e-reader again for the rest of the year. This year I started out reading physical books, but have been reading e-books lately. I think it just comes down to what I am in the mood for at the time.

  18. Am I the only stronghold left? My husband keeps offering to buy me a Kindle and I keep refusing it. I feel as you said “It’s just another thing to plug in, another chord to carry, another thing that will require downloads. I used to say I solely check out books from the library and the Kindle would require purchases, but now my library lends e-books…I still think my hands get enough electronic current through my iphone so I’m hanging on tight to my physical books…. but thanks for this post.

  19. I had a Kindle, then went to work for BN and sold it to my mom and got a Nook, but I bought a tablet, their first one and I wished I’d bought just a dedicated e reader. Some e galleys were funky on it. I then bought an iPad, I am on my second one now and I read on it. I buy some kindle and nook books, and seem to read more e galleys than anything else on it. I seem to forget what is on there, the out of sight out of mind mentality. I still prefer physical books, but reading in bed is best done with ebooks.
    I bought a new lamp for our den, it’s a floor lamp with an arm that goes over my chair, perfect for reading. Found it at Target.

  20. I’m still averse to reading electronically because I feel like I would be betraying hard copy books haha! I know it’s silly because Kindle are definitely far more convenient, but there is truly nothing that can compare with the feeling of paper under your fingers and the turning of pages rather than swiping at a screen.

    I am thinking of buying a Kindle some time in the future though when I travel more, so we’ll see if I am converted!

  21. Pingback: E Readers and Books… What Makes It To The Next Level | Book Journey

  22. I love having a mini Kobo in my handbag at all times. And I’m like you – my reading is pretty much spread evenly across ebooks, print books and audiobooks. When there’s a book I really want to read, though, it’s nice to be able to buy it at 11:00 at night and be reading it in bed right after. My library has a really good ebook collection as well, so these days I tend to put the ebook version on hold and then the print version if it’s not available in ebook, or if it’s an illustration-intensive book.

  23. I admit, I am leery about the whole e-reader thing. I really, really love the smell and feel of actual books, especially the texture of the pages as I turn the page. I have an iPad that allows for e-books, maybe I’ll give it another go… (P.S. I have that Abraham Lincoln quote displayed on a bag that is permanently hanging off my kitchen chair.)

  24. If you’re lucky enough to live in a community with a thriving independent bookstore, please know that your purchases at that store are what keeps the store alive. Also, please know that you can buy e-books through Kobo and a small percentage of those purchases will go to your independent bookstore. You don’t have to buy e-books through Amazon. Independent booksellers are only here because of their customers. If stores don’t receive community support, the stores will vanish, leaving Amazon free to raise their prices.

  25. Wow, seems like Christmas 2012 was the year of the Kindle! I got one that year too and have since had to replace it as it seems I wore it out (some of the buttons started to stick). And I did feel a great need to have the backlit version, which I am now using. Reading through all the comments really made me think about how the Kindle has changed my reading habits, and I think I do read more with the Kindle, especially re-reading much-loved books!

  26. I have a Kindle and do read on there, but nothing beats a book for me. The flip factor is big for me. I love flipping through my books, re-reading passages, visually seeing how much I’ve read. That whole experience is lost with a reading device.

  27. I think there’s room for both print and e-reading in our lives, but we readers are a small (though stalwart) portion of the population! I hope we can continue to support both formats. The commenter who mentioned her neighborhood library closing made me sad. Our branch library a few blocks away is only open a few hours a week. I don’t like Kindles, myself, because I’m afraid of Amazon becoming a monopoly, but I think that fight has already been lost! I read occasionally on my Nook and I like having e-books on my phone, in case I forget to bring a book with me, because I always have my phone.

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