The Trials and Tribulations of Owning a Kindle

You might have noticed that part of Tuesday Reads is telling you whether I read the book in a physical copy or on a Kindle (there are other options, but those are the two I use). That might seem silly and needless, but I do have a reason for it.

I own a second-generation Kindle. I’ve had it for years. It’s been replaced twice, covered in stickers, and it’s not quite as shiny white as it once was. It currently contains 216 books. Its name is Hermione Danger. It often spends most of the school year in a drawer while I’m consumed by novels for school (I almost always buy those in a physical copy, because it’s easier for me to stay on track with my teacher and classmates), but months will go by where it barely leaves my side.

But there are days when I hate taking it out in public. Almost every time I read it before class or in the student center or outside, someone asks me, “Is that a Kindle?” I’m always hopeful at first, and I get excited. I love my Kindle. I love to talk about my Kindle. So I say yes, and I show them how easy it is to use, how many books it has, how I can send Word documents and PDFs to it (great for critiquing stories), and I talk about how great Kindle support has been over the years. Every once in a blue moon, the conversation will end with something like, “Maybe I should look into getting one.”

More often than not, it ends in, “Oh, that’s cool, but I could never get one. I love books too much.”

Excuse me?

Is it wrong of me to take away from that the implication that I don’t love books? That somehow the fact that I own a Kindle means that books don’t matter to me? I know that the other person in that conversation hasn’t seen my bookcases, where books are stacked on books in an attempt to squeeze them all in. They don’t know that I can’t go into a bookstore without spending all of my money on new books, or that donating 500 books in high school barely dented my library.

But why should that matter? They haven’t seen my personal library, but why should they have had to? Why does Kindle owner equal book hater in so many minds?

There are stories where the medium matters. I couldn’t read graphic novels on my black and white second-gen Kindle. If the picture quality was comparable to that of a printed graphic novel and the interface easy to navigate, I’d have no problem reading them digitally. There are stories where interaction with the book itself is an important part of experiencing the story – for example, Theodora GossThe Thorn and the Blossom is uniquely bound accordion style. Open the book from one side, and you read the story of Evelyn. Flip it over and open it on the other side, and you read Brendan’s story. In the case of that book, I suggest you read it in the physical copy.

Most of the novels we read, though, ultimately don’t need to be read in a physical form. Yes, I agree that the feel of a book in your hands and being able to flip through the pages and doggy-ear and make notes and bend back the spine (which plenty of people would scream at me for, but I love) is a beautiful thing.

But shouldn’t the story matter more? If the story is the same from paperback to Kindle, doesn’t it matter more that we’re reading the story than if we’re reading it on paper or a screen?

I know that contradicts my idea of telling whether I’m reading a book in physical or digital form. That’s related to another peeve of mine in this whole ridiculous debate. People seem to think that if I have a Kindle, I don’t read physical books, or if you read physical books, then you wouldn’t ever have an e-reader. It’s true that there are people who only use e-readers and people who only read physical books, and that’s entirely their choice. I’m not here to insult them. What bothers me is that there are an awful lot of people who can’t seem to grasp the idea that someone might like both. That’s why I’m going to tell you what medium I’m reading a story on. It’s entirely possible to use and love multiple reading mediums, and I’d like to prove it.

What about you? Are you a Kindle owner who faces snide remarks from your fellow book lovers? Are you a book lover who just can’t abide by e-readers? Or, like me, do you stand somewhere in-between?

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