The trouble with Kindles

When I read, I tend to read to the exclusion of everything else. When I’m reading something I don’t particularly care for, I read quickly to get it finished. When I read something I like, I read quickly because I’m immersed. And when I’m reading something I love, I have to slow down consciously, because otherwise I fly through it like a supernova.

Since getting the Kindle from Mom for my birthday, I haven’t stopped reading. It’s definitely a different experience than with an actual book. While the physical is still present, while you still are holding something in your hand, there’s no way to judge the heft of what you’re reading. I’ve discovered that when I am reading a book from an actual book, I vary my reading speed subconsciously as I progress through the pages. The books I love, I start off as if on fire, and, alarmed at how little is left of the story, slow down progressively near the end. On a Kindle, there’s a little percentage in the lower right hand corner to let you know how much of the book you’ve consumed, but it’s not the same, and as a result, I’ve been burning through stories like never before.

I’ve always been a fast reader; it was not uncommon for me to finish a 700-ish page novel in three or four days. Now it’s taking me two, because I can read everywhere, in almost any situation. Riding home on a packed bus, often I stand most of the way home, and rarely bothered digging out my novel because it’s awkward to balance and turn pages and pay attention with the constant shifting. Now, I slip my hand into the leather strap on the cover, and flick to the next page with my thumb–it seems ridiculous not to be reading in that situation.

I love this. I love that my reading time has increased with this clever little invention. I love that if I finish a book with 40 minutes of a commute left, I just get another one, without having to haul multiple books with me everywhere. However, I am unfailingly appalled and repulsed by the Kindle most-popular list, which shows up every time I’m trying to buy a new book. Littered with shitty writing and purloined ideas, the list pretty much convinces me that Kindles are purchased primarily by embarrassingly easily entertained hausfraus. Or maybe by people who wanted to read that garbage without being caught out–no one is going to know you’re reading reheated ideas patched together for preteen girls or rehashed-so-as-not-to-invite-litigation Twillight fan fiction (are you fucking kidding me? So, this series is a bestseller, and it’s basically someone else’s story (which is a pretty badly written one to begin with) dressed in Hot Topic gear and sold to vanilla suburbanites as dangerous and sexy romance? Well done, America. Best way to maim new literature so that it doesn’t get produced and distributed: buy a shitload of twinkies. This is another topic. I can’t deal with it now, it’s infuriating. Some other time).

I don’t subscribe to the assertion that there is soul lost without the pages of the book. When I buy a book, I’m not finding its soul in the pulp and pressed tagboard. I don’t think there’s a lot of soul in the mass-produced trade paper backs, and certainly not in the mass market paperbacks. Even most hardcovers are poorly constructed things, with indifferent binding and cover designs which are extremely rarely chosen and approved of by the writer. I could understand this argument from a collector–being able to read a book on my Kindle in no way compares to the thrill and the feel and very smell of one of my very favorite possessions–but I don’t know a lot of truly voracious readers who only buy small boutique editions of books. Most books aren’t produced that way. Having said that, I still buy books themselves. I found myself wavering yesterday on buying on the Kindle the newest book in a series I’ve collected, because I kept thinking of how I have the other books on the shelf, and how much I do love them there. I bought it for the shelf.

And now it’s this weird internal conversation–do I want this for the shelf at home, to look at when I walk by, to pull out and give to other people to read, or is it something I want to read standing up on the bus? To date, I have only bought two books twice, once in each format. I am a little concerned that my book buying habit is going to become increasingly expensive, as I can’t settle on one or the other format for many of these.

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