I bought my wife a Kindle for Christmas, she loved it, read books, blogs and newspapers, loaded it up for our holiday, carried it in hand luggage while I packed the usual small library of paperbacks to see me through the fortnight.
The following year, in advance of a forced convalescence, where I just about allowed to make my way to the settee and watch daytime television and nothing more strenuous, she reciprocated, and on my birthday I came into possession of my own Kindle. I was dubious, but charged the battery and set up an account.
I downloaded a lot of classics for free and, courtesy of a couple of vouchers, bought a number of books, and with my sceptical head on I settled down to recuperate for two or three weeks with the best that Amazon could offer.
I love books, particularly paperbacks, if the book is over 40 years old, the fact that it has survived at all it worth £1.50; I’ve bought old Penguins just because they are old. The Kindle hasn’t changed that, what it has changed is what and how much I read, I still read old books, but now I download them, I’ve just finished Pyle’s Robin Hood, something I haven’t read before and recently reread Robinson Crusoe and neither cost me a penny.
Coming up to my one year Kindle anniversary, I have bought more books in that year then than in the previous ten, that’s new not second-hand books and that, to me, is the biggest problem with e-readers; sharing and lending books is difficult if not impossible. Second-hand bookshops have suffered from my absence.
I had a conversation on Twitter with someone who hated Kindle, and felt I had to defend it even if I didn’t really feel that passionate about it, but his argument that the integrity of, say, Dickens was compromised by the sub-standard reproduction was flawed. You can’t blame the medium for the poor quality of the media, I find spelling mistakes in new paperbacks. Over the year, I’ve had discussions with different people about Kindle. Some are luddites, which is fair enough, however, my point is that if people are reading, that is important, not the technology, I’m sure there were people who looked down on paperbacks and would only read red leather-bound hardbacks, believe me Mishima is as wonderful a read on the Kindle as in paper or hardback. Others have voiced the same concerns as I had had, books are beautiful, look good on shelves, are tactile, you can make notes, flick backwards and forwards etc etc. Apart from the bookshelf argument, all are true of the Kindle also.
The downsides: some, if not most, of the cheap/free versions have mistakes or scanning errors; you have to deal with the monolithic Amazon; and people presuming that you’re reading Fifty Shades when actually it’s Decay of an Angel. Upsides: a library to hand; a more varied literary diet; discover and re-discover authors outside your comfort zone; and it is easier to find a book on impulse, for instance, I downloaded Captain Scott’s diaries after watching a documentary.
E-readers haven’t killed off the printed word and I don’t believe that they ever will, another Wayne Rooney autobiography might, but ‘king Kindle offers another option to read the classics of the past, the present and the future.