I now have a Kindle. I freaking HATE Kindles.
I am obliged to hate them as a bookseller because they eat away at our customer base. I can’t tell you the number of people who come in with friends buyng books and clearly would have bought something except they have some sort of e-reader. And then these same people come in and talk about how sad they are that local bookshops are closing down. WELL WHY DO YOU THINK THAT MIGHT HAPPEN.
I also really really really like paper books. I grew up amongst my grandfather’s amazing library full of wonderful books that were beautiful not only for their content but for their drawings, paintings, illustrations, bindings etc. They were also aesthetically pleasing all lined up on the shelves with their different coloured and textured spines. When my grandfather moved house he had a wall of shelves purpose built and I swear I have rarely seen anything so beautiful as his collection sitting there. I always wanted to have a library just like it. Only, you know, bigger if possible.
I like physical libraries. I like how they can be not only functional but beautiful, warming up a room and saying something about yourself. My collection tells you something about who I am. My pop-up book collection tells you that I appreciate whimsy and craft. My extensive teen fiction collection says that, while I should have left the genre behind a while ago, I never will because I care about it deeply. My limited nonfiction section contains literary theory, some art books and lots of travel guides. My fiction section contains most of the contemporary books I’ve loved and entire collections of Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen. It is all entirely self explanatory. But once it’s locked up on a Kindle it all goes. People can’t come over and pull out a book they want to read. I can’t pick out something to lend to someone when I know they’ll love it. I can’t, halfway through reading, close the book around my finger and see roughly how far through it I’ve come. I can’t double check the blurb to remind myself what it says. (Actually maybe I can, I’m not down with e-reader features yet.) I can’t use cards and tickets and scraps of paper as bookmarks that become really interesting when I find them on re-reading years later.
That being said, I don’t have an objective problem with ereaders. As long as people are reading, it doesn’t really matter how. They are incredibly useful for travelling, for cost effectiveness, for the space poor. I know they’ve got new functions to use with libraroes and to ‘lend ‘ and ebook to a friend. As time goes on they will only come up with more ingenious functions for ereaders. They are the future. I HATE the future.
The reason I bought a Kindle is that I am going overseas for six months. I certainly couldn’t go for six months without books and I can’t get rid of books I love. I didn’t fancy lugging six months worth of books around with me. I didn’t want to spend six months collecting them as I went or trying to send them home. I like that I can plan my itinerary AND my reading list. But I will miss real books. I will miss reading unusual things because they were all I could find in English. I will miss putting something down at a hotel and picking up something else with someone else’s name and country in the front. I will definitely come back to real books when I come home because real books are my home.