Reading on a Kindle
Amazon.com’s Kindle has revolutionized the way people read. Oh sure, there’s the Sony e-reader, or the Barnes and Noble Nook, and even the iPad’s app for that, but none have come close to the sales and marketing power behind Amazon and the Kindle.
But I’m not here to do a marketing spiel – I actually, as you know, care about the act of reading.
Kindles and e-readers in general have a lot of possibilities. There are search functions; one can attach a dictionary to look up words as he reads; the text goes bigger and smaller; the physical reader is lightweight and easy to carry, and books can be downloaded in a nanosecond!
But, I’m not concerned with the physical aspects of reading either; I want to talk about the ways in which humans make meaning out of what they read.
There’s surprisingly little research on it, from what I’ve found. I’ve read a number of things on my kindle. I’ve read a great book on motherhood, called Bad Mommy by Ayelet Wadlman and laughed out loud on the airplane. I read the New Yorker Magazine on it since the Kindle subscription, at $4 per month, is significantly less than the physical subscription – and wastes less paper to boot. I read the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Tinkers on it and I read the classic D.H. Lawrence book Sons and Lovers. (Many classics have completed their copyrights and are free on Kindle now…) But I can’t get past one fundamental, problem. The screen somehow impedes my ability to make the movie in my mind.
I am assuming here that the screen is the problem. It could be the device itself and having to press “next” to turn the page instead of just turning it. It could be the fact that I can’t go back to re-read something as easily or that I don’t have a proper book cover, or I have no pages numbers – just a silly percentage representing how much of the book I’ve finished so far.
I feel like my brain has trouble converting the words onto the screen into feelings in my heart. Writing is less evocative for me. Words don’t have their full impact.
One successful novelist I know buys a physical book if she loves a story on her Kindle. She then dives into the book to further her pleasure of the ideas contained therein. I might have to agree.
I’m just spouting ideas out here, and would love the opinions of others. I also need to do some hard research before I make my final word. For now, the convenience of a Kindle – not having to buy and carry actual books – outweighs the drawbacks. I may have to work harder to “see” the characters and feel what they feel, but I can do that in the name of ease.
Please let me know what you think.
I have to admit, I do not own an e-reader, I’ve never tried an e-reader or an ipad. I’ve been very resistant to it – there’s just something about an actual book with pages that I think I will truly miss if was reading on a kindle. Sure, the convenience makes me think twice every once in a while – especially when I’m on the bus and finish a book with 40 miles left to go – but there’s still something stopping me from taking the plunge. I just like paper, I guess.
I agree! I love the convenience, especially living overseas. But I feel that I miss out on a certain emotional connection to the book. I love the screen on the Kindle and I know it is supposed to be easy on the eyes, in contrast to an IPad. For me, I think I miss looking at the cover every time I start to read. And I miss being able to see the length of a book and, in particular, of a chapter. I can’t put what I am reading in the context of where it falls within a chapter or the entire book. That takes away from the experience for me. I’m rambling here…..:-)
I love the idea of Kindle as a ‘Go Green’ concept too. But I don’t like the fact that you pay for the book, but you don’t actually own it. That bothers me….
As much reading of blogs and whatnot that I do on the Droid, I don’t think I would mind reading a book on a screen though.
There’s nothing unique about paper or a physical book that is making you feel that way, it is because you aren’t used to the new technology. Printed books have been around so long that the experience of using the technology has become ingrained in our experience of the book itself.
Because paper books are such old technology and the physical object often holds so much emotional power for people (I don’t think anyone ever felt the way about their rotary phone as they sometimes do about copies of books), it’s naturally much harder to get used to a new technology.
But people always have these types of issues when dealing with new technology, even when making much smaller leaps. I’ve noticed this since I’ve been working in developing information systems. People always hate their old information system — until you build them a new and better one. Then all of sudden they don’t want to change because “it just isn’t the same.” I believe that most people in our generation who are willing to put in the time investment in a new, better technology (which I believe ebooks are, or will soon be) will eventually find it becomes as natural — or more natural –to them than the old technology.
But then again, there are still hipsters who only buy music on vinyl and rant that digital music “just isn’t the same,” so I suppose there will always be those who feel the same way about paper books!
I really appreciate you taking the time to read the post and comment on it. I disagree that reading is reading, however. I think there are a lot of things that go into the experience of reading that have to do with the way humans make meaning out of the written word. I love my Kindle and will not give it up, but it’s not exactly the same. But I am trying to think of it as different without assigning a value judgment – better or worse. Just different. I love technology and this is just another step!
I tend to agree with Jen – I think a lot of the strangeness with reading an electronic version of a book is related to it not being what we are used to. I’ve been reading ebooks for many years (8 or so) and don’t find the experience awkward at all. Also, maybe it is because my eyes are getting old, but I find the ability to change the font size to be wonderful.
On the other hand, if I am reading a book that is more than just a casual read (the kind in which I would normally highlight sections, write in the margins, and/or dog ear pages for easy navigation), paper books are better.
Brian, thanks so much for your comment and for reading. I don’t consider myself a technophobe in any way, but with this I am reticent. I keep telling myself that it’s different, and I try not to put a value judgment on it – better or worse. It’s just different! Of course the convenience factor far outweighs any argument – I love not schlepping books on trips!!
There are quite a lot of free books, and many Kindle books, magazines and newspapers are cheaper than the actual paper version. And below are the millions of free books and full list of bestselling books for the Kindle, that you can check from time to time: