Thursday, September 23, 2010

Warming Up to the Kindle

I'm a bibliophile. I love everything about books: the smell of their pages, the triumphant feeling of turning that last sheet of paper at the end of a good story, the escape. So when the Kindle came out, I frowned and shook my head. "Not for me," I said. "I spend 3/4 of my day staring at a computer screen. Why would I want to spend my evenings doing that, too?"

At least, I felt that way until I filled my house up with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, cramming books into hallways and stuffing them under beds. If there's one thing I like more than books, it's a decluttered house. Clutter makes me unable to think; people who keep things for sentimental reasons baffle me, since a memory is worth much more than the thing with which that memory is associated. If I have too much stuff in my home, I feel anxious and sweaty. But I wasn't about to give up reading -- so, I turned, finally, to the Kindle.

No, the Kindle doesn't have that glorious smell of old dusty pages, but let me talk about what it does have. First of all, every time it goes to sleep (it is remarkably energy efficient), it digitally weaves a new "cover," made of art, the faces of familiar authors and poets, or classic book titles. It's a constant surprise and I find it delightful. As for the "computer" screen, it isn't one. Amazon has manufactured "digital ink," which reads like a book page, doesn't promote eye strain, and doesn't have a glare. I am no more fatigued after reading from it than I am from a paper-and-ink page.

But the best part is the giant online selection of books, which I can peruse from my own home, in a big comfy chair. I recently finished Mockingjay sooner in the evening than I'd hoped, which left me without a book to read for the rest of the week. My schedule is so busy that bookstore perusal can only happen on Saturdays, if I'm very lucky. But because of the Kindle, I was able to download 3 previews of books I'm considering reading and read 20 pages of each as a trial run before committing to buy. I can spread out my trial all week long, something I don't have the luxury of doing in the hour I might have to spend in the bookstore.

I can see this wireless / 3g feature working out really well on holidays, when I visit family with space to spare only for Christmas presents and not for the 4 books I think I might be able to read in two weeks. The newest version is as thin as a comic book and twice as light; it slid into my purse without adding a bit of extra weight, making it ideal to take to the many doctor's visits I have these days.

Did I mention brand-new hardbacks are $9.99? If for no other reason -- sold.