Like many an old-fashioned bibliophile, I resisted the dawn of the e-book age when it was ushered in by Amazon’s ubiquitous Kindle e-book reader. I clung stubbornly to my bookshelf and vowed that I would never trade the pleasure of reading a paperback novel for the compact convenience of its digital counterpart. Well that pretty much changed when my mom surprised me with my own Kindle 4 last week. She didn’t buy it for me or anything. Like the two incarnations of the iPhone that I’ve owned, this was a gadget that didn’t quite suit her needs, and figured that I would get more out of it than she ever would.
I didn’t expect myself to welcome my first e-book reader with delight and excitement, but squeal happily I did when the Kindle’s black box was handed to me. I figured, I won’t have the luxury of shelf space when I move into my tiny shoebox, so might as well get with the times and go digital with my books rather than give up reading things that aren’t Longreads or Cracked articles. From what I’ve heard from Anne, the only one of my friends to have ever used a Kindle, it’s actually a pretty cool device – a sleek and light thing that tries to replicate the physical book reading experience as much as it can. I eagerly unboxed my Kindle and plugged it into the nearest USB slot to charge. Within ten minutes, I was already downloading my first e-book.
Owning a Kindle is such a revelation. I feel like a caveman who just discovered fire and finally understands why it’s much better at keeping warm or cooking food than an animal hide or a slab of rock positioned carefully under the noontime sun. I’m not saying that the Kindle experience is necessarily superior to browsing through bookshelves and keeping a paperback in your purse. But aside from the obvious convenience of space and portability, it does have a lot of perks that I’ve never really considered before.
For one thing, I no longer have to feel like a douchebag for telling friends, “No, I cannot lend you this book because we are both busy and forgetful adults who can’t be bothered to do simple things like return books to friends, or remember to ask friends to return your books.” There is no lending Kindle books to people, unless you lend the device itself, and there’s no way in hell I’m letting anyone have free reign over it for more than five minutes.
One of the things that delighted and scared me about the Kindle was how easy it is to purchase e-books. Just hit the Buy button, and it downloads into your library faster than it takes for you to line up at a cashier and walk away with your purchase. There’s no prompt for your credit card information or anything. It doesn’t even bother asking, “Are you sure? Are you ABSOLUTELY sure?” This is pretty dangerous when you consider my compulsive shopping habit and the fact that most e-books are priced under $10, a negligable amount that can easily add up. It’s a good thing I just discovered the free public domain classics in the Kindle Store, which takes care of my compulsion to collect without putting me deep into credit card debt. I finally have The Picture of Dorian Gray, which I’ve been meaning to read for ages.
More than the convenience and savings afforded by the Kindle, I also enjoy the satisfaction of being able to bypass this country’s conservative selection of titles without having to go abroad or pay hefty taxes to customs officials for online deliveries. I mean, can you imagine a novel called Satan Loves You being sold in hyper-Catholic Manila? I don’t think so. Not without sanctimonious parents getting their panties in a bunch and rallying to start an MTRCB for books, anyway.
Then finally, there is the device itself, a sleek and beautiful black thing no thicker than a pencil. I honestly think that the most low-end Kindle (which I own) is superior to any other e-book reader out there. Okay fine, I’ve only seen what a Nook can do, but I wouldn’t trade the Kindle’s design and features for the conveniences of any other reader. It’s so light and thin (6 ounces!) that I can slip it comfortably into my smallest purse, and I won’t even feel that it’s there. Now I’ll never be grumpy while waiting in line or for people to show up. With an entire library in this thing, I probably won’t notice how late you are.
The matte screen is a thing of beauty, displaying words as crisply as if it were printed on a sheet of paper. It has absolutely no glare, not even under the sun. The lack of a backlight was a little off-putting at first (I mean, what gadget made after 1998 does not have a backlight?) but I soon grew to appreciate how respectful it is of my circadian rhythm. There’s no white glare shining at my eyes and keeping me up longer than I should; just the yellow glow of a bedside lamp that I can easily turn off when my e-book lulls me to sleep.
Unlike today’s multi-tasking gadgets, the Kindle is designed with one purpose in mind: to make e-book reading (and fine, shopping) as pleasurable as possible. It is not a tablet. It is not a portable music device. You cannot use it to take photos of your lunch or videos of the concert you paid expensive tickets for. To many people, that might sound like a deal breaker, but I love its total lack of features and hostility towards superfluous third party apps. Nothing on this device will distract you from reading whatever you’re reading now, save perhaps the desire to check out what’s new on the Kindle store and buy more, more, more e-books! In an age where people only want a blank touchscreen to play Angry Birds on, the Kindle is a gadget that is least likely to get stolen.
I think my only complaint about the Kindle – at least, the model that I own now – is how difficult it is to use the virtual keyboard. The annotation feature is absolutely brilliant, but the five-pad navigation system takes me so long to type a word out, I’d forget what I wanted to annotate by the time I hit the space bar. I now realize that a Kindle with a dedicated keyboard exists, which I may consider buying in the future. But clunky as my Kindle 4 is, I’m still quite in love with it, and I hope it takes years before I find the need to replace it with a newer model.
So there you have it: the many reasons why I did a 180 on e-books and learned to love them through the Kindle. I am aware that there are many experiences the Kindle can’t capture – the quiet pleasure of browsing through a non-chain bookstore, the smell of fresh ink on paper, the visual overload from colorful comics panels, the pleasure of seeing my wall-sized bookshelf fill up with new titles. But while space forces me to limit my physical book collection to favorite titles, the Kindle saves me from descending into illiteracy altogether.Google+