In Defence of the Kindle

I feel compelled to write this open letter at a time when there is so much political turmoil. Mainly because this is a subject on which I have actual knowledge and don't have to base all my information on friend's Facebook statuses.

Recently I purchased my fourth Kindle. While proudly displaying it to friends I got the exact same reaction as when I got my first one several years ago. "Yeah I don't really get Kindles. I mean, I guess I just really love holding a book in my hands. You can't replace that special book smell, right?"

Firstly, yes you can replace that book smell. Simply stand near a photocopier for as long as necessary. Or, in the case of older books, stick your head into a dusty cabinet. Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate the feel and smell of a "real" book as much as the next person. Half of my income goes on books that I bought accidentally because they had pretty covers and I, like a junkie, have literally no self control. Yes I am comparing my condition to that of a drug addict. And I have no shame in admitting the hard facts.

I am a bookworm.

From early childhood up to the present day I have devoted my free time to devouring novels, biographies and articles. I made my way through all the Enid Blyton paperbacks available at the back of my primary school classroom. My greatest achievement was graduating from the child to adult library card and being able to take out 10 books at a time. Also the adult card had a cooler design on it. In secondary school my teacher had to ask my mom to get me to stop reading during History classes. In my defence, I had assumed that holding a book under the desk made it invisible. My mom insists that teachers can see everything but I am still sceptical about that claim.

But I digress. My point in travelling back through my reading history is to explain why it is so frustrating when people imply that using a Kindle is somehow a betrayal of "real" books. Books are my life! To imply otherwise is blasphemy of the worst kind.

True bookworms should love Kindles! They should worship them as some kind of literary god. They should bow down before their large storage capacity and convenient size. True bookworms don't care in what shape or form their book comes. When you are in the grips of an amazing story you're not stopping every few minutes to smell the pages. Who has the time? True bookworms have always had to deal with the following problems:

  • Trying to read in bed but having their arms get sore or tired from holding the book up.
  • Packing for a holiday and having to sacrifice clothes and toiletries to make room for books.
  • Worrying about getting stuck somewhere without any reading material so trying to cram a book into every backpack or handbag they ever leave the house with.
  • Worrying about finishing the first book in a series and not being able to start the second one straight away so trying to cram two books into their backpack or handbag.
  • Spending half their income on books because they are junkies.
  • Having to hide the cover of a book they're a little ashamed to be seen reading in public.

Well, my friends, a Kindle can solve ALL these problems and more! OK I'm starting to sound like an advertisement for Amazon, but seriously. Kindles are light and easy to hold when you're reading in bed. They fit easily into a suitcase, backpack, handbag, even pockets sometimes. You can fit thousands of titles into one device. Kindle books are way cheaper than physical books. No one can tell what you're reading unless they grab the Kindle out of your hand and then return to the title page. Do you know how many times I have been reading some kind of YA Vampire series and told people it was a political autobiography? At least 12. That number represents both the amount of times I have lied and probably the amount of different YA Vampire series I have read. 

Another trip down memory lane. We used to travel from Dublin up to Donegal every summer to stay in our holiday home and visit relatives. We each got one bag and my biggest struggle was making space for anything besides books in that bag. There wasn't a lot to do in the countryside so I knew I'd get through a fair few stories. Now those troubles are behind me. 

Confession time. I am on my fourth Kindle because those beautiful little jems aren't completely indestructible or infallible. Kindle no. 1 came with me to Spain when I became an au pair. We had some wonderful times on the sunny beaches of A Coruna until there was a tragic accident involving my knee and the plastic screen. Yikes. For the rest of my time in Espana I tried to read Alice in Wonderland in Spanish. Here's a tip, don't pick a story with loads of made-up words and antiquated English to read in a language which you can barely speak. Kindle no. 2 got lost or stolen. Kindle no. 3 was second-hand with barely any battery power. Kindle no. 4 is here for the long haul. I can feel it.

In conclusion, the kind of people who can't appreciate the Kindle are the kind of people who don't read that much. Or they're more interested in being seen holding a book than actually absorbing its contents. Having a book in your hand does not make you a true bookworm. Hating the Kindle does not make you some kind of literary hero fighting the forces of modernism that are ruining our traditions. It just makes you an idiot.

PS: How do people feel about the concept of dog-eared book pages? I'm still conflicted.