It’s true – I adore my kindle, and this adoration has come as a complete, and not altogether welcome, surprise. I resisted the temptation…for years, I resisted. I love books, and the thought of an e-reading device was completely alien to my idea of reading.
Then a friend bought me a kindle (I suspect because I had been moaning about them for years and she wanted to see what would happen). At first I couldn’t understand how it could be a ‘proper book’ when I couldn’t see the cover properly (my kindle is too old to show nice covers in colour). When I first read it I felt claustrophobic because there were no page numbers. How on earth could I work out where I was? What did 16% of the way through a book mean? I dreaded losing my place, couldn’t look back easily to check on names of characters or what they had done and couldn’t get any proper sense of how much book was left.
Two things happened which began to change my mind. The first was awful – I lost my place by pressing the wrong button. I tried to go to ‘last page read’ but it wouldn’t work. In a rising panic I worked out that I could recall an unusual word I had just read and so I could use the ‘find’ function to get back to my page. It wasn’t a perfect way to do it, but it did allay some of my fears.
The second was delightful – I ran out of book. Some of you bookworms will know this feeling. You are engrossed in a good read and as you come to the end of it and you need the next book lined up ready to get you over the loss of the one that is about to finish. This is usually no problem, except that it happened to me when I was staying in a hotel in Barrow-in-Furness, at midnight. Ping! I turned on the 3G and bought a book. A moment later I was happily reassured that all was well – I had the next book to read. Of course the flood of relief this caused was soporific and I fell fast asleep, so the whole exercise was a bit pointless, but it was good nevertheless.
Since then, whenever I can, I have read books on my kindle. So now, several years a kindle lover, I have to admit that I am committed to my kindle and I have to wonder why. I love the Barbie pink cover – it makes me smile when I notice it peeping out from under a cushion. I love the ability to change font size, which eliminates the risk of reading glasses falling off my nose as I fall asleep and being crushed under my ear (yes, this really did happen). I love the cloud on which my books sit (despite the fact that I was too scared to put any books on there for months in case they were somehow lost or Amazon stole them back).
I miss things too, though. The feel of a book in my hand, the pristine look of the unread pages in a new book, the worn feel of a much loved book passed down from a parent, the intoxicating smell of a book. How I miss that smell. I have to confess now to a guilty secret. A couple of years ago I moved house and packed up all of my books (hundreds and hundreds of them) and they are still all there, in boxes, waiting for me to decide what to do with them. Sometimes, when I miss them too much, I open up a random box. I breathe in the unmistakable book smell and glance through them. Happy memories restored, I shut them away again.
So there are reasons to love my books and reasons to love my kindle, but what clinches the deal for me whenever I look at my old books, is the number of bookmarks resting in pages where I fully intended to look up an interesting or unusual word, and never quite got around to it. With the kindle the cursor lets me do this instantly: not only to look up new words, but also to check on the precise meaning and derivation of a more familiar word. It even warns me about confusables, so that never again will I use the word ‘quarrel’ when really I meant ‘squabble’ (that is one of last night’s look-ups).
I never knew how many words I didn’t quite know how to use, or I didn’t know at all, and my kindle opens up a whole new set of words each time I read (which does rather ruin the flow of reading but never mind). I am left with the feeling that many students experience when they are trying to craft their essays, carefully using the best word for the job, or when they are scanning the lines of a play or poem to glean some meaning…there are just so many words!