Friday, March 25, 2011

The Impact of my Kindle on my Book Buying Habit

I bought a Kindle a couple of months ago. Part of my thinking was that I would read newspapers and magazines on it, and that would save paper, solve storage issues, etc. That's worked nicely, although I dropped my NYT subscription after the trial period because I didn't want to pay $19.95 a month. I'm thrilled with the New Yorker for Kindle, not least because it arrives on my Kindle at the earliest possible moment--the Monday one week BEFORE its cover date.

But I also Kindled up because I have too many books (a huge antilibrary) and had run out of room. I knew I wouldn't limit my book-buying solely to electronic books--among other things, there are many books that appeal to me that aren't on Kindle yet--but if there was something I wanted to read immediately I could get it right away and not worry about shelf space.

Except, for the most part, I haven't bought a lot of Kindle books. I've downloaded lots of free books. And I've bought a couple. I got one the other day by a friend because I was keen to get it, even though I know it will be a little while before I read it (simply because I have some book review deadlines). Price is a factor. One friend's book came out recently in original trade paper. Amazon sells the physical book for under $9 (a 40% discount off the cover price) but the Kindle price is $9.99. I simply don't understand that. So I haven't bought the book yet, I'm sorry to say, and I'm not sure I will until I'm absolutely ready to read it.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. I have all my life collected books. I like owning them. I like their potential. But I also like looking at them and knowing they are physically there. Since the house is full of them, I don't need any more books to feed that acquisitiveness, but hoarding books on the Kindle isn't going to give me the same satisfaction. Yes, I'm downloading free classics, but that's in part so I can box up the hard copies on my shelves. I'm no longer the book slut I was.

Unless they're free. I recently moderated two panels at the Virginia Festival of the Book. The actual moderation during the session was fun and easy, but one is supposed to prepare, and I was given a stack of books to read. I did (um, mostly; didn't make it all the way through one of them). And now I have to find some place to put all those books!

Too bad they didn't give me the Kindle editions . . .

By the way, one of the books on my Kindle is my own, and I have to say it looks great, and it's a bargain at $3.99. You can buy it here: In an Uncharted Country on Kindle. Just sayin'.


zinkenter said...

Hello, Clifford! I have some stupid questions about Kindle - what happens if you lose your Kindle? Or it breaks (do they break easily)? Or you want to get a new improved version? Do you pay extra for an ISP type thing to connect and download, or have to use an existing WiFi connection? Which by the way I do not have.

So many ads show people in all kinds of places with Kindles - and I have never seen a live person reading one! Or a dead person, but that would just be strange. I would love to reduce my book volume without reducing books. I did not think I would like iTunes but turns out I love it so maybe Kindle will work, but I do not want to lose all those books because I drop the dang thing!

Clifford Garstang said...

I haven't heard of them breaking, but all the same I protected my investment with a separate extended warranty.

But I guess you're really wondering what happens to your Kindle books if your device breaks, and that's easier. Your books are stored for you so you can access them anywhere--from a PC, from your iPod or iPhone or iPad, or from a new Kindle if you get one.

You can download from a computer using a USB port, or you can download wirelessly either by WiFi or 3G wireless. (There are 2 models; the cheaper one only has WiFi and not 3G.)

Anyway, I like it, I think it's a cool gadget, but I can't say that I love it.

Marc Gerstein said...

"but hoarding books on the Kindle isn't going to give me the same satisfaction"

Actually, hoarding books on the Kindle has given me a heck of a lot more satisfaction.

I have to admit there is a great sensory experience in constantly seeing a collection of regular books. So moving to Kindle, does, definitely, require an adjustment. But then, this isn't the first such adjustment book lovers have had to make. We got beyond the Medieval manuscripts with beautiful calligraphy and elaborate ornamentation and beyond the 19th century type illustrated texts, and beyond ornately bound hardcovers . . . reading has evolved and continues to evolve. That's life.

So yes, we are losing things, mainly relating to look and feel, which has been getting progressively less ornate and more practical. Kindle is a big jump in this direction.

But because Kindles is so incredibly practical, I find it opening a whole new dimension to my hoarding.

Now, old books don't just sit on my shelves. I find myself constantly going back to them and re-reading passages even when I don't have the time to dive in fully. One day, I'll jump in somewhere in a Fitzgerald novel just to re-experience his use of language. The next time, I might dive into a section of War & Peace. As I read through the post-Han Chinese epic "Romance of the Three kingdoms," I constantly found myself adding a few more clicks to go to parallel areas of The Illiad to compare Homer's treatment of such topics.

And by the way, being in my late 50s with vision having slid a bit over the years, I find it much easier, physically, to read Kindle than the old books.

So for me, the hoarding experience is definitely not what it was. Something is gone in terms of the sensory experience of the old books. But I gained a lot in practicality leading to a transition from what I'll call passive hoarding to active hoarding.