Kindle: Friend or Foe?

Books 1 Kindle 0

Whilst perusing the internet and procrastinating this week I came across an article in the Telegraph explaining why young men don’t read novels anymore and it got me thinking about the decrease in actual book sales. It was my housemate’s birthday last weekend, and as a present from her parents she received a Kindle. This brought the total in our house to 4 – more than half. Incidentally, I don’t own a Kindle and have sort of been part of the ‘they’re-ruining-books’ movement. (Until Amazon recently dropped their price of their basic Kindle and I was tempted for a minute. Shallow, I know.)

I like owning an actual book. I like that moment when you’ve reached the point when the spine breaks and you feel like you’ve achieved something. I like the temptation of being able to flick to the final page and read the last word to predict the ending. And although I’ve never owned or read a book on a Kindle (therefore making my views biased) I just don’t think it will feel the same on a screen.

I can understand they have their advantages, i.e. being able to carry thousands of books on one device, being able to own a new book at the push of a button. They’re also good for reading in bed or on a train. You can’t ruin a Kindle by getting it wet (oh wait…). From speaking to my housemates they seem to love their Kindles, and are always reading on them. Apart from one, who appears to only use it to play games, but we all have a slight suspicion he’s incapable of reading anyway. But I just don’t think I could bring myself to abandon the written word. I think my opposition may stem from how digitalised and sterile a Kindle makes reading. I don’t need to know my reading speed or the percentage I am through a book. Reading is about enjoyment and the thrill of a new book, not attempting to improve your reading speed and bringing everything down to statistics (stupid comment for Maths student, but on this occasion my opinion still holds).

As Kindles and other eReaders take the world by storm, it’s difficult to imagine how they won’t replace books at some point in the future, and as the books available on them are even cheaper than a real book, this only fuels the fire (no pun intended). However, an eReader has its drawbacks, and until these are resolved I don’t think bookshops should be boarding up their windows any time soon. A book will never run out of battery, unless you buy a really bad book. But, judging by the amount of charging my friends have to do, a Kindle Fire spends more time plugged into the wall than being used to read a book. You can’t lend a book to your friend if you only own it on your Kindle, unless you have very trustworthy friends who you would happily give your Kindle to. Similarly, there appears to be a relationship between the progression of technology and the reliability of said technology; if you lose an actual book you know there’s a pretty high chance you’ll be able to find it, but if you lose your online account to buy books, you’ve lost your books. I don’t think I need to point out how bad this would be.

And finally, I’ve always adored the romanticism attached to owning your own library complete with bookshelves adorned with forgotten titles and reread treasures; this somehow doesn’t compare to scrolling through a Kindle’s book list. I think that’s why I got so infuriated by Amazon’s recent Kindle advertisement with the children sat underneath trees or lying on their beds reading a Kindle instead of a book. Yes, if it encourages children who wouldn’t normally read to read then I’m all for that. But the image just appears to be wrong. My childhood was immensely improved by lugging books around and piling them high to keep me entertained on a rainy afternoon. You can’t pile a Kindle up, unless you have very rich parents, and it saddens me that activities like reading an actual book will be resigned to the history books, which will be read on eReaders. I hope some people share my views. I’d hate the definition of libraries to evolve into online storage facilities instead of the safe havens I spent my childhood sat in, discovering new worlds from the comfort of my bean bag.

In case you couldn’t tell by this and my previous article on children’s reading habits, I like reading a lot!

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