How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Kindle

If you would have told me two years ago that I’d be a Kindle owner, I’d probably have laughed.

My initial distaste didn’t stem from dead-tree Luddism (although I have been accused of such several times). I was reading e-books on my Palm Zire long before the Kindle came around. I was turned off by screen glare, by clueless pricing schemes, and by idiotic DRM (one online e-book vendor, who shall remain nameless, required you to use your credit card number as your account password — and when your card expired, so did your books. Yeah, that’s a sure-fire path to customer loyalty). By the time the Kindle was released, I felt like I’d already tried e-books on for size and found little appeal.

I also had the misfortune of running into some true Kindle zealots, who, in their enthusiasm for the device, could not wait to tell me what a naive dumbass I was for not taking all my paper books out back and burning them at once. Paper is over. Soon, you won’t have a choice. You’re killing the earth because paper requires cutting down a bunch of trees (not at all like clean, renewable plastic). You say you like cover art, the feel and smell of books? Well, you’re stupid. Aesthetics have no place in the reading experience.

This isn’t humorous hyperbole. People actually said these things. Okay, not the book-burning thing. But people assured me that my preference for paper books was motivated by sheer delusion and a failure to understand just how amazing e-books were.

Even though it shouldn’t have, I let these attitudes bother me, and so I avoided looking into the Kindle because 1) I didn’t want to become one of Those Guys, and 2) I feared having to eat a bit of crow if I got myself a Kindle and ended up enjoying it.

I’m sure you can guess how that ended up. Crow is very tasty and I think it gets a bad rap.

Two things motivated my decision to finally pick up a Kindle. First, the price point. $150 to $200 for an e-reader was, and is, out of my price range. $79 is a lot more affordable, and I’ve built up enough ad-blindness over the years that the “special offers” don’t bother me (although I will be glad when the goddamn Twilight movie leaves theaters, so commercials for it will stop showing up on my reader).

Second, it turned out there were a lot of indie books I wanted to check out which were only available in mobile format. Generally, I can’t read entire novels, or even short stories, directly off a computer screen. Even long blog posts start giving me trouble. My attention span shortens when I’m in front of a web browser, and the longer something is, the greater the chance I’ll abandon it. Over the past month or so, I’ve met a lot of writers, and if I wanted to check out their work, the e-book format was the only viable option.

So I bought one. I like it a lot. I won’t go into technical details here, because I’m sure you can get a better rundown elsewhere. But I will say this. The screen is easy to read, not at all like the glare of a monitor. Navigation is intuitive — I didn’t even read the manual until several hours in. Buying books is ridiculously easy (too easy, in fact, for an impulsive fool like myself). The ability to instantly look up words in the built-in dictionary is awesome.

I loaded my Kindle up with free classics, a handful of indies, and raided the Baen Free Library. I’ve got books until next year, most likely, and that’s assuming I don’t acquire any more books, which of course I will.

Although I do like my Kindle — a lot, actually — there’s no danger of it seducing me away from paper books. I’m still too much of a sucker for gorgeous cover art. I still get a comforting rush from the smell of paper. Practical or not, those things are of value to me, and I won’t apologize for them or give them up as long as I have a choice.

The pricing schemes are still working themselves out — there’s no way I’m going to pay hardback price for an e-book, for example, regardless of how justified the publishers might think it is.

It’s not perfect, but the Kindle is a big leap forward in e-books, and I’m glad I finally realized that.

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