Monday, March 23, 2015

Converting to Kindle? Not Quite.

It was with no small reluctance that Claire and I entered the Kindle age a few years ago.

However, we did so because Kindle gave us access to so many books we either couldn’t afford or that we couldn’t get at all because they were out of print. Now, through Kindle's own catalog and by converting works to the device that are available through public domain sites, we have acquired an amazing collection that otherwise would have beyond our reach

Examples? How about buying over 50 works of H.G. Wells for $2.99? Or 23 Zane Grey novels for $1.99? Or the entire works of Robert Louis Stevenson and William Shakespeare for 99 cents? And there’s a whole lot more besides those. Indeed, our Kindles (we have two of them now) contain the texts of hundreds of books. That’s more than thrifty. It's magically handy too.

Having a Kindle means that you can check out certain books from the library too... even if it’s midnight and you’re sitting snugly in your bedroom. Also, copying a lengthy passage from an actual book takes forever but using a Kindle, one can do it in a matter of seconds. You then have a typed copy ready to upload, e-mail, or store away.  All of these things make Claire and I unapologetic Kindle users.

Well, to a degree.

I must be honest.  Claire has adjusted to the little screen very well. But I have not.   Indeed, for me, reading an electronic text is still uncomfortable and I doubt that it will ever compare with the familiarity, the focus, and the sheer joy that I find in reading an actual book.  A book I can hold.  A book that has pages I can physically turn.  A book that allows me to keep my place with a toothpick. A book that has bulk, texture, color, and sometimes user history.

Indeed, sometimes the user history of a book adds wonderful character to my reading experience. I recently finished A.E.W. Mason’s stirring novel, Fire Over England. It is a novel originally published in 1936 but set in Queen Elizabeth’s England just before the campaign of the Spanish Armada. As such, the parallel themes of a free nation being threatened by a sinister and superior enemy (as England was in 1586 by Spain and in the mid-20th Century by Nazi Germany) are striking.  Particularly when the very book you’re holding was printed in England in 1942 and has a handwritten inscription on the flyleaf which reads, “To Jean with all my love, October 10th, 1942.”

Imagining Jean reading this heroic and hopeful story while the bombs fell upon England certainly added to the power of my experience reading the book (the very same book) 73 years later.

That kind of thing doesn’t happen with a Kindle text.

So, have we converted to Kindle?  There are, as I stated above, many practical advantages and we are truly grateful for the technology, availability, ease, and savings the Kindle brings.

But a thorough conversion? No. We love books, both for what they contain and for what they are, too much.