“In a Relationship” with my Kindle
9 Reasons I Love My Kindle
I was green with envy when I learned one of my A9/Amazon colleagues had been an early beta tester for the Kindle. How cool was that — to be one of the first users of a product that would ultimately change the reading experience and disrupt the existing balance of power between publishers and authors?
And yet, I didn’t buy the first Kindle. I wanted to — and yet I didn’t. I rationalized my choice in so many ways: I wanted to support my local independent bookstore; I wanted to support the public library; I wanted to be able to loan books to my Dad or my sister after I finished them (something the first Kindle didn’t yet support); I loved the way a new hardcover book smelled and I loved the heft of a book in my hands. Silly younger me.
Fast forward to 2016, today… and I love my Kindle Paperwhite.
1. Super-convenient, anywhere, anytime access to books & stories
With my Kindle, I can buy a book at 4 o’clock in the morning and dive deep into a story right away. For someone who loves to read but is busy juggling teenagers and work and family, well, the convenience of a midnight purchase is pretty damn awesome.
And that immediate middle-of-the-night gratification just wasn’t possible before Kindle.
Before Kindle, I had to plan ahead to get my mystery novel fix: I either had to go to the library during business hours — or make it to a bookstore when it was open. Which meant I had to know what the business hours were. And usually I was at work during business hours, or ferrying the children from school or swim team or playdates.
When I did make it to the library, I would end up checking out a huge stack of books. Because who knew when I would make it back!
Picture me checking out 15 or 20 books at a time. Most of the books were new and hardcover — and heavy. Getting to my car wasn’t always graceful: there I was, balancing a precarious stack of books against my chest and trying to fish my car keys out of my purse and hold my daughter’s hand on the crosswalk so she didn’t run in front of an oncoming car. I’m surprised I didn’t drop the books more often.
The convenience of buying books on Kindle — in a form that is portable and light — at any time of day or night — makes it so much easier for me to indulge my love of reading. And I’m not the only one. Stephen O’Grady of Redmonk said it well when he wrote about how he remembers books:
“My problem isn’t that I don’t love books. It’s that convenience kills.”
2. I love stories — but I don’t love the clutter of books
As much as I love the beauty of the world’s public libraries and all the knowledge these institutions have preserved for so many centuries — I don’t like clutter.
Once I brought library books home, they would clutter my nightstand — which was already cluttered. When my nightstand filled up, the clutter would migrate to my desk, and to the antique chest in my bedroom, and to the living room. On more than a few mornings, I would knock over the piles of books on my nightstand as I groggily searched for the “off” switch on the alarm. Ugh.
It’s like the books were rabbits — they were propagating all on their own!
When I was 24 and had just the right number of books in my Palo Alto apartment to project an image of being well-read, it was cool. But eventually I passed that threshold and moved from ‘cool’ to ‘pack rat.’
And for the majority of fiction that I like to read, it’s a “one and done” kind of experience: I am never going to read those books again.
To try to manage the clutter, once a year I would go around the house and bag up books I had purchased at bookstores to donate to charity. Problem solved, right? And yet, it was just one more weekend chore to do when I’d rather be spending time with my husband and children. (Or reading a book!)
3. With Kindle’s help, I said goodbye to overdue fines
Perhaps the most annoying problem with library books were the overdue fines!
Even with the ability to renew books on the library’s website, sometimes I would get busy. And I would forget to return (or renew) the books on time.
One time I had $120 in overdue fines.
With my Kindle, I’m sure I spend that much on books, but I don’t feel like I’m wasting my money when I spend it on a book.
Whereas paying overdue fines just made me feel stupid.
4. Bigger font sizes that are “easy on the eyes”
Another benefit of the Kindle that I didn’t expect to appreciate as much as I do: the font sizes.
When I was a teenager in New Hampshire, I read every book ever written by a bestselling romance author born 100 years before me. The plots were formulaic and predictable — the situations were old-fashioned — but the characters pulled me in. Unfortunately, some of her books were only available in “large print” versions. (Hmmmmm, I wonder what that says about her target demographic?)
I read the large print versions anyway.
And my teenage self wondered: do people in their 50s and 60s really need such large print?
Little did I know then: even people in their late 30s and early 40s (especially those who spend a lot of time working on computers) can really appreciate a larger font size.
5. The backlight means I no longer annoy my husband at night
Before Kindle, reading in bed late at night meant my husband had to put up with the annoying light from my bedside lamp. He would hide under the pillow. But now, with the backlight on my Kindle Paperwhite (which I can brighten and dim as needed), the bedside lamp is off and the light from my reading no longer intrudes on his sleep when I say “just one more chapter, I promise!”
6. Look Mom: I can read one-handed!
We turn the heat down to 55 degrees at night and it can get chilly. I had no idea how much I would like the fact that I can read one-handed, while my other hand stays warm under the covers. And I can switch back & forth when the other hand gets too cold.
7. Business travel perk: downloading a new book right before takeoff
In the last few years, I have traveled a lot on business, easily logging 75K or 100K miles a year. The good news is that I do some of my best work at 30,000 feet (and in the shower, and on walks…. but that’s another story.)
But sometimes I’ll board the plane after a long business trip and my brain will be fried. At the last minute, I’ll decide to give myself a break.
In the past, the only option would be to sleep or watch whatever movie the airline provided. But now — in less than 30 seconds — I can hotspot my phone, hook my Kindle to wifi, find a book of my choice on Amazon, and surreptitiously buy it while the flight staff repeat the mantra: “All small handheld devices must be in airplane mode.” Sweet.
8. Kindle editions of books cost less
And the cherry on top: Kindle e-books generally cost less than hardcover or paperback books. As a consumer, I like that. It’s an easy decision to buy an e-book priced at $1.99 or even $4.99 that is the next in the series that I’m reading. Even just-published novels from bestselling authors like J.A. Jance price $21 for the new hardcover and only $12.99 for the Kindle edition. I’ll buy the Kindle edition anyday.
Do I spend less money on books because these Kindle versions are priced lower than their physical cousins? Probably not. I buy more books overall, so I spend more. But that’s OK — because I’m getting more enjoyment out of discovering new authors (affordably!) and reading more books.
9. Democratizing the publishing industry — making it easier than ever for authors to publish
Years ago, J.J. Abrams gave an inspiring TED talk about storytelling called “the mystery box.” In his attempt to be profound (apparently that’s what the conference organizers asked him to do) he covered all sorts of ground, from the influence of his grandfather — to a magic store in NYC — to his favorite scene in Jaws.
My favorite part was when he talked about how today’s computing and special effects technology has democratized the film industry, and he encouraged aspiring filmmakers to: “Go make your movie! There’s nothing stopping you!”
J.J. Abrams took it one step further when explaining why the democratization of film is such a good thing:
“No community is best served when only the elite have control.” –J. J. Abrams
As much as I love the convenience of my Kindle and all the ways it has made stories more accessible to me personally:
What I love most about Kindle, and Amazon, and Kindle Direct Publishing, and e-books more generally: they have conspired together to democratize the book publishing industry.
Before Kindle, so many writers and stories had been blocked by an elite set of gatekeepers who were the arbiter of good taste. These publishing gatekeepers controlled which manuscripts got published and which manuscripts gathered dust.
Today, with kindle direct publishing, aspiring writers have a more open path to reach their audience. No gatekeepers. The only obstacles to success are things they can influence themselves: writing a good story, choosing a good title, creating a good cover, and figuring out how to promote their e-books.
So there you have it — the 9 Reasons I love my Kindle.
Do you have a Kindle — and do you love yours, too?