I bought a Kindle recently.
Not the "Paperwhite" or "Fire". Just the lightest and most basic.
There's a limit to how many bells and whistles I need to rattle my cage.
I held off for a while because being a traditionalist I was averse to replacing the standard book.
Apart from all the free e-books available I decided to purchase the complete works of William Shakespeare, Joseph Conrad, and Charles Dickens. All for under six quid.
Those collections alone would fill a couple of bookcases, so imagine being able to have them all on a single device that can fit in a pocket?
It's true that I have all those works on the shelves, but they are not very transportable - so this is where the Kindle shines. In addition it has the Oxford English Dictionary built into it so at the flick of a button definitions are magically explained, without losing the flow of the text. It's also true that the e-ink is non-reflective - just like a paper book, and it's easy to forget that you are using an electronic device.
No, it's not going to replace my joy of holding a physical book, nor is it likely to result in me getting rid of my hundreds of valued books both here and on the other side of the world (yes - I even have an extensive library in the Philippines) but imagine that wherever I go, wherever I travel, even if I'm stuck biding time in an airport, or anywhere else where patience is required - then out can come my Kindle, and I can be exported to my favourite reads - lost in the magic of the English language and the great authors! (They say a battery charge lasts a month and I suspect that is very true judging from my short experience.)
However, I am a great advocate for the Municipal Public Library, and I'm distressed that so many are closing or having their opening times cut. Quite simply not enough people are using them - yet they provide a great public service in so many respects. My own - a Carnegie Library opened in 1911, is in constant threat of closure, because the council cannot justify the costs during these austere times. The local community is in constant battle trying to keep it open. When a library closes it is generally lost for good - sold on to developers who will do what they wish with it - generally luxury apartments - especially in London.
Such was my concern that I stopped buying real books from Amazon, and now go to my library and borrow a book.They need to be supported.
This time last year I borrowed two books from my library and took them to the Philippines and read them there. But what about renewing them if you don't finish them in time I hear you say. Well, they can actually be renewed online. I was overdue with them, and renewed them direct with my local library over the internet - so I would advise people to do the same. It makes better sense than paying over the odds for a best-seller at an airport shopping terminal. The amount of times I've done that, and then passed them on to others is a habit formed over the last thirty years.
I'm not going to pack the works of the Bard in my luggage - that would be ridiculous - but if I wanted to read a bestseller I wouldn't buy it or download it to a Kindle either. I would get it from my library and take it with me. It's horses for courses.
My take on the Kindle is this - It's a library in a pocket - always there - always available. It's a phenomenal tool - but here's the caveat - if it gets damaged, lost or stolen - you haven't just lost a paperback - you haven't even lost your collection of books (they are stored in the "cloud") but you have lost an expensive piece of equipment. And remember, without power it is useless. How long will the battery last? 2, 3 or 5 years? It won't last forever. If it lasts five years then the £69 price tag equates to £14 a year. Yet who is yet to know? Already there are new versions on the market, and there will be more to come. Apple, Amazon, Google et al are perpetually developing new products - designed solely to keep you wanting more and replacing the old. I suspect that my Kindle will be a dinosaur in three years time. Blimey! I can't even make a phone call on it! How antediluvian is that?
Still, I like my Kindle because it is comforting. The technology has given me access to my favourite works of literature at the simple push of a button. But is it a price worth paying? What is the long term cost, both financially and socially? Indeed, what the Dickens is the real price?