Monday, April 15, 2013

Buying books when I haven't read what we have

We have 32 shelves for books in our office.  Five of them contain books.  In the spring of 2008, all of them were full of books and we had additional piles of them sitting all over the place.  The Amazon Kindle had been out a little while so my friend's warning to wait a while before buying new gadgets had been heeded.  Probably, initial bugs had been worked out. The fact that our library would fit into a single package the size of a paperback book and need no dusting was not lost on me.  I bought a Kindle and now have 1034 books in my Kindle account.

I haven't made a careful (or even careless) count but I am guessing that I have read completely through maybe one third of those Kindle books.  I find that the price of many Kindle books is inviting.  But more than that, having the book in electronic form gets me options I don't have with paper.  The idea isn't new.  We got our first home computer, an Apple IIe in the spring of 1984.  It only took a few weeks to fully grasp that an electronic file can be duplicated, emailed, and stored in many forms and very compactly.  It is just that at that time, the idea of a whole book being easily available in such a form hadn't taken shape yet.

It's not that I hate paper or am insensitive to the joy of hefting a traditional book about, smelling it, using it as a memento, etc.  We still have plenty of paper as this photo shows:

But you can also see empty shelves that were once filled with books, including books crammed between the top of the shelf and the row of standing books on it.  

When I have a paper book that I like, I often buy the Kindle form if I can get it.  Not only to I have better access to it, through multiple devices even, but I can highlight the text in much more convenient form that I can on paper.  Even people who use Kindles (or Nooks, I guess) often don't know about all the ways highlighting and notes about the text can be inserted and saved.  They also don't know that sharing a passage on Twitter or Facebook is quick and easy, not to mention a way that others can learn some of the good parts of one's reading.

It is true that many worthwhile books are not available in Kindle format.  If they are older, they may not be.  Still, a professional writer told me recently that any publisher who wants to stay in business puts new books out in that format from day one.

Helen Smith, the young novelist who lives and writes in London, confessed a year or so ago, that the lower price and greater convenience of Kindle books lures her regularly into buying this and buying that, with genuine intention of getting round to reading all the good stuff she acquires.  I notice that many people buy shoes, t-shirts, jackets, ties, tops, pants that they think have a bargain price but haven't gotten around to wearing the items yet.  Maybe I'm somewhat normal in my buying habits.  And, don't you worry, just before I draw my last breath, I am going to finish reading the last sentence of the last book on my Kindle.

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