You know, I just don’t love the kindle

April 10, 2017
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I don’t think I’m gonna come round to the idea of it. I bought it before a trip back in 2015.  I knew I’d be spending a lot of time in transit and wanted to make sure that that time was “productive”.

I hated buying it. I don’t like the company. We’ve all heard the stories – squashing smaller market players, treating their staff like shit. I didn’t like being asked to pay extra to avoid being advertised to. I especially didn’t like feeling trapped into buying something I don’t love.

But I needed it. I read a lot. It’s not unusual for me to spend a day glued to a screen at my desk and then an evening on the couch working through instapaper. The iPad was singeing my eyes. I turned the brightness down to zero and made sure I was backlit which helped a little. But my eyes were still wrecked, and my eyesight was deteriorating. (My optician says that I need to drink more water as if that can somehow be a solution!)

So I sucked it up and bought the cheapest kindle. I got the basic model which was a different size than that previous basic model, so I had to buy a new case too. (Annoying!) 
I don’t love it. It feels kind of plastically and cheap. It does sit easily in my hand, but feels weird not to have the full density of a book. Mostly, I miss the book smell. I miss being able to flip through and see where it’s going to land, to have a physical sense of how much is left. For me, the pleasure of reading is in the simplicity of it just being with the words on the page. I don’t want audio clips or links or anything else fancy. I want to be totally immersed in a narrative voice. I want an author to take me by the hand and tell me things she thinks I should know.

It is handy for kindle singles or exclusives from Longreads. You can send long articles from Instapaper to the kindle (here’s a handy IFTT for that) but I don’t do it in practice. It’s just too awkward to have an extra ‘to read list’ and you know I don’t like messing with my systemIt’s great for travel (though I still packed 6 books for that failed trip last year!) and it’s fun to share books with friends on the same account. It’s nice to be able to download free samples, but it’s not as fun as wandering around a book store and seeing what grabs your attention. In a strange city, I’ll often find a book store to spend an hour in and often emerge a little calmer (and poorer) than when I went in.

With a print book, it feels less like I spend an hour with an author I like. The kindle feels less personal. I have a (maybe unreasonable) emotional connection with books. More than once I’ve hugged a book I adore, slept with it in the bed beside me, felt comforted by its presence in my bag, even if it’s weighs me down and makes me walk a little crooked. A book feels like a pal, the kindle feels like a chore. And I miss having the book on my shelf too both as a visual reminder of what I’ve read and as a comforting piece of art in my home.

They are very different reading experiences too. On the page, your eyes are moving on the page. On the iPad, your eyes are static and the content moves. Turning a physical page feels very different from tapping the side of the screen, or scrolling. Apparently, screen reading encourages speed reading and on paper reading is better for deep reading. That’s my experience too. I do love my iPad, for both writing and reading. But eye singeing blue light was wrecking me!

Mostly, I order paperback books via here and keep stacks all around the house, waiting for me like friends. I love getting books in the post – the adult version of Santy! Occasionally, if a book is only available on kindle or is a non-fiction life advice/career book that I’ll speed read and hope to apply, I’ll get it on the kindle and bound through it, exporting the highlights to my computer as a kind of personalised cliffs notes. That’s a useful feature. There are some writers I’ve read only on kindle (Chloe Caldwell) and those I’ve read in both print and digital (Cheryl Strayed).

So, kindle is handy for travel. Good for quick actionable reads. But for everything else, I’ll stick with printed books. And if I were a tech bro looking for something to “disrupt”, it’s be e-readers. I’d aim for something that doesn’t have an eye-punishing blue light but which takes all my favourite reading apps (instapaper, feedly, kindle, ibooks, longform) and speaks to each other.

P.S. If you’re looking for something to not read on your kindle, might I recommend some of these?

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