I have to get something off my chest: I own a Kindle and I use it every day. In fact, I prefer to use it to read books over…well…reading from actual books. I never thought I would be able to admit this outside of my family. But there it is.
What’s the big deal you may be asking? Lots of people use Kindles. They have been around since 2007. They are as ubiquitous as a smartphone or laptop at this point. Yes, these are all fair points. However, no one judges the phone or computer like the e-reader is judged.
I was one who judged, in fact. I have always considered myself a bookworm. I cannot pass a lending library without stopping to browse. I patronize a bookstore in every city that I visit for a souvenir book to take home (and a tour of another house of worship for the book form). I have owned a library card since I was five years old. I am a book lover. A book nerd. A bibliophile.
So, how has it come to be that I would forsake the old-school form of storytelling for the modern, upgraded one? For one thing, I would not say I have forever given up beloved paper books. Secondly, there was a little thing called COVID-19 that upended our world and led to the very special relationship I now have with my Kindle.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
When the pandemic started, I already owned a Kindle, a Fire 7 to be exact. I had previously used it only occasionally to read a book. It was an alternative for the physical representation of a book. A second choice. A back up, if you will.
Then, the kids were home all the time. And my husband. Just like everyone else, I had to serve multiple roles at the same time. I still had my writing job. I had to supervise and sometimes, teach my kids. My husband and I had to trade off space to Zoom uninterrupted. After a little while, my cracking open an actual book in the midst of this chaos was as possible as booking a day at the spa. Not gonna happen.
The only time to read was late at night. When the house was quiet, the kids were tucked in and my partner was snoring lightly beside me. I didn’t disturb anyone by keeping a lamp on. There were no noisy pages to turn. No awkward bookmark falling out of place. Just me and my Kindle nestled into the blankets with no other obligations. The best time of the day.
Then, given the closure of my local bookstore and library, my dependence on my Kindle went to the next level. At first, I reached back into the digital library of purchased books that had been out of sight, out of mind for years. I was actually going to tackle a TBR pile! This was a sort of reunion with past selves that had selected books for me based on whatever I was interested in at the time (which was apparently YA dystopian lit and cookbooks).
As I started to exhaust my supply, I realized that I would need to restock. This led to behaviors that I consider to be acts of a truly devoted bookworm: It is necessary to always be reading and always be searching for the next read. On my Kindle, I found myself browsing at the local library, though be it online. I was able to check out books from my library’s own collection but also from a partnership with a wider network of libraries from which to borrow.
I also itched to own some new books that I could savor with a lack of a deadline to turn in. Books can be expensive but I soon found resources that would help me preserve my bank account. I found websites that featured daily and monthly ebook deals and newsletters that kept me in the loop. I soon realized there were more advantages to reading on the Kindle that I hadn’t counted on.
The gift of technology
While reading my e-books, I began to notice underlined passages. The words had been marked by other readers before me. Yes, I liked that turn of phrase, too! Even more fascinating, Kindle kept count of how often that phrase had been highlighted. For some reason, these numbers gave me a connection to other readers that I had never had from seeing one person’s pen mark in a physical book. This was more like reading a book that was being handed from one person to the next with access to all the notes from everyone who had read it before you. A never-ending book club.
Then, my Kindle gifted me with a resource a true lover of words always appreciates. A dictionary! I had known it was there but it wasn’t until I accidentally tapped a word with my finger that I unleashed its power. The word glowed in blue and then three boxes appeared magically. One defined the word, one listed its significance on Wikipedia and the coup de grace (pardon my French) was a translation. Holy Grammar! I couldn’t believe it. Gone were the days where I pretended to understand words from the context they were in. I didn’t have to leave the book at all to quench a curiosity about a word. And the translate feature? Let’s just say that during my Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache phase, it came in handy.
And finally, my Kindle delivered one more feature that no mere paper book could ever accomplish. Accountability. To finish or not to finish? I have gone back and forth on the merits of quitting a book that you don’t like. Should you do it? Is it fair to the author or your wallet? Is it just this one part to slog through and then the books begins to soar? I usually didn’t stick around to find out. Until I realized there was a way to track how many books I had finished. Finished! I was able to set a goal of the number of books I wanted to read and then Kindle did the rest. I thought to myself “Girl, you are 57% done with this book and you want to give up? No, this is #8 out of 20. Finish it!”
Related: How Many Books Can a Kindle Hold?
Not an either/or situation
The thing is that I love my library and my local indie bookstore. I still patronize both. I serve as an advisor to my town library as a matter of fact and have had a membership at my bookstore for years. I realize now that a love for books in all forms is possible.
In the past, I felt guilty for using my Kindle. I wasn’t a true book nerd if I didn’t hold an actual book to read. Or if I didn’t flip through the pages, smell its scents or dogear (though that is controversial still amongst bibliophiles) where I stopped reading. How could I add to those amazing pictures on Instagram of a book surrounded by a cup of tea, or macarons or a field of flowers if I didn’t own it in hard copy?
The other aspect of my ambivalence towards my Kindle in the past was that I thought I had to choose. I couldn’t see a way to be a true booklover and an e-reader user. Weren’t those two worlds at odds with each other? Wasn’t I talking out of both sides of my mouth? I thought so prior to the pandemic but not now.
The point is to celebrate the love of reading in all its forms. There doesn’t have to be an either/or. We can have yes/and. You can bet that as soon we get through this pandemic and are ready to leave our masks behind to put in time capsules and bury them in the backyard, I will be inhaling the scents of all the hardbacks and paperbacks, new and used books that my local bookstore has to offer and attending the wonderful events they put on with authors reading or giving workshops. We are already planning the steps to re-opening the library and what a welcome day that will be to see our community stepping foot back inside its hallowed halls.
From now on, I will be supporting books in all their forms. Yes and I will still be hunkering down late at night in the dark, quiet spending quality time with my Kindle and all the friends and worlds it holds inside.
The Best eReaders for Every Kind of Reader
What Skipping to the End of the Book Says About You
Featured photo: Fausto Sandoval / Unsplash