To Kindle or Not To Kindle


When it comes to reading, I am ever the traditionalist. I love books. I love the smell when they're old and dusty and I love the smell when they're brand new. I love the sound and the sensation of turning pages. I love books with inscriptions on the inside cover and messages in the margins. I love underlining passages that I find interesting or inspiring. I love spaces and cafes with second hand books, they feel like friends of the community. I love how books make a house cosy and inviting, how you can read a family from the titles of the books they own. I love how books can be passed from friend to friend, family member to family member like a little piece of treasure. My gut instinct has always been to reject the concept of reading from a screen. It destroys the art of book making. Furthermore, most people I know who are avid Kindle users weren't the kids who spent every night under their covers with a torch devouring novel after novel, it's purely practical, they don't read literature that inspires a relationship between author and reader - this is in no way a criticism, merely an observation. If you have a Kindle and have the same attitude to reading as I do then PLEASE comment on this post and give me your opinion.

I have a lot of memories attached to books. For example, my small copy of Pride and Prejudice was give to me by my Grandma, I bought my hardback edition of War and Peace on a chilly December afternoon in a Clifton charity shop, my copy of the Communist Manifesto is from Hugendubel in Munich and my beautifully bound copy of Leben Michelangelos was discovered by me in a pile of books being given away, for free, by Bristol's German department.

I also live with two English students who, like me, love the physical act of buying books or receiving them in the post - there are always squeals of delight when Amazon brings us a package of paper-bound goodness. To wait for a book ordered from the internet or to actually go out and buy it in the shop shows an appreciation for literature, it's not an instant gratification. This is another thing that bugs me about E-Readers, is how it kindles our greed and need for speed. I also find that having too much technology clutters my mind and stresses me out - this is why I have yet to get a snazzy phone or be in anyway allured by ipads or other tablets.

However, I have dilemma. As some of you may know, I will be living abroad for a year as part of my degree. I have decided not to choose the studying option, thinking that a break from the academic pandemonium of essays and exams might do me some good. Thus, I am hoping to spend 6 months working in Germany and six months teaching in Italy. This will inevitably give me a lot of time to read for pleasure - something which, at uni, is hard to find. The problem is, I can't lug all the books I want to read over to the continent, it's impractical and expensive. When I was at the YWAM base in Milan, I met a couple who loved to read, but because of the community living arrangements didn't think it was practical to keep buying books, so they bought each other Kindles. For the traveller, it seems a good idea. I'm also one of those people who always carries reading material in her handbag, and by reading material I mean a selection of books of varying genres and significance. I just never know what I might be in the mood for if my train is late! My boyfriend gets SO annoyed with how heavy my bag is and I think my back is starting to get a little grumpy too. Again, a kindle may solve this problem! I told the girls in my flat, that I was tempted by a Kindle for purely practical reasons. They think I'm selling my soul. Katie said she would give her consent only if I promised to throw it away (or not use it) on my return to England. My predicament is a sensitive area for me, and I would love to hear some more opinions on the matter. Will buying a kindle turn me into a technology consumed Amazon robot, or will it supplement my reading habits by simply being a practical alternative that I can turn to in times of travel.


  1. Maybe just only use it for travelling. Then when your back in Enlgand and at Uni keep reading the books. I've always known you to be constantly travelling so it seems practical.

  2. Good post. I was in exactly the same boat as you are about 6 months ago. I even bought a cheap, second-hand, low-range e-pad which ran a Kindle app. That was a big mistake - it went back after a day.

    Having said that, a kindle itself might be a different story - let me know how you get on with it if you wind up buying one!

    I've always hated reading on my laptop, so I don't know why I'd suddenly enjoy reading on an even smaller screen - perhaps the lack of glare on the kindle screen may help.

    I had the advantage that for this half, I managed to wangle a lift via the Eurotunnel, hence more luggage space for books etc. I won't have that luxury when I head East next term so the debate will relaunch over Christmas.
    What Kindle should really do is a free, two-week trial for those of us who aren't convinced.

    One more thing - don't believe the lie that you'll have more time abroad. I fell into that one...

  3. I feel the same way you do. I don't think reading from a kindle gives you the same satisfaction as having a real physical copy of a book in your hands. But if I was spending a year abroad I would definitely choose to use a kindle instead of breaking my back carrying a large selection of books across the globe. Just sell it when you're back home (and then treat yourself by using the money to buy some new books!)

  4. Great post Ellie. Jenn and I have been having this discussing for a few weeks now, so here's our £0.02.

    For me, I like the idea that you can carry your own library of books around with you where ever you go, without having to literally luck a kart load of books with you. It's a practical tool - and let's not get too caught up in the tech-fandom - it is just a tool. If it's a tool that helps you to read more often and more conveniently, then I can't see how that can be bad. If I'm able to read more frequently, and to discover new stories and books that I wouldn't have usually come across then I see that as a win win.

    At the same time of course it's entirely different to reading an actual book, but I don't see why thats a bad thing. Put it this way - if you were to buy a Kindle tomorrow, would you also then through away all of your actual books? If anything, surely it would make your real, actual books all the more special for being exactly what they are - amazing items of treasure. Look at what happened to music with mp3 players - nobody ditched their entire music collection in preference of practicality. For me, it makes me appreciate the actual CDs that I have all the more.

    From a practical point of view, I do most of my reading on the train, which means the books I read inevitably get thrown around in bags and ultimately get a little trashed, particularly paper backs, which is always a bit gutting - particularly when the book isn't mine!

    I think me and Jen are going to go the Kindle way - might wait for the new touchscreen version to come out though. Anyway, that's our £0.02!

  5. HI you I LOVE the feel of a real book and agonised over getting a Kindle and last year I did buy one purely for the practical reasons of not having to worry about the weight of our suitcases when we go on hols as no longer having to pack 12 books and carrying it around in my bag when journeying in Britain.

    BUT....I still buy books...and still adore holding a new or much read book in my hands...the feel of the paper and the actual holding of the book is a tactile sensation that is lost in the Kindle.....

    So....for the reasons you mention a Kindle is def the answer but if like me you are a dedicated book lover you will revert back to your first love when the need is no longer there....

  6. I am an English major and we have been talking about this issue a lot in my Editing & Publishing class. I agree with you on both counts--I will always love collecting real books (and I think it benefits the author more) but I think that a Kindle is good for travelling. That way, you have more room for souvenirs and other fun stuff :) Don't feel guilty!

    thanks for the nice comment, your blog is so pretty! xoxo

  7. Hi Mum bought a Kindle recently and as a book-lover I felt a bit outraged! But I can totally see how it's more practical for her. I think I'd go with the 'get one for the year abroad, then go back to real books' plan!

    As someone who's done a long, long distance year abroad, I would definitely recommend limiting what you take with you; you won't realise how many bits and pieces you accumulate when you create a life somewhere else (even if it's for 6 months). It can also mean you can buy some awesome foreign language books and not feel too guilty about it. I don't think I'd want a Kindle in the UK personally - when I was in Waterstones with my mum the other day we saw some great books that she would like for Christmas, so I picked them up to buy them, before we then remembered she's got a Kindle - somehow buying someone an Amazon voucher just isn't the same! :)

  8. Babes, I was definitely one of the kids reading under the covers as a child and was constantly being told by my mum to turn off the light and get to sleep and only sometimes did I listen! But I do have a kindle and I love it to pieces, mainly because I can take so many books to uni with me that I wouldn't have space for otherwise. For me, it's all about the stories, not just the physical act of holding the book, so for me a kindle is perfect, though I definitely get why having books themselves is part of the charm of reading. As soon as I get lost in the story, I'm not thinking about what I'm holding or looking at, because I'm seeing the characters and scenes in the story- definitely the mark of a good writer in my opinion! I've found I can just as easily snuggle up in bed with my Kindle as with a book and in fact I find it easier to read then with less of the faff of pages turning before I want them to!

    I still love books, but I have to say that my experience with my Kindle has been a great one, so don't give up on them just yet! :)

  9. Thanks so much for joining my litte blog! that means really a lot to me as I'm just at the beginning ;-)
    in response to this post: I'm a big book lover, i love to look in old bookstores, make some treasure finds, lay in bed the whole sunday reading classical books (mainly french 19th century or early 20th) and I don't think any e-book-reader could give me this great, very satisfied and happy feeling when you just finish a book. It's just not the same. Last summer I had to read Zola Au bonheur des dames for university, and as i was to late for ordering it, I started to read it with ibook on my iphone. I was very unhappy with this situation, altough reading a great book, I constantly felt like playing with my iphone and when I came to the last page, i thought "okay, i read it" but didn't feel like having read it at all. End of the story: i bought it and read it again. Okay perhaps I'm a bit weired, normally i love new technology, but well, let's say, books are books and should stay books. How make a library in my future (,,,) house without books? Do you know what i want to say despite my "germanish" english? xxx Anita

  10. To put it metaphorically... the Kindle is the hotel to your home. It'll never replace home, but you can make do. If you're a frequent traveler who reads five, six books at once, then it may be the fit for you. But it's definitely not as satisfying and I usually end up purchasing the physical copy anyways. So, it's your call. Good luck on your decision!

  11. Thanks for all your lovely comments! I got a kindle for Christmas and I have to admit we're becoming quite attached! I still want to buy all the books in the bookstore but currently loving having all those books on one small device! Hope you all have a lovely NewYear!