Why I’m Trying to Give up My Kindle

Lost between a State of Wonder and Bossy Pants

books apple (1) copy

The moment when I got my Kindle occurred sometime right between Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder and Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants. I remembered yesterday when I spotted State of Wonder towards the end of my bookshelf. I may have swooned a little as I ran my fingers over its bound, deckled-edged pages. At the same time I remembered that Bossy Pants was the first book I bought on my new reading device.

Judging from this bookshelf, the record of me, and what I had been reading at a certain place in time up until Bossy Pants, stopped. Without meaning to sound overly dramatic, it seemed like an abrupt halt to physical evidence and representation of me.

I was skeptical of virtual readers at the beginning, but not skeptical enough to let it stop me from falling head over heels with “the Kindle,” of which, if we’re being literal, there have been three. A few years in, while attached to “it,”  I’m also convinced that virtual bookshelves hold none of the same appeal as real ones.

Have we gotten a lot closer to the world depicted in the 2008 Disney animated film, WALL-E?

Have we suddenly gotten a lot closer to the world depicted in the 2008 Disney animated film, WALL-E?

I have noticed a couple of things about my reading habits, since mostly switching to Kindle a few years ago.

1.  I’m less apt to finish a book I’m not enjoying or am finding too challenging. It’s too easy to switch to something else, saying I’ll come back to the first book  later. I don’t even have to think and there are no feelings of guilt. I don’t even have to get up out of the chair.

2. Besides, it’s hard to return to reading a book I can’t see. Without the physical existence of it, with a real bookmark, it’s much harder to get re-oriented and pick up where I left off.

3. Instead of selecting books by wallowing in the aisles of a physical bookstore, I  read user reviews on Amazon. Besides being hard to figure out if someone is enough like you in their reading to depend on their judgement, their voices get in your head and ruin certain parts of the reading experience.

4. Even though I can, I don’t make notes in books the way I used to.

5. I confess that more than once, I’ve caught myself trying to click on an ad in a real magazine. Everything about every reading experience has become more fragmented.  I think of all the children growing up with iPads and Kindles as their first and main reading experiences. I wonder if we’ve really thought about what this means for the future.

6. I bought two physical hardback books this summer. I hoarded my time with them as if they were overdue library books and I would soon have to return them. They are my favorite books I read last year; their biggest advantage being that they are real.

7. It’s too easy to make impulsive decisions from one’s bed at 2am.

Two of my favorite books from 2013.

Two of my favorite books from 2013.

Lots of questions followed.

  • How will people even know what their favorite books are if they can’t imagine the way the title looked on the cover and how it felt in their hands?
  • Will my children inherit my Amazon library? What is it we really own?
  • What if Amazon were taken over by aliens and our libraries deleted?
  • What about someday, far in the future when Amazon no longer exists?
  • Is it kind of creepy that “Amazon” can see what we all underline and write in our virtual books?

When looking at my books and dusting (which doh, I don’t do very often) in their bound, shiny, colorful, embossed, illustrated, tattered, dog-eared, loved, annotated, signed, slick, stained, rough, fragile, unread, read loveliness, I was reminded for a moment of both who I am and who I was.

Will these revelations be enough to make me give up my Kindle completely? Probably not. But I’m definitely going to buy more newly released hardback books this year. Based on the state of the publishing industry, I think the future of our reading lives depends on it.

It’s just too hard to feel sentimental about a digital book.

First stop? I need to finally go check out my friend, Bev’s used bookstore. I also need to try the used section of Amazon. I looked over there and there are lots of great selections for less than $5 (without shipping, but it isn’t too bad– especially if I give it a rest with the after midnight impulse purchases). And yes, when I’m eventually near a good one, I’ll try the library again.

What do you think? Do you have a Kindle? How has your reading changed in the past few years?


  1. Margaret Peters says

    What a special piece! I can fully identify and try to sprinkle my book acquisitions among hard cover, public library and Kindle. I love my Kindle because I can get instant gratification on a Sunday nights when I have nothing to read. But I love my book shelves that I can visit and peruse any time and I like the “feel” of holding a precious book in my hands. A hugely convenient and excellent library that I can walk too makes my reading a treat and I often discover books I never would have found wandering up and down the open stacks. the Kindle is great for travel (not having to haul tons of books along) and I do sometimes find myself addicted to it. But thanks for articulating all the special associations we enjoy with our reading matter!

  2. says

    I do have an e-reader and like it for when I have to sit at the doctor’s office or wait for Bear in the car. But other than that, I need, need, need my real books. :-) I need their soft pages and illustrations I can trace with my fingers, I need the color, the thrill of seeing how far I’ve gone, the fun of finding the oddest bookmarks holding my place – torn piece of M&M bag, feather, odd bit of string. :-) Mostly I love seeing them on my shelves when I wake up in the morning, the sunlight glimmering on one beloved title after another. :-)

  3. says

    I have a kindle but I don’t really enjoy reading from it. Or at least not like I do with a real book. I don’t like how it doesn’t feel as easy to skip ahead to see how much of a chapter you have left, or that you can’t very easily share you book around with friends. And there are no conversation starters with someone reading a kindle like if you see someone reading a book you’ve read before or you’re interested in picking up.

    I don’t use mine all the time, I try to alternate between e-book and real book. Although the benefits of a kindle for travelling cannot be ignored (in fact that why I got mine in the first place).

    I’m definitely not giving up real books in favour of a kindle anytime soon!

  4. Dawn says

    Loved this, Margo! Welcome back to the dark side. :) I’ve never had any kind of e-reader, and now I’m feeling a little bit justified, thanks to your piece.

  5. says

    This article hit home with me because I’m a huge Kindle fan — I have to be, since I live abroad and reading in Italian just isn’t relaxing (unless I read Italian chick lit, which is totally easy … but I don’t necessarily want to read that!). I also love traveling with it: lightweight and thin, it fits right into my purse. I check out books from my US library all the time. I’ve been reading more than ever, since it’s so easy to. Like Ruth says, it’s perfect for travel.

    But anytime I can get my hands on a real book, I do! For all of your above reasons, I prefer real books. But for all of my reasons, I still really like my Kindle. I guess I use whichever one as the situation calls for it, and don’t really see the drawbacks of either. If I were in the US, I imagine my Kindle would be sitting dusty on a shelf, though.

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