I bought my first Kindle earlier this year, up until that point I was pretty sure that I didn’t want one. And I still prefer paper books to digital ones, all things being equal. Yet despite my stated preferences, I buy more ebooks than I do paper books. Here are the reasons why:
- I travel a lot (when we’re not in a pandemic), and paper books are bulky.
- Ebooks are often more affordable than physical books.
- Library holds usually arrive faster when I order the digital version.
- I live in a small space, and once my bookcase is full, it’s full.
But even as my ebook reading surged in recent years, I resisted the idea of buying a dedicated e-reader device. Why shell out money for one when I could read an ebook on my computer or my phone? Also, I was reluctant to lock myself into the Amazon Kindle ecosystem. Amazon sells ebooks as MOBI files, a proprietary format that can’t be read on non-Amazon devices. My preferred book format of choice is EPUB. When I buy an EPUB without DRM (digital rights management) locks on it, I can read my ebook on any device, forever. So I worried: Would buying a Kindle mean I had to always shop at Amazon?
Oh, and I had one other quibble. When I looked at e-readers, years ago, I noticed the screen flashed on nearly every page turn. It felt like being slapped in the eyeballs, and I didn’t like it one bit.
Still, I’d grown tired of reading ebooks on devices poorly sized for book reading. My phone was too small and my computer was too big and heavy. So I bought a Kindle Paperwhite, resolving to return it promptly if I hated it. Even as I brought it home and plugged it in, I was still skeptical that it would work well for me.
A Series of Pleasant Surprises
Happily, my concerns were quickly negated. The Kindle Paperwhite let me turn off “page refresh.” Instead of flashing the screen with every page turn, it will refresh only as necessary. And I hardly notice when it happens. I suspect the technology has gotten better over the years.
Even better, I have not been locked into the Amazon ecosystem. It’s been super easy to transfer my non-Amazon EPUBs to my Kindle. I use the free Calibre library software on my computer, and after I chose the Kindle as my e-reader, it painlessly synced my existing ebook library with my device.
I can continue to buy DRM-free EPUBs and store them on my computer. They transfer onto my Kindle in a blink. Easy peasy! Granted, I often buy books on Amazon too, for the convenience and good prices, but EPUBs are still my preference.
Most importantly, I love reading on my Kindle. The reading experience is way better than reading on my phone. The Kindle is small and light, but it’s big enough to get plenty of words on the page. The illumination is even, adjustable, and not too bright. If it’s late and my eyes are feeling tired after a long day of computer work, I can bump up the font in two taps.
And unlike the Kindle app on iOS, which refused to let me buy books directly (because Apple takes a cut), I can buy books directly from the Kindle Paperwhite if I want to. There are no distractions, notifications, or pop-ups. My phone is put away when I’m reading! It creates a better, distraction-free reading experience, very similar to reading on paper. I don’t even mind the ads on the Kindle. The “cover screen” images are no more annoying than seeing a print ad on the back of a magazine while it rests on your coffee table. And it’s not like I’m staring at the Kindle when I’m not using it.
A Tip for Mystery Readers
By the way, if you read mysteries, I suggest that you turn off the “show popular highlights” feature because there’s nothing more annoying than seeing underlined clues when you’re enjoying a mystery for the first time!
Digital vs Physical: Does it Matter?
Paper books have special qualities that ebooks can’t replicate. The last time I went to Emerald City Comicon one of my favorite fantasy authors was there, and she signed my books for me, turning them into precious keepsakes. I keep a small clothbound edition of Jane Eyre on my nightstand, my literary version of a security blanket, always at hand to provide some comfort. Pixels can’t quite do that for me.
Still, ebooks are inexpensive, convenient, and durable. And books are happiness devices, no matter what form they come in. And since I’m going to partake in pixelated flights of fancy, for all the reasons I listed above, I may as well do so in comfort, no?
All of this is to say, if you’re e-reader skeptical, I get it! Personally, the convenience and comfort of a Kindle eventually won me over. And if you like ebooks, and if you buy them from multiple stores, it’s worth checking out the Calibre ebook software . It takes a bit of effort to configure, but once you’ve got it set up, it’s handy for keeping your digital bookshelves tidy and accessible.
I have to admit, there’s something magical about buying a new mystery novel and seeing it pop up on your kindle just a few moments later. Instant gratification!
I see a fair number of argumentative posts about what is better, physical books or ebooks. And I suppose we humans love to argue, don’t we? In the end, whatever format works for you is what’s best for you. At least that’s how I see it.
And speaking of instant gratification, I just picked up a new mystery by an author I haven’t read yet… So I’ve got a date with a book!
Until next time,