How the Kindle Relit My Fire for Reading

I’ve always been a great lover of books; they have always been my greatest source of entertainment, inspiration and even companionship.  The feeling of cracking open a brand new book and feeling its crisp, clean pages is one that can never be replaced, which is why I was initially hesitant to give in to the trend of digital books and “e-readers” like the Amazon Kindle, first introduced in 2007 and now in its third edition.  I couldn’t imagine having the same experiences with books if I was just reading off of a screen, unable to marvel in the cover art and or relish the breaking in of a book’s spine upon first reading it.  It was a technological innovation that I was convinced would destroy the romantic and sometimes magical experience of reading.  After buying myself a Kindle, I realize how wrong I was.

Ever since buying the Kindle I’ve been faced with the same criticisms and questions about e-readers over and over again; it’s too expensive, it’s inconvenient, it will never replace books, etc.  Well, I’m here to refute these arguments and hopefully prove to all the skeptical bibliophiles out there who were like me that e-readers are not part of an evil conspiracy to destroy the publishing industry.

The first critique is always the price; the standard current edition of the Kindle and the Barnes and Noble equivalent, the Nook, both sell for $259, and the digital books are on average around $10 dollars, with thousands of classics and out-of-print books available for free. At first glance it might sound pricey, but if you’re the kind of person who makes weekly trips to their bookstore and walks out with a stack of books, then in the long run you’ll be saving money by buying an e-reader instead (if you’re a very casual reader, then the price might be too much for you in the end).

And those who say they’re “inconvenient?”  Preposterous!  These tech marvels are the definition of ease.  My Kindle has built-in wireless access to hundreds of thousands of books, newspapers, magazines and blogs through the Kindle Store; it never has to be plugged in to a computer, and books are instantly downloaded onto the device in under a minute. The global 3G wireless connectivity saves me the hassle of having to look for wifi hotspots.  It has an astoundingly long battery life, lasting for approximately two weeks without a charge. And for those of you who love expanding your vocabulary, the built in dictionary allows you to highlight a new word you might come across while reading and figure out the definition on the spot.  Heck, it even has a feature that reads books aloud to you, if you’re a fan of audio-books, or if you’re just too lazy to do the reading yourself.  And as a student, being able to load PDF files onto the Kindle makes doing homework even easier for me.

The best feature would have to be its screen, which unlike most electronic devices, isn’t backlit.  It won’t damage your eyes like a computer screen, and the paper-like display and “digital ink” reflect light just like paper. It’s a slim, elegant package that lets me bring thousands of books with me wherever I go, without the pain of having to drag the weight along.

The biggest criticism of these e-readers is that they will never replace books, and with this I have to agree; digital books will never completely replace ink-and-paper books. But they were an inevitable step forward into the future when it comes to how we read. I’m not predicting that books will go the direction of the newspaper industry and go almost entirely digital, but the e-book trend will undoubtedly continue gaining popularity. Already millions of Kindles have been sold around the world, and bookstores like Barnes & Noble and electronics companies like Sony have followed suit; even Apple is jumping on the bandwagon with its electronic book store.

So why do people seem to fear this technological advancement, while still going into a frenzy over the new iPad? E-readers are a cool, convenient addition to any bookworm’s library.  Ever since I purchased mine a few months ago, I’ve been reading even more than I did before, devouring books at a far more voracious pace than ever before. The Kindle has, well, re-kindled my eager, rapturous love of reading – a love that has been dulled by years of tedious textbooks and required reading.  Maybe it’s the easy-to-use design, or the instant access to thousands of books whenever I want, or the slick silver casing, whatever it is, these e-readers would make even reluctant readers excited to dive into a new story.

Natasha Aftandilians is second-year political science major.  She can be reached at naftandi@uci.edu.