I am a staunch supporter of tactile books. I have converted an entire room of my house into a personal library, complete with leather chairs, comfy blankets and a fireplace surrounded by shelves of books. I reread books often so my shelves are lined with friends waiting to be conversed with again. And yes, I am that person who smells both old and new books.
That being said, I feel bad when I take a chance on purchasing a book, be it hardcover or paperback, and I don’t like it. Either I stop reading it altogether or I read it and place it on the shelf knowing I will never touch it again. And I can’t give away a book to a friend if I didn’t enjoy it so there the book sits, until I finally get around to purging my shelves and schlepping to a used bookstore to push my discards on them. (I don’t care if they won’t give me money. I just can’t bear to throw away a book.)
My local library has a terrifically huge and diverse fiction section and their interlibrary loan program is easy to use and has a fast turnaround. Years ago I began to use my library to take those chances on books and authors I wasn’t sure I would enjoy. If I finished the book and wished it was on my shelf, it got added to a list to eventually purchase. Otherwise it went back into circulation for someone else to discover and enjoy.
This process became even easier when I broke down last year and bought a Kindle. I initially bought the Kindle as a mini-computer to keep in the living room. My family is one to want to look things up as we talk about stuff – movies, science, medicine, current events. Without facts these conversations descend rapidly into lots of ums and ahs and I think? It’s easier to look it up.
The Kindle has certainly served that purpose well but an interesting bonus appeared. Now I don’t need to go to the library to try out a new book or author.
With a handful of keystrokes (is it called something else when there are no actual keys?), I can have a book on my Kindle, ready to take a chance. If I don’t like it, I can simply ignore it until the ebook expires (or manually send it back early which I usually do since I don’t want to keep a book from someone else). I still go to the library from time to time as not everything is available electronically but my willingness to take a chance on something has increased exponentially due to this little device.
And aside from the library, I do enjoy a 99 cent or $2.99 book from time to time. It’s another way for me to read something without feeling like it’s a financial investment (which hardcovers surely are these days).
A handful of recent examples:
The Martian by Andy Weir – Go read the book. Then read my review. (Hint: It’s glowing.) I’d heard a lot about this book, tooled around online to see if it was in my library’s system, downloaded it, let it sit in my Kindle for a couple of days and then got sucked in to the awesome story. It’s now on my list of ‘Buy So I Can Re-Read’ books.
Dawn by Octavia E. Butler – I read about this novel on a list of top science fiction books, I think, like, ever. Not many women writers get touted in science fiction or other genres (except romance) and a black author who used science fiction to discuss political and race issues was too good to pass up. This got bought via Amazon mainly because I wanted to read it quickly and didn’t want to wait for a hard copy to arrive in the mail. I’m glad I did.
The Gaslight MysteriesSeries by Victoria Thompson – I think my library recommended this series to me based on other books I was checking out and that algorithm worked out for once. Love it! And so far, every book in the series has been available as an ebook. I’ll keep going until I’m caught up.
The City of Emberby Jeanne DuPrau – A perfectly fine YA novel. I’d heard good things about it so wanted to take a chance. I’m not interested in reading further in the series so going the library route was the best choice.
In summary, my Kindle is no longer an object of loathing. (Yes, I used to judge people who claimed to have given up all books for ebooks. I still think that’s going too far but clearly I’ve softened in my age.) It’s useful for more than books. It gets me books super fast and it allows me the opportunity to experiment more with my reading and expand my tastes.
I will always prefer hardcovers and will never read my Kindle before bed (bad blue light!) but it has its place, even if it’s on the coffee table instead of the bookshelf.