Wednesday, April 13, 2016

K is for Kindle

There's still a pretty massive debate over preferences for ebooks or real books. Some people are certain ebooks are killing bookstores, and that in a few short years, paperbacks will be a thing of the past. Bookstores will be a relic, a corpse with a Kindle standing over it, a murder mystery cover on its screen. Maybe one with a knife on it. Of course, they've been certain about that for several short years now.

Except there's something I've noticed often about people who stay this: they're usually in a bookstore. Often a bookstore with many other people in it. Whether it's a small independent place or a big box store, there is still so much value in a brick and mortar store. And Kindles and other ebook readers can't replace that. They aren't meant to. Ereaders fill a completely different niche.

There's a comic I see around with a broom and a book at a bar. The broom's telling the book, "Relax, buddy. They invented the vacuum cleaner and I'm still here." Likewise, the creation of escalators and elevators hasn't removed stairs. The hot water heater hasn't excised the cold water tap. People have different desires and needs at different times, even when it comes to books.

I love my Kindle. I like that I can try out books I'm not 100% certain on with the ereader, usually saving a little money and a ton of space. With around 150 ebooks ranging from Neil Gaiman's short stories to Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell, I'd need a completely new bookcase or two to fit them. Instead, they're all on one little device I can easily slip into my purse. I don't have to worry about bending the pages or leaving them behind on trips. And hey, no papercuts.

I also adore my already overstocked bookshelves. I love the look and feel and smell of real books. I love libraries and bookstores and the feeling of being surrounded by books and book lovers. There is nothing like scanning the shelves of a bookstore for something new and surprising. People who work in publishing and stores will tell you physical stores are still the best place to market books, and that most people discover new books on real shelves. How often have you discovered a new read by scanning a friend's bookcase? Probably not infrequently.

This weekend, I watched as a mother had her 6-year-old daughter read the first page of The Hobbit in a bookstore, up to "and his name was Baggins." It was a momentous occasion for the mother, and it wouldn't have been remotely the same with an e-reader. Nor could I have shoved a copy of Good Omens into the mother's hands, telling her it was one of my favorites and she would love it while she flipped through the first few pages. Amazon can never replace that. So don't worry about ebooks making your favorite bookstores vanish. There has been and will always be a special place in everyone's hearts for the smell of a new book.


  1. Very true! I'm a die hard paper book prefer-er-er-er myself, but even so there have been times I was glad of ebooks.

    Apropos, when VHS came out, people thought that movie theaters would go out of business because everyone would watch from home. Guess what, on demand is available and people still buy DVDs. DVDs are available and people still go to the theater.

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful post about Kindles, Maggie. I hope you are right. I love Kindles and am happy that they exist. I see their value but I often worry that they will replace printed books. I will say that most of the bookstores where I live have disappeared. And when I go to the state library, which is probably the busiest one, there are never many people. So--yeah, I do worry. Great post, though.

    1. And the worries are understandable. There has been an undeniable change in the way books are sold. But it also depends on the area and the stores. Yours is not the only one seeing bookstores closing. But where I live, I can think of three within walking distance of me right now, and two more in the nearest cities. All our libraries are usually fairly populated. I'm sorry your area's going through that and wish I could share some of mine.