Being a bookworm has a lot of perks, people ask for your opinion and recommendation for books, author or genres. The hidden perk of being asked for recommendations is, of course, making you feel very important. One fine day, however, I was asked by a friend about my Kindle which led to a discussion on whether to buy a Kindle or not. This post had always been on the back burner but the discussion of the pros and cons acted like a catalyst for finally putting pen to paper. This post might also be helpful for those friends of mine who are wavering and as yet undecided on whether to go ahead and buy Kindle or not. My trusted Kindle Paperwhite is my only point of reference and I do not read on any other digital platform, though I did install Kobo on iPad at some point in time. I have tried to compare Kindle and physical books on the points which I think matter the most while reading. Again, at the risk of sounding politically correct, the views expressed in this post are my own.
- Size. One of the biggest selling points of Kindle is its size. It is small, sleek and easy to carry which means your one month worth of holiday reading and more can be carried around in your handbag. I, in fact, even carry my kindle to the salon, better to read a novel than a filmy rag. Books, on the other hand, can be heavy and cumbersome, think Tolstoy’s War and Peace, more than a thousand pages long weighing more than one kg in paperback format. You might need a separate suitcase to carry it if you want to read it during the holidays!
- Space. A slim kindle can hold many books without any corresponding increase in its size. You can keep buying books on Kindle without needing to buy more bookshelves. With physical books, the main issue for a bibliophile becomes the place to keep books. I have a bookcase filled with books; the boys have their book cupboard, again full; books kept in all the rooms; I think you get the drift. Having a Kindle means you can easily download books without having to worry which bookshelf can you adjust the book in.
- Money. Kindle books are on the whole cheaper than physical books (as compared on Amazon Prime, India). Quite a few books, especially the older classics, are available for free download. Amazon Prime reading also has books free for downloading though searching for a specific book in it might take some time. Subscription based service like Kindle Unlimited can also save you bags of money.
- Battery Life. I had received a joke in which a Kindle and a book are talking to each other, Kindle is bragging about its advantages and the book just leans over and switches it off. This, in my opinion, is the biggest drawback of Kindle. Being a digital device Kindle needs charging and an internet connection for downloading books. If you are like me who keeps forgetting to charge their Kindle, well then, believe me, Kindle is liable to go dark at the most inopportune moment.
- Eye Strain. Kindle has the option of adjusting the font size of the book you are reading. It also has a light adjustment, whether you want the background lighter or darker depending on your environment. It allows you to adjust everything according to your convenience and to the environment around you, making for an easier reading experience. In physical books, the main drawback is the print size. Books with a very fine print can be very difficult to read, and as the years are passing by, print size has become a factor in picking up books.
- In-depth reading. Physical books, for me, give an immersive experience. I register the words more, can rifle through the pages, go back to the pages/passages I like and sometimes even sneak and read the ending first. Even though you can highlight passages/bookmark pages in Kindle, rifling through the pages is pretty hard!
- Notes. I have a confession to make, recently I have gotten this habit of making notes in the margin of non-fiction books. Of course, the purists will be horrified at defacing of the book. It, however, feels more intuitive to me. When something strikes a chord or I have a thought while reading, I write it in the margin. I sometimes even underline lines/phrases. This also makes my life simpler if I am planning to write a book review later on. Note feature is available on Kindle as well but it somehow doesn’t feel as personal as scribbling on the margin.
- Memories. Physical books are a treasure trove of memories, you remember if you bought the book or if it was gifted. Bought books remind of when/where/how/why you selected the books. If you got the books signed then they get the pride of place, like a couple of my Ruskin Bond’s. Gifted books remind you of the person who gifted it to you whenever you pick them up. Forgotten Bookmarks and postcards in books take you back to the times and places that have gone by. Pressed flowers (especially roses) in books bring back memories of dates and make you reminisce the days of the past. Somehow there is nothing more romantic than a pressed rose falling out of a book.
So which one do you think comes out on top? Kindle or Physical book? As I said, it is a personal preference. I read non-fiction and more serious books as physical books while saving fiction for my Kindle. If I want to read in-depth then I always pick a physical book as I think then the words register more for me. There is a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when I close a book after reading it. Somehow giving the rating of a book on Goodreads immediately after reading, like in Kindle, doesn’t cut it for me.
Buying books on Kindle is very easy, you can sit on your sofa, browse through the online website, enter your card details and lo behold, the book is on your Kindle in a few minutes. Of course, you do need a wi-fi connection to buy the book, but once it is on your Kindle you can read it anywhere/anytime. For buying a physical book you need to go to the bookstore. There you will browse the shelves, pick up the books whose covers catch your eyes, read the blurbs and see if any intrigues you, maybe read the starting few lines of the book. While picking up a book you rifle through the book, inhale the new book smell, somehow it all gives a sensory element to buying a book, making reading more personal. This is where for me physical books edge out Kindle, the pleasure of holding a book, feel of the texture of pages on the fingers, inhaling its smell is not found when holding a Kindle and looking at words on its screen.
At the end of the day remember whether you pick a book or a Kindle you are still reading and I guess that is the whole point, isn’t it?