To Kindle or not to Kindle?

Bloodless nerds: that’s how Kindle users were described by the well-known writer. It was July 2011 and we were at a literary festival. There was sustained applause from the audience for this remark. Bloodless nerds! It’s true, we were in BBCRadio4land, but this was offensive. So why does Kindle use arouse such passions, such rudeness and snobbery. I guess some of it is straightforward luddism. People are reluctant to learn how to link up to the web, invent passwords, and follow all those instructions. Some of this attitude arises from a bizarre idea that reading should not be easy, that it is almost shameful to be able to bring up your latest choice from your TBR pile almost anywhere: bus, back garden, beach, bed, plane, train.

61 Kindle

I don’t own a Kindle, but I don’t disapprove of them, just haven’t got round to getting one. In fact I haven’t touched one on more than two occasions, in shops where they were on display. This is strange, for in the last thirty years I have been something of an early adopter of various gadgets and technologies – fax, mobile, digital camera, laptop, smartphone, apps, blog, tweetery, facebook etc etc.

But although I have held one in my hand and imagined owning it, and despite seeing people on buses and trains with them, know it to be the indispensible holiday gadget (helps with the luggage allowance), seen the beautiful people on the adverts with a Kindle in a hammock, walking along the beach arm in arm (and would you really want a Kindle to read in that situation?) into the sun as it sets over the sea, despite all this I don’t have one. That is not because I don’t tend to go on beach holidays, and would rather look at the sunset and swim in the sea than light up my Kindle. And I have certainly coveted the Kindle covers, the faux Jane Austen, floral Cath Kidson, smart leather chic – still no Kindle. And I even considered going out and buying one when I was so shocked by the ‘bloodless nerd’ comment and the audience’s response. It would be a protest.

61 Kindle rainbow

E-readers tell me about the advantage of owning a Kindle, and as I understand it they are as follows:

1. The ease and speed of obtaining books that you want to read.

2. You don’t have books taking up shelfspace.

3. You don’t have to pack lots of books for that holiday or hospital stay.

4. You have access to the equivalent of the British Library in your pocket.

4. Some books are only available on e-readers.

I expect I have missed some.

61 kindle library

Are there any disadvantages?

Can you mark pages, lose and find postcards and other book marks in them, smell them, watch them yellow at the edge of the page? I like the physical aspects of books, as well as their constraints, having to decide about which to carry, being limited by what I have in my hand or on my shelf or available in the library or bookshop.

As well as being conservative in my habits, I do not want to be tempted to download lots of books, and I like waiting for them to arrive from the library or bookstore because I usually read something else in that time. I don’t want to carry another gadget (I got an iphone so I didn’t have to have to carry a phone as well as an ipod.) When I go on holiday to Africa in 2015 I probably will take one, but until then I’ll enjoy the slow exploration that hard copies require.

It seems I am not alone. Consider the passengers on the whimsically named Mayflower Express – the 11.06 from London Paddington to Plymouth – in the Quiet Coach where a bit of speedy research reveals that there is only one reader holding an e-reader. Seven people have books and two people are doing Sudoku, two reading the paper, one person writing on A4 lined paper (looks like a late University essay), one person is asleep, one person gazing out of the window at the gorgeous autumn landscape and one person is doing a survey of Kindle use. Only one out of eight readers was using a Kindle. I am not alone.

61 smart kindle

With Christmas coming up if someone wants to give me one that’s fine. But I don’t feel a need to get one.


Any thoughts on this topic? Do you mind being referred to as a ‘bloodless nerd’?


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Filed under Books, Libraries, Reading

3 Responses to To Kindle or not to Kindle?

  1. Eileen

    I don’t think it is an either/or situation. I love my Kindle and one advantage is that you can enlarge the size of the print and that helps me to read faster and more easily and not tire my eyes. I love paperback and hardback books too. I am at my local library every week and I love getting books as presents. I love borrowing books too, like The Testament of Mary, thank you Caroline. I have books that I treasure and I love inscriptions that loved ones have written for me and love beautiful bookmarks. I love my latest book which is Speeches that Changed the World. I keep it in the living room and pick it up when I have five minutes to dip into it. So I love both and will keep using both. Another advantage is that Kindles are a godsend for people who have issues holding books or newspapers. They can easily turn pages and and can down-load the Guardian everyday.

  2. Maggie Butcher

    I am still flummoxed by most modern technology – hardly ever use an mobile phone, never text etc etc – but I was persuaded to have a Kindle, which I love, even though mine is an American version ( without the nice pictures of literary worthies and with American ads instead). It is invaluable on holidays and for getting the the Guardian and other newspapers while away . I’m learning Portuguese and have a variety of childrens’ books, Portuguese novels, dictionaries and phrase books to hand for quick revision. The downside is the daily email from Amazon trying to sell me things I don’t want!

  3. Thank you Eileen and Maggie, for these comments about how you use Kindle. (I’m full of admiration for learning Portugese and what a good kindle use).
    So maybe sometime soon I’ll join you ….

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