I have a kindle. My parents bought it for me for Christmas. When I first received it, completely forgetting the “it’s the thought that counts” idiom, I was nonplussed. It was a lovely thought; I was getting my Masters in Education and Library Science and had my undergraduate degree in English so it was natural that the Kindle was under the tree for me. My hesitations lied in the fact that I was, and am, hopelessly dedicated to the physicality of the written word. I prefer to write in pen and paper over typing on the computer. Antiquity appeals to me, and I mean that in the most positive sense of the word. I still write handwritten letters, I write any draft in pen before I transcribe it to type.
I am in love with my books. They are a part of me, despite how clichéd and sentimental it sounds. The special volumes have traveled with me to several different states and several different countries. Many of the books that I own have been a part of my life since childhood, the yellowed and dog-eared pages smeared with the remnants of whatever meal I was eating while reading are as dear to me as heirlooms.
Since I adore my parents and I was so touched by the thoughtful gift that I eventually picked up the Kindle to see what it was all about. I find my Kindle delightful. Better than delightful; I view it as a necessary companion to the shelves that house my many beloved volumes. But I find it to be a totally different, though appealing, experience for me in comparison to what my books offer.
In one of my educational library science classes the professor handed out an article that dealt with the library finding its footing in the modern world. It is hard to deny the transition of the world and its dependency on technology, much more so than when I was growing up. The article discussed that librarians have to find a way to better incorporate the library with the population that depends on technology. Librarians cannot cling to the sentimentality of the smell of books being so important to them and the pages evoking the senses. Librarians have to find a way to use E-Readers in the library, and if librarians can move forward with technology, why shouldn’t I give it a go?
E-Readers don’t work the mind in the same way that physical books do. And when using my Kindle it is absolutely evident to me that that is the case. It is not as aesthetically pleasing as reading a book, at the same time there are many benefits to the Kindle. Since I move frequently I can’t afford to consistently hoard books. My last move I had seven full sized boxes full of books. I don’t regret the pain and suffering of moving those extremely heavy boxes (alright, my friends moved them with very vocal complaints). But I also acknowledge that I don’t need to buy or keep every single book that comes across my path. So I am grateful that my Kindle has allowed me to have access to hundreds of free volumes that I like to have near me (see: Aristotle’s Poetics, or the original version of Pinocchio, and -admittedly- the newest Sweet Valley book that I couldn’t wait to have). The library is for when I want a book right away, or I want to savor all the senses that physical books evoke for me. The Kindle is for having a reference to ancient texts that I feel should be in my possession, but don’t need to be on my shelf. Also, the Kindle saw me through some extremely difficult financial times, when I couldn’t afford textbooks and couldn’t wait on the ILL to get them. School required me to have numerous volumes that I needed for an extended period of time, so I was thrilled that a large amount of them were available on e-text.
Libraries now offer a version of lending books for e-readers, so I can continue to support the library, as I’ve always done, while they move onto a more modern version of the library. But lest I sound like I am doing a commercial for the Kindle, I should say that to this day I prefer my books. I am sentimental about the notes in the margins, the folded pages, and the smell of old texts. I still frequent used bookstores and purchase way too many books, ensuring that the next move will be even more painful. But I am glad that my Christmas present turned out to be an indispensible part of my education and my bookshelf.