Getting Your English Fix: Print Books vs Kindle


A lot of expats tell me they prefer print books.  I understand.  Reading is a total body experience for me, too.  Those of us made like this don’t just read a book, we enjoy the weight of it, the physical act of turning the pages and hearing the paper rustle.  We like the slick feel of certain paper, the slightly rougher feel of a less expensive paperback.  We relate to the difference between reading a well-used book with a broken spine or a brand new hard cover that has never been previously opened.  We relish the smell of fresh ink.

From what I read about the future of print books, and from what I know of the cost of bringing print books into an expat lifestyle (minimum shipping to Panama runs about $23 straight from Amazon using Priority Mail International and is often much more), I fear this particular sensual experience may have a limited shelf life.

But you know what?  Holding an e-book reader gives me a book experience, too.  It’s a vast improvement over being trapped at my desk reading on my computer.  I’m so spoiled now.

I like the weight of my Kindle.  It doesn’t matter that I have 350 books inside it, something I couldn’t possibly lift otherwise.  My Kindle always weighs exactly the same, just right, perfectly balanced amount.  The size is perfect too.  From top to bottom and side to side, it’s the same size as a largish paperback.  I like holding it.  The screen is the same size as most paperbacks.  I like reading on it.

The print against the background of the screen is comfortable to see, too.  It doesn’t glare either, like a book will when I try to read at the beach.  It didn’t take long to develop a one-handed technique for turning pages, though I often hold my Kindle in two, just because I want to.

No, I admit Amazon has done nothing to provide me with the scent of fresh ink.  But the plastic of the case is cool and smooth and has little indentations where I like to put my fingers and I like that.  Something else I like is that on the days when it suits my fancy, I can read in large print.  Or I can take my glasses off (I’m near-sighted) and read in very small print, so I don’t have to turn pages as often.

If I want to “read” while I do a bit of hand-sewing or ironing or some mindless kitchen task, I can let the dude with the monotonous voice and the amusing mispronunciations read to me.  If I get tired of him, I can switch to the equally monotonous mispronunciations of the female voice.  I enjoy that sometimes, for a change of pace.

If I want to listen to something correctly pronounced, I can transfer mp3 files about whatever from my computer to my Kindle.  Or get audio books and listen to them.

I can get lots of books free, too. I do buy some, just like I used to when I lived in Print Book Land and swept through the local library weekly for my freebies.

Too expensive?  Right now Amazon has a special going – you can get a basic model for $69.  That’s less than you would pay for seven hard covers.  (It holds up to 1000.  Did I mention I have 350+ on mine right now?)  And currently there are no customs duties on shipments valued under $100.  I haven’t got a hot new Kindle Fire, just one of the early models.  My internet connection here in Panama is too erratic to make having a Kindle Fire worthwhile.  But that’s OK.  I have a computer for what I want to download, and I just make my book selections from Amazon, download them to the computer and drag them over the USB cord into my elderly Kindle.

On the whole, I would have to say that I am a complete convert.  The only books I simply insist on having in print these days are reference books.  That’s because the indexing and cross-linking in most of them has not been done properly and they are next to useless in e-book format.  But when their publishers do get with the program… oh, baby.  I can’t wait.

Oh, yes, you could say I love my Kindle.