Although all my books have been available on Amazon Kindle for a while, I only got a Kindle a few weeks ago. Since then, I think the only paper book I’ve read is Kawabata’s The Sound of the Mountain, which isn’t available on Kindle.
Daishin Stephenson was giving me some shit (as is her wont) about this. “I haven’t seen you with a real book since you got your Kindle,” she said.
I looked up from my Kindle. “This is a real book I’m reading right now,” I said.
“No, it isn’t. It’s just plastic and electronics.”
I pointed to the books on the shelf. “Then these aren’t real books either. They’re just paper, ink and cardboard.”
Paper-and-ink has no innate “bookness.” Neither does the Kindle. Both are delivery systems for the book. And, though I never thought I’d say this, I prefer the Kindle.
No one was more skeptical about e-books than I. Worse, I was an absolute nay-sayer. Back in, I think, 2004, I wrote that the book was that rare invention that was almost perfect from the beginning, which is why the form had undergone only one change in six centuries. That one change was the introduction of the paperback, which made books cheaper and more portable. With that, I was convinced that the delivery system was now perfect.
How wrong I was.
Allan Guthrie - author, literary agent and publisher - has annoyed some Luddites by saying that the e-book is to books now what the paperback was to books 70 years ago. I can’t see any rebuttal.
Some publishers insist on charging the same prices (or more) for e-books as for paper books, but there are so many others with the savvy to charge lower prices (since the production cost is so much lower), resulting in an abundance of cheap, high-quality e-books. I find text on the Kindle easier on the eye than on paper, and the Kindle is so light, it’s more comfortable to hold when reclining (which, being lazy, I do a lot of). And my Kindle is one of the older models; the newer ones - like Daishin’s (yes, she has one) are even lighter.
Since I’m so lazy, I also appreciate that I no longer must endure the cruel indignity of having to get up from my chair or bed and walk to the bookshelf to choose a book. I just click a button, and it appears. Eat your heart out, Captain Kirk.
I’m obviously not alone in feeling this way; I have 12 books published, in paperback and on Kindle, and they sell far more on Kindle than in paperback.
I’m not turning away from the old paper-and-ink delivery system entirely. There are books - such as the magnificent Calla reproduction of the Edwardian-era Tales of Mystery and Imagination I received as a birthday present (from guess who?) - that I treasure. This is also true of the Tanahashi translation of Dogen’s Shobogenzo, and of a few art books, graphic novels, first editions and books written and signed by friends.
But, other than those, I’d happily have my entire library on the Kindle. I’m in the process of packing to move, and I think this is going to be the easiest move I’ve ever done, since most of the hundreds of books I have in the old delivery system won’t be going with me.