Why Kindle Books Aren't Evil (Part 1)

For some reason, a lot of people seem to think that Kindle books (or ebooks in general) aren't 'real' books.

Ebooks replace paper and ink for ones and zeroes. They have no substance, no physical form to speak of. They are like the ghost of a story, all digitized and packed in their hundreds into a cold metal shell. And, because ebooks aren't 'proper' books, it follows that they are a threat to literacy, the book industry, and society in general.

First of all, as a bit of a disclaimer, let me just say that I have always been a big fan of the Kindle. Whenever I want a certain book, I usually buy the Kindle version instead of the print version. Whenever I publish a new book, the Kindle edition comes out before the print edition. So I'm a bit biased when it comes to this question. But biased or not, I think that Kindle lovers have a valid argument to counter the idea that Kindle books are evil.

Let's say I'm talking to my friend Sandy. Let's say that Sandy has just read a certain book -- for example's sake, we'll use the title of my book Super Sporty. Let's say that I have not read Super Sporty, but I have seen the film (there isn't actually a film of Super Sporty -- yet! -- but just pretend). Our conversation might go something like this:

SANDY: So, have you read that book Super Sporty?
ME: No, but I've seen the movie. It was pretty good.
SANDY: Oh, the book's so much better. You really need to read it ASAP!

This is a reasonable conversation. Film versions are often very different to their written counterparts -- I might be missing out on something big by not reading the book as well as watching the movie.

Okay, different scenario. Let's say that I have read Super Sporty, but as a Kindle book. Sandy has read Super Sporty as a printed book. Imagine if our conversation went like this:

SANDY: So, have you read that book Super Sporty?
ME: Yep! I got it on my Kindle last week and I couldn't put it down! It was really good!
SANDY: Oh, you got the Kindle version. Well, you need to read the print book right away. It's SO much better.

What is she on about?! I did read the book -- I read exactly the same words as she did; I got exactly the same story as she did; I had the exact same reading experience almost to a T. The only difference was that to turn the page, she lifted a physical sheet of paper, while I swiped at a screen.

The bottom line is this: It does not matter how you read a book. It doesn't matter whether you read the paperback, or the Kindle edition, or the hardback, or even if you listen to an audiobook. You still get the same story as everyone else who reads it, and you get the same benefit.

If anything, Kindle books and other types of ebook are a benefit to the reading world, because they make reading and books more accessible for everyone.


In part two of this post, I'll look at the rise of the Kindle from an author's perspective, and try to figure out why big publishing seems to be so scared about it. Stay tuned!

EDIT: You can read Part 2 of this post here.

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2 comments:

  1. Couldn't agree with you more! While I love the feel of a physical book in my hands, I've really fallen in love with my e-reader this year (I use Kindle for Mac on an iPad mini). I keep it in my handbag and carry it with me always. It's great to be able to pull it out any time, anywhere and read. I never remember to carry books around with me that way (and some are just too big - G R R Martin, I'm looking at you!). I also love being able to flip out of my e-reader and make notes on what I'm reading without having to tote around pen and paper. The experience of reading on my e-reader is slightly different - I agree with the critics to that extent and I probably always will buy hardbacks - but for convenience and cost, my e-reader's a winner and I won't be parting with it anytime soon!

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    1. Hey, EJ!

      Yes, Kindles are certainly a winner for when you're on the go. If you finish the book you're reading, you can just open up another one, or you can skip between books as you please.

      Also, like you, I do still love hard copies. I mean, they make crinkly noises! And they smell like glue! And they make great go-to presents for your book loving friends, because Kindles are expensive, and you can't wrap an ebook very easily.

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