Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Paperback vs Kindle

There is something that’s been bugging me recently and I need answers.  Perhaps you can help. Which is better at fulfilling our collective desire for a good yarn or lamp lit stolen moments of literary escapism – the paperback or the Kindle?  There’s only one way to find out.  Fight!!!

Full credit there to Harry Hill’s TV Burp, but seriously, how many of us now prefer to download our books rather than leafing through the trusty, but frankly old fashioned paperback?

As a staunch advocate of the paperback, this was not something I ever thought I would be deliberating over.  That’s not to say I am some technophobe who carries around loose change in case I need to use a phone box (in the misguided belief that a mobile phone will give me some terrible disease) or who refuses to hand over my credit card details to cyberspace.  (As an aside, my husband was a latecomer to the mobile phone owners’ club and as a result of my description of him a colleague once expressed his disappointment on finally meeting my husband, at the fact that he had not arrived on a Penny Farthing!)  No, for the record, I own a Blackberry, I’ve downloaded music, I’ve just completed two thirds of my Christmas shopping on line and if you were to ask my husband, he would definitely say that I am a Twitter addict. 

The last pocket of resistance in terms of my embracing the ever-changing world of technological advances in leisure pursuits is Kindle.  I am fully aware that Kindle downloads are cheaper and faster than having to fork out the full RRP and associated travel/postage costs in order to acquire the paperback.  But I like something tangible and until now, the prospect of reading a book – someone’s labour of love – in some cases, work of art – did not entice me.

My first book, Diary of a Sleep Deprived Mum has been published recently and, as is the current trend, has been converted to, and is now available on Kindle.  Thus, my curiosity has been aroused.  A first book is like a first baby - you don’t want to miss a thing - and so Kindle is now the missing piece of the jigsaw for me.  I have a paperback copy and I have the press coverage, but I have yet to read it on that lightweight tablet of electro-genius that is Kindle.

So, before I take the leap and purchase one for myself (the model I have in mind is the more expensive version with free WiFi and so not to be taken lightly), there are a few questions I have.  Thankfully, for the purposes of this blog, my long-term friend and self-confessed gadget freak, Neil, was on hand with his Kindle, to dispel some of the myths and counter my romantic attachment to the faithful, dog-eared paperback.

First up, eyestrain.  This is perhaps not the most obvious argument against Kindle, but nonetheless relevant to me as someone who spends much of her time in front of a screen.  According to my friend, eyestrain is all but eradicated on Kindle thanks to its amazing anti-glare screen which fools the reader into believing that their eyes are moving over paper.

I also understand that Kindle is very lightweight, unlike the book I am reading at the moment (Wild Swans), which is quite a tome.  But can you fold a Kindle in half when your head is resting on the pillow at night and flatten one half against the pillow, enabling you to read in a position just perfect to induce slumber?  No you cannot!

Ah, says Neil, but the Kindle will read to you if you’re too lazy/sleepy to read yourself, thereby lulling you to the land of nod.  You can’t argue with that, can you?

If I’m honest, the real sticking point for me is the fact that no matter what Kindle offers, it cannot replace the sheer tangibility of a paper copy.  Surely a screen encased in grey plastic is not something to cherish in the way that a book is, with the corners of the good and yellowing pages turned over – a snapshot in time of your passions and interests.  Books are for displaying on shelves; to be picked up again and again, loaned out, leafed through, and admired.  How can the smooth and glossy pink cover of Diary of a Sleep Deprived Mum, designed by my husband, be appreciated on a screen?  A Kindle lacks soul.

Maybe so, but at a fraction of the price of a normal paperback, says my trusty friend, one can afford to take a chance on those books by new, unknown, and as yet unrated authors (such as myself) which might otherwise be left in the book store.  And let’s not forget that it is possible to download newspapers and magazines to Kindle, thereby avoiding the mountain of recyclable paper cluttering up your living room.  I am still to be completely persuaded on this, but if there’s an argument to say that Kindle can help save the planet, then my eco-conscience will ensure that I invest in a Kindle and pronto.

One final point in favour of the Kindle is the battery life, which I am told is very good – up to three months on one charge.  And that for all you geeks out there is probably going to sell it to you.  A Kindle can go on and on, whereas sooner or later a book will succumb to discolouration and dust mites.

So, who wins the fight?  I’ll let you be the judge.  I shall closely monitor the download and paperback sales figures over the coming months.  For now, the jury’s out on this one.


  1. I have recently purchased a Kindle for my daughter and we are in love with it. This neat device, saves so much space and whilst travelling, I can hoard a load of books without the back strain. I understand there are some books that no matter what technology takes over, deserve a space on the bookshelf, however for now I embrace the Kindle with open arms. My only regret was spending valuable time in the Uni library searching for books.

  2. Thanks for reading my blog! Yes, I think there's definitely room for both and suspect that I will be a Kindle owner before the year is out!